Things 59: Building Projection, Plant Sculpture, and the Train Problem

(Originally sent October 2009)

I saw Surrogates, which was a strong enough concept (with relevance to the kind of changes we will see in the coming decades, even if we don’t quite achieve fully robotic avatars affordable by 98% of the population) that it maintained interest despite the weak writing and characters.

Technology unlocks surprising things. Witness the kind of trompe l’oeil magic that can now be achieved by virtue of having a powerful enough digital projector:

If you like that, there’s more here.

Highlighted in the final part of last week’s issue of The Week, this article from pseudonymous postman Roy Mayall casts an interesting light on the current wrangling with Royal Mail.

Key quote from towards the end:

“There is a tension between the Royal Mail as a profit-making business and the Royal Mail as a public service. For most of the Royal Mail management … it is the first. To the delivery officer … it is more than likely the second.”

The current ongoing (in)action would seem to stem directly from this tension.

Sculpture/carpentry/architecture with living plants.

I suspect this would seem less benign if the same modificiations to a natural form could be carried out within minutes instead of over the course of years.

I mentioned this puzzle in a recent discussion stemming from Things and it sparked a lot of interest. Here is a version only slightly modified from the way I originally heard it from Laurence:

Trains leaving station A only go to station B. A single from A to B costs £3. A return from A to B and back again costs £5. A woman walks into train station A for the first time in her life. She goes up to the counter and hands the cashier £5. Without either of them saying a word she is given a return ticket and leaves happy. How did the cashier know what she wanted?

The original version, along with many other puzzles, can be found here:

(Note that I think this puzzle should now be filed in the first section).

Before you are tempted to ask someone for help with this puzzle, please see this warning / subtle hint.

-Transmission Ends