Sunday, April 21

Emmo W.


Emmo W. was the nom de plume (by way of M.O.W.) of a Melvin Oscar Wellman. Melvin was born 18 January 1881 in the township of Danby, Michigan (roughly west-northwest of Lansing). In 1910 we find him in Charlotte with a wife and two sons; and from 1920 on, in Lansing.

I am indebted to Melvin's grandson, William W. Wellman, for providing me with additional information. He writes:

I spent a lot of time fishing with my grandfather, into my mid-teens. Melvin was an avid fisherman who made split bamboo fly rods, for himself and both of his sons. Every summer in the early 1900s, he took his family by rail to Petoskey, Michigan to spend weekends fishing local small lakes accessible by train. During the week, he barbered in a popular barber shop, McCarthy's, where he may have cut Ernest Hemmingway's hair.

Melvin was the inventor of several camping products but never applied for patents. He used an early hearing aid and founded the Michigan Better Hearing Association, now known as the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Even though my grandfather only had an 8th grade formal education, he was the smartest person I ever knew. He was an avid reader of English, history, and puzzle books. 

Melvin was also a regular contributor in the 1940s to The Enigma (a publication of the U.S. National Puzzlers' League) and is credited with introducing therein, in March 1945, the spoonergram. In the April 1948 issue, he gave us this enigma:


And here is how the mysterious Dr. Matrix (Martin Gardner narrating) paraphrased it in Scientific American in January 1960 (page 154):

"11 plus 2 minus 1 is 12. Let me show you how this works out with letters." He moved to the blackboard and chalked on it the word ELEVEN. He added TWO to make ELEVEN-TWO, then he erased the letters of ONE, leaving ELEVTW. "Rearrange those six letters," he said, "and they spell TWELVE."

The anagram ELEVEN + TWO = TWELVE + ONE is well known in word-play circles, though generally stated without attribution. Now you know from whence it came.

Here is a photo of Melvin and his wife Lucy, later in life. Melvin died 7 October 1955.

Friday, April 19

Manhunt marathon

When (this evening) I finally sat down to watch television (instead of just listening to it from my computer room), I augmented CNN with a Google+ feed of #Watertown on my iPad. When someone posted that the suspect was in a boat, I took it for a troll (a little contextual information would have helped) — until CNN reported it as well, some minutes later. News of the capture, likewise, preceded CNN's reporting of it by four or five minutes. Of course it is difficult to ascertain which posts offer credible information but as long as one maintains one's usual sense of skepticism, a several minutes advantage in an unfolding news event is manhunt manna.

Tuesday, April 16

How far apart were the two Boston marathon bombing sites?

"50 to 100 yards" according to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis in a news conference. A lot of newspapers printed this as though it might be true. Canadian media settled on 100 meters as a good-enough approximation. I was pleasantly surprised that Wikipedia (when I checked earlier today) had the blasts occurring "within 550 feet" of each other — somewhat closer to the truth.

The blast locations are no secret: There are plenty of photographs. The first happened in front of Lens Crafters at 699 Boylston; the second, in front of Forum at 755 Boylston. Some folk tried to place the first blast in front of Marathon Sports, next-door to Lens Crafters, but the damage done to the Lens Crafters facade speaks for itself.

So we know each location within a meter or two. Using Google street view to familiarize oneself with the street and building appearances, one can — in Google Earth — situate correctly both locations using the ruler tool: 183 meters, give or take.

Wednesday, April 10

Composition

Primes, primes, every where,
Was all the bard did think;
Primes, primes, every where,
But nary one in link.*

This base-ten sequence exhibits an absence of prime linked primes (that is, the concatenation of any number of consecutive terms) in an infinite sea of primes:

2, 5, 11, 13, 29, 31, 17, 19, 43, 7, 37, 41, 71, 47, 67, 89, 3, 101, 23, 109, 59, 83, 103, 73, 107, 157, 53, 127, 149, 61, 131, 139, 79, 163, 191, 193, 97, 113, 137, 167, 211, 181, ...

Such sequences are not rare, this one being the lexicographically first. Here is the base-two analogue:

2, 5, 17, 13, 11, 23, 3, 19, 7, 53, 37, 31, 47, 29, 43, 59, 41, 73, 67, 83, 89, 61, 79, 71, 107, 97, 127, 131, 101, 113, 151, 103, 137, 109, 167, 179, 139, 227, 149, 191, 157, 193, ...

Here is one that works in either base-two or base-ten:

2, 5, 17, 43, 7, 23, 19, 127, 11, 41, 157, 101, 13, 131, 3, 211, 37, 149, 163, 173, 31, 107, 229, 29, 89, 67, 109, 223, 73, 193, 47, 79, 59, 71, 179, 191, 151, 97, 269, 139, 277, 227, ...

And this one works in any base from two to ten:

2, 229, 131, 263, 37, 421, 491, 223, 911, 127, 167, 383, 1187, 401, 31, 15307, 701, 971, 2797, 3, 8741, 571, 5477, 6037, 619, 859, 6359, 353, 2659, 311, 3851, 379, 7193, 7993, 3319, 653, 691, 13441, 661, 1579, 7541, 1987, ...

* Primes of the Ancient Mariner