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Otters Oddities

Illustration for article titled Otters Oddities

Guess who really hates Mondays?

Yup, that fat cat right there.

I don't actually hate any day of the week. I mean, they're just days, after all. And it's not the day that you hate, it's the activity assigned to that day. For example, many people hate Mondays because they have to go back to work. But what if you work a swing schedule? Your work wee could be Thursday through Monday. That would make Monday the last day of your work week. Would you hate Mondays, or would you hate Thursdays?


I know one person who had a valid reason to hate Mondays. His name was Garfield. James A. Garfield, that is. (makes the comic a little funnier now you know who that old guy is with Jon, right?)

James Garfield was the country's 20th president. And in 1881, on a Saturday in July, Charles Guiteau decided Garfield didn't have enough holes in him. So he added 2 more. With a pistol. From point blank range. In the back.


The reason Garfield hates Mondays so much is that he didn't die right after being shot. He lingered for a month and a half, dying on Monday, September 19th. The sad part is, it wasn't actually the bullets that killed him. Sure, the bullets injured him, and if he hadn't been shot, he wouldn't have died when he did, but the wounds themselves weren't fatal. In fact, had he been anyone except the president of the United States, doctors would have left the bullets where they were and patched him up.

Instead, his primary physician decided he had to get the bullet out. So he dug for it. And he dug. And dug. And dug. This was back in the era when a doctor would go from performing an autopsy, to delivering a baby, to removing an impacted stool, to trying to fish a bullet out of the president without washing his hands or wearing gloves. It was the infections caused by his doctor that killed him.


Now, as tragic as this was, it's not the oddity I have for you. I mean, despite the fact that he was a president, and he was technically assassinated, he died just like everyone does eventually.

No, the oddity that I want to tell you about is about the fact that Garfield was one seriously smart cookie. How smart? Smarter than a Snickerdoodle!


So how smart is that? Well, people asked him how smart he was, he would show off by writing in Greek with his left hand while writing the same thing in Latin with his right. At the same time.* Ok, so neat trick, but not really proving how smart he is.

Well, shortly after he was elected to congress, he was doodling while some boring windbag was droning on about some lame political thing when he had a flash of insight. He was that if he drew a triangle, then used the hypoenuse to make it one end of a trapezoid, then using two more triangles to form the rest of the trapezoid, he could equate the area of the trapezoid by equating the area of the triangles!


Reading that, you're most likely saying to yourself, "No shit Sherlock!". After all, if a trapezoid is made up of three triangles, simple logic tells us the area of the triangles would equal the area of the trapezoid. So what is so impressive about that?

Well, when you write it out, it's hard to visualize. But when it's drawn, you see that the shorter sides of the original triangle form the hypotenuses of the other two triangles. That makes the larger triangle an isosceles triangle and the smaller two right triangles. And when you calculate the area of the triangles, you also just happen to solve the equation A2 + B2 = C2.


It's a proof for the Pythagorean Theorem.

James Garfield developed a proof for one of the central formulas that govern math.


He isn't the first person to do this; that was Pythagoras. And there have been several more proofs provided, some geometrical and some algebraic. But he was the only president to have done it.

So....what did you do today?

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