Sunday, May 31, 2009

Explaining Some Little Mysteries

1. "10 Best Head-Scratching Stories, Explained"
Explanations for some books, movies and other mysteries of popular
culture -- according to Wired.

2. "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony of greater importance than technology",
   or, "Why CDs were originally limited to 74 minutes"
"Philips engineers had always based their work on a playing time of an
hour, a few minutes longer than a double-sided LP...  However, Sony
vice-president Norio Ohga, who was responsible for the project, did not
agree. 'Let us take the music as the basis,' ... Ohga had fond memories
of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. That had to fit on the CD... The longest
known performance lasted 74 minutes."

However, Snopes isn't convinced, giving the explanation the status of

3. "Why text messages are limited to 160 characters"
"Alone in a room in his home in Bonn, Germany, Friedhelm Hillebrand sat
at his typewriter, tapping out random sentences and questions on a
sheet of paper.  As he went along, Hillebrand counted the number of
letters, numbers, punctuation marks and spaces on the page. Each blurb
ran on for a line or two and nearly always clocked in under 160

4. "Why are [Twitter] tweets limited to 140 characters?"
"[D/@ + whitespace +  + whitespace] + 140 = maximum
length of a SMS"

5. "Explaining the curse of work"
"This is 'Parkinson's law', first published in an article of 1955, which
states: work expands to fill the time available for its completion."

6. "Irish police solve Mr Licence mystery"
"Irish police have solved the mystery of a Polish recidivist who clocked
up 50 traffic offences on different addresses and who was never caught,
after one officer noticed his name meant driving license in Polish."