Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) is known as the “Father of Astronomy.” While considered to be a brilliant young student, he was also known to possess a hot temper. He and another German university student named Manderup Parsbjergh (I am not making this up) got into a heated quarrel over the correct solution to a mathematics problem. The two prodigies decided the best resolution could be reached by having a sword fight. Tycho got most of his nose cut off. Brahe was so embarrassed by his disfigurement that he had a silversmith shape him a metal replacement nose consisting of gold and silver. For most public appearances, Tycho would sport the metal nose using a leather thong to secure the peculiar beak in the desired position. Strange outcome at Belgium’s Saint Symphorien Military Cemetery: The first British soldier killed in WWI is buried there. Not far away and facing the aforementioned grave lies the remains of the last British soldier killed in WWI. The arrangement was not planned. Facts of the situation were verified months after the latter interment. Today’s leaders are not the first to suffer from “foot-in-mouth disease.” A short speech by Prince Philip (Duke of Edinburgh) included a regrettable attempt at wit uttered while addressing British students attending schools in China: “If you stay here much longer, you will all become slitty-eyed.” At a later date, the prince was expressing an observation concerning British relations with Brazil: “The key problem is that Brazilians live there.” We endure parallel faux pas from Americans.All animals that have tails are said to be caudate. All without tails are anurous. For centuries, silk cloth was worth its weight in gold. In some situations, the material was worth more than an equal mass of pure gold. According to Chinese tradition, the silk-making secrets were discovered by Empress Si Ling-chi circa 2700 B.C. For centuries, the closely guarded clandestine details for producing silk were to be revealed upon penalty of death. This policy greatly reduced recidivism. However, by 300 A.D., Japan had acquired the information essential to make the precious cloth — and a supply of silkworms. In 552, the Byzantine Empire ruled by Justinian began to sell silk. Apparently, the Byzantines were blabber-mouths and told just about everybody how to produce “die Seide.” The era of a world-wide silk industry controlled by a few ended. (Actually, the Byzantines spoke mostly Greek, but I cannot efficiently type Greek letters — so I used German.) Well, I hope that most of your supervisors are anurous and that you have a pleasant day.
James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.