Historical pomposity


The reader may already be aware that “clockwise” was the direction of rotation used for the movement of hands on clocks in order in mimic the shadow movement on sundials. What might be news is that the shadows on thousands of sundials move “counterclockwise.” That would include all sundials functioning in the Southern Hemisphere. Clock development principally transpired in the Northern Hemisphere resulting in a tepid example of historical pomposity.

The Smithsonian complex exhibits approximately 1.1 million objects at any one time. The institution owns an additional 129 million items that are conserved, catalogued and stored in reserve or loaned for study.

Perseverance often pays, even when “experts” imply that quitting should be the more logical choice. The famous Edouard Manet once discussed a mutual acquaintance with fellow artist Claude Monet: “He has no talent, that boy. Since you are his friend, tell him to GIVE UP PAINTING!” That “no-talent boy” was Pierre-August Renoir. Renoir’s art is now displayed in such venues as The National Gallery (Washington D.C.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) and the Louvre (Paris). Two of his paintings have sold for more than $70 million each and Paysage bord du Seine was scheduled to be auctioned with an anticipated price to exceed $100 million when the auction was abruptly canceled, as it had been discovered the work was stolen property (purloined some 61 years earlier).

The tallest mountain on earth is an issue not entirely settled for all purists. Measured from sea level, Mt. Everest is the champ at a lofty 29,035 feet. However, the plot thickens when one measures “the tallest” from base to highest peak. That would make Mauna Kea, which rises 33,476 feet from the floor of the Pacific Ocean, the tallest. Hold on. There are those who contend the truly tallest mountain should be determined by measuring from the center of the earth to a topmost peak. That scale would make Mt. Chimborazo the highest cresting at 20,946,208 feet from our planet’s center. Pick one.

A few years back, a Dallas man won $13,000,000 in The Texas Lottery. After taxes were deducted from his total, his payout was to be $460,000 annually for 20 years. The man died 10 months later, having collected only one check. He left the entire remaining sum to his sister. Problem: Inheritance tax folks wanted their portion immediately and the sister didn’t have nearly enough to pay the debt. A special deal was made where she had to pay $482,000 annually for ten years, which meant she lost $22,000 each year. Well, avoid historical pomposity – and have a great week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at