Futility Closet

From Podpedia

Futility Closet is a blog, podcast, and database started in 2005 by editorial manager and publishing journalist Greg Ross. As of September 2017 the database totaled 9,840 items. They range over the fields of history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and recreational mathematics.

The associated Futility Closet Podcast is a weekly podcast hosted by Greg and his wife Sharon Ross. It presents curious and little-known events and people from history, and poses logical puzzles.

History[edit | edit source]

In January 2005, Greg Ross started the Futility Closet website, an online wunderkammer of trivia, quotations, mathematical curiosities, chess problems, and other diversions.[1] The site has spawned two printed collections,[2] and continues to be updated daily. Gary Antonick of the New York Times' Numberplay blog described the first book as "the literary equivalent of Trader Joe's Tempting Trail Mix".[3]

Futility Closet has sometimes been a conduit for results by John H. Conway, Richard K. Guy, Solomon W. Golomb, and many other well-known mathematicians when they dabbled in recreational mathematics.[4][clarification needed] Puzzles from Futility Closet have frequently been featured in the New York Times puzzle section and the New York Times blog.[3][5] Futility Closet was recommended by the Honduran newspaper La Tribuna.[6] Its puzzles and paradoxes have been cited by El País[7] and Il Post.[8]

Podcast[edit | edit source]

In March 2014 Futility Closet launched a thirty-minute weekly podcast hosted by Greg and Sharon Ross.[9] A typical episode lasts thirty minutes and consists of three segments: first the week's core topic, typically a curious story from history; second, listener mail; third, a lateral thinking puzzle, posed by one of the hosts for the other to solve. Some episodes depart from this format, for instance by presenting several short items or open questions culled from research, or by presenting several puzzles in lieu of other content. Most episodes include an advertisement.

Content and sources[edit | edit source]

The podcast has a wide scope and is not restricted to any particular era, but most episodes concern colorful personalities and strange events from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Victorian oddities are a mainstay of the show, as are unexplained mysteries, forteana, hoaxes and impostors, sensational murders, remarkable animals, and the adventures of mariners, aviators, and explorers. Subjects are often prompted by listener suggestions.

Music[edit | edit source]

The podcast's opening theme is an instrumental bass composition, "Fallen Star", which was written and performed by Doug Ross,[10] brother of Greg.[11] Doug Ross also supplies the bass riffs that punctuate the transitions between episode segments.

Reception[edit | edit source]

The Futility Closet Podcast has been praised by James Harkin of No Such Thing as a Fish,[12] and by economist Tim Harford.[13] Joshua Gelernter of The Weekly Standard described Futility Closet as "one of the most interesting websites on the internet."[14] Michael Förtsch of Wired.de named the Futility Closet Podcast as one of seven podcasts to make you smarter.[15] The podcast was praised by Colin Patrick of Mental Floss, by Jennifer K. Bauer of Inland360.com,[16] and by Kayla Matthews of Makeuseof.com, who praised Greg Ross's scrupulous research.[17] Gizmodo's Robbie Gonzalez praised the site's lateral thinking puzzles.[18] Futility Closet was praised by Steve Dodson of the linguistics blog Languagehat,[19] and was cited by the linguist Ben Yagoda at the Lingua Franca blog.[20]

Futility Closet's segment on the Canadian candy boycott was featured on CBC Radio.[21]

Support[edit | edit source]

At the time of its launch, the podcast was supported chiefly by advertisements and one-time donations. By the end of 2014 a Patreon campaign had been established.[22]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mark Frauenfelder (2011-10-17). "Interview with Futility Closet blogger Greg Ross / Boing Boing". Boingboing.net. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  2. "Books". Futility Closet. 2013-11-22. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Antonick, Gary (10 February 2014). "The Necktie Paradox". Wordplay. The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2018. 
  4. Climbing Chains puzzle a problem of John H. Conway
  5. "The Prisoners' Paradox". 
  6. "Plataformas web para nunca dejar de aprender". 
  7. "No solo de números consecutivos vive el cuadrado mágico". 
  8. "Il paradosso della decimazione". 
  9. March 17, 2014September 14, 2015 (2014-03-17). "Podcast Episode 1: Calendar Reform, Doll Mansions, and Hitchcock's Vertigo". Futility Closet. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  10. "Doug Ross". 
  11. "FC 11: A Woolf in Sheikh's Clothing". 
  12. https://soundcloud.com/nosuchthingasafish/episode-131-no-such-thing-as-walking-the-life-jacket
  13. "Tim Harford — Article — The five best economics podcasts of 2016". Timharford.com. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  14. Gelernter, Joshua (26 November 2016). "Bob Dylan and the Great Poetry Hoax". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 18 January 2018. 
  15. "Diese 7 Podcasts Machen Euch Schlauer". 
  16. "Staff Picks: Futility Closet". 
  17. "11 True Story Podcasts That Make Your Life Look Dull". 
  18. "Sunday Puzzle Hiatus: Try Some Lateral Thinking Puzzles On For Size". 
  19. "Futility Closet". 
  20. "The Strange Saga of Gobbledygook". 
  21. "CBC Podcast Playlist 90". 
  22. December 14, 2014September 12, 2015 (2014-12-14). "Podcast Episode 38: The Thunder Stone". Futility Closet. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 

External links[edit | edit source]