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What to do with 66,000 business cards

Why, build a level three Menger Sponge, of course! What the heck is a Menger Sponge? Glad you asked. It's a three-dimensional fractcal cube of sorts, first described by Austrian mathematician Karl Menger in 1926. When, some seventy years later, Dr. Jeannine Mosely found herself confronted with a gargantuan pile of business cards, rendered useless after the company she worked for changed addresses, she knew what she had to do with them: hand-make a real, live Menger Sponge -- creating an actual object from something that had previously been merely a mathematical abstraction -- a (sorta nerdy) feat of Guinness Book proportions. Before we show you how she made one in reality, a quickie guide to making them in the abstract:

1. Begin with a cube.
2. Divide every face of the cube into 9 squares. This will sub-divide the cube into 27 smaller cubes, like a Rubik's Cube
3. Remove the cube at the middle of every face, and remove the cube in the center, leaving 20 cubes (second image). This is a Level 1 Menger sponge.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 for each of the remaining smaller cubes.

menger.jpg
66,048 business cards, 8,000 business card cubes (Menger subunits) and 150 pounds of cube later, it was finished. Figuring the whole project required about 600 hours to build, she recruited volunteers from around the country to build parts of it and then ship them to her. Construction photos after the jump!

First, you've got to make a cube from six business cards -- without staples, tape or glue -- which Dr. Mosely describes how to do:

To make a cube out of six business cards, first take two cards and place them across each other at right angles, centering them as nearly as possible. Fold the flaps of the bottom card down over the top card. Turn them over and repeat. Pull the two cards apart. Six of them can be assembled as shown below to make a cube. All flaps must be on the outside of the finished cube.

card.jpg

For a super-detailed (and kinda math-y) description of how Mosely accomplished the rest of her fractal feat, check out this page at the aptly-named Institute for Figuring. Meanwhile, we'll skip right to the pictures:
menger3.jpgmenger4.jpgmenger5.jpgPhoto by Ravi Ap

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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