Some Giant Kids Tromping Around, Plus Mathematics Comics


I don’t mean to brag but over on my mathematics blog I’ve recently had two roundups of mathematically themed comic strips. The “Hatless Aliens” Edition let me reveal that Einstein’s paper introducing “E = mc2 doesn’t actually contain the equation “E = mc2”, so please go over there to read about that. The “Trapezoid” Edition let me introduce someone to Percy Crosby’s classic comic strip Skippy, which I also count as a public service.

To give folks who stick around here something to read, though, might I offer a pair of installments from Winsor McCay’s classic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland? The backstory is a little involved and hard to summarize since, well, it’s dreamland, but in the installment from September 29, 1907, Nemo and company are sneaking around, best as giants can, Manhattan. In the installment from October 6, well, the sneaking has really advanced to knocking the city over. These things happen.

Nemo and Impie watch as Flip rampages accidentally through the city.
Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland for the 29th of September, 1907; reprinted on Gocomics.Com on the 28th of April, 2015.

But it all shows off McCay’s style: incredibly gorgeous artwork drawn with stunning precision — in the second strip look at how consistent the city buildings are between panels 1, 2, and 5, even though it wouldn’t make any difference if they were to vary — and with the loose dreamy narrative that the title of the strip implies. It’s not the kind of comic strip that I could imagine running in the newspapers today. Partly that’s because weekly narrative strips are, except for Prince Valiant, dead; partly that’s because this sort of whimsy is a very hard thing to create or to sustain.

Nemo, Impie, and Flip try to douse the burning city, and are shot by the Navy.
Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland for the 6th of October, 1907; reprinted on Gocomics.Com on the 30th of April, 2015.

I feel I should say something about Impie, but I don’t know what. The character was picked up earlier along Nemo and Flip’s adventures and I don’t know what I can say.

Einstein’s Brain, Thursdays at 8:30


So you know Doctor Thomas Stoltz Harvey, and you do, although you don’t know him by that name. You know him better as “you heard how after Einstein died the guy doing his autopsy stole his brain and put it in a jar?” This is an unfair characterization, as he sliced it into 240 blocks about a cubic centimeter each and then encased them in plastic, he asserted he had the preposthumous permission of the prominent physicist, and it completely overlooks his work in removing Einstein’s eyes.

Anyway, I was reading Sam Kean’s book about genetics, The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales Of Love, War, and Genius, As Written By Our Genetic Code, and it mentioned that after leaving Princeton, Harvey ended up moving to Kansas and becoming the next-door neighbor to William S Burroughs, and yeah, that William S Burroughs.

So now picture the goofball mid-to-late 60s sitcom of this scenario: William S Burroughs. The guy who stole Einstein’s brain. Einstein’s brain in a jar. Which one of these three is the wacky neighbor? The world may never know.