Monday, March 26, 2018

Stupid Bets

I was looking forward to researching stories of stupid bets.  However, they are what they say they are - people losing millions and billions of dollars at gambling and poker tables, etc in stupid ways. These stories are all told in a similar writing style that relies on swearing as an ingredient.

It took some work to find stories which were intriguing and interesting.   Here are the ones I enjoyed about novels and movies:

Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet with his publisher that he could write a decent story using 50 different words or fewer. It turned out to be the fourth best-selling children's book of all time.  

Ernest Hemingway bet that he could write a story using six words.  He wrote:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

George Lucas made a bet about the Star Wars movie.  Lucas visited the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  He was whining about how Star Wars was not living up the vision hat he originally had, and was not going to do well at the box office. He made a bet that if Star Wars made more money, Spielberg would get 2.5 percent of Lucas' movie's profits for all eternity. Supposedly Spielberg says he still gets begrudging cheques in the mail.  The dollar value of the bet is $40 million.  The story HERE

Now for two scientific wagers:

Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman issued a pair of famous challenges to the scientific community in 1959. One required construction of a working motor no larger than 1/64th of an inch square; the second posed the challenge of shrinking the page of a book to 1/25,000th in scale so that it remained legible to an electron microscope. The prize for solving either of the two challenges: $1,000.

Electrical engineer William McLellan claimed the first prize in 1960 after constructing a 250-microgram motor. The second reward wasn’t claimed until 1985 when a Stanford graduate student named Tom Newman inscribed the first page of A Tale of Two Cities literally on the head of a pin. Many physicists credit Feynman’s 1959 lecture, entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” with inspiring the field of nanotechnology that emerged decades later. And how far has nanotech come? In 2007, Israeli scientists etched the 300,000-plus words of the Bible onto an area the size of a grain of sugar.

Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest astrophysicists of the 20th century, and placed a pair of high-profile bets as a sort of insurance policy against his own discoveries. He made the first wager with physicist Kip Thorne concerning the existence of black holes. Hawking bet Thorne in 1975 that the well-known X-ray source known as Cygnus X-1 did not harbor a black hole; Thorne disagreed. 

After evidence mounted that the system had a black hole, Hawking finally conceded the bet in 1990, giving Thorne his “prize,” a subscription to a popular porn magazine — much to the consternation of Thorne’s wife. Hawking, however, was pleased to have lost, as his research was based on the premise that black holes were indeed real. Hawking lost a similar hedge bet against his own theory in 2004 with physicist John Preskill and Thorne on whether information can escape from a black hole, a phenomenon that scientists now term Hawking radiation. Hawking settled the bet by giving Preskill a copy of a sports encyclopedia.

More famous scientific bets HERE

I took the barn picture on Saturday - a lucky moment to have a clothesline display.  Where would one guess this barn is located?  I know this house and barn will be gone soon as it is located near the hospital in St. Catharines, and the street is being developed with fast food restaurants and commercial businesses.  On one side is a vineyard and new houses in the distance.  Back away for a wider view and there's a tourist information booth parked beside the house.

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