Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Benford’s Corollary: Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
Raymond’s Second Law: Any sufficiently advanced system of magic would be indistinguishable from a technology.
Sterling’s Corollary: Any sufficiently advanced garbage is indistinguishable from magic.
Langford’s application to science fiction: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot device.
Why should not a chicken cross the road?
It would be a fowl proceeding.
Potter’s American Monthly
Three men are stranded on a desert island when a bottle washes up on the shore. When they uncork the bottle, a genie appears and offers each a wish.
The first man wishes he were in Paris. The genie snaps his fingers, and the man instantly disappears.
The second man wishes he were in Hollywood, and at a snap of the genie’s fingers, he too vanishes.
The third man, now alone on the island, looks around and says, “I wish my friends were back.”
Mark Twain’s list of 27 items to be rescued from a boardinghouse fire:
- Persons toward whom the operator feels a tender sentiment, but has not yet declared himself
- First cousins
- Second cousins
- Young lady relations by marriage
- Third cousins, and young lady friends of the family
- The unclassified
- Children under 10 years of age
- Young widows
- Young married females
- Elderly married ditto
- Elderly widows
- Boarders in general
- Female domestics
- Male ditto
“In either ascending or descending the stairs,” Twain wrote, “the young gentleman shall walk beside the young lady, if the stairs are wide enough to allow it; otherwise he must precede her. In no case must he follow her. This is de rigueur.”
Excerpts from students’ civics exams in the 1800s:
- “The three departments of the government is the President rules the world, the governor rules the State, the mayor rules the city.”
- “The first conscientious Congress met in Philadelphia.”
- “The Constitution of the United States was established to ensure domestic hostility.”
- “The Constitution of the United States is that part of the book at the end which nobody reads.”
- “Congress is divided into civilized half civilized and savage.”
– From Mark Twain, “English as She Is Taught: Being Genuine Answers to Examination Questions in Our Public Schools,” 1887
Two racehorses and a dog are in the stable on the night before the big race.
The old horse says, “Kid, I have a favor to ask. Tomorrow’s the last race of my career. If I win, they’ll have a big parade in my honor and put me in a nice pasture for the rest of my life. If I lose, they’ll send me to the glue factory. Now, I’m still a pretty good racer, but I think we both know that if you try tomorrow, you can beat me. So I’m asking you, just this once … will you let me win?”
The younger racehorse looks at the ground for a long time. “I understand what you’re asking,” he says, “and I feel for you, I really do. But look at this from my point of view. I’ve never lost a race. If I keep up my record, there’s no telling how far I’ll go. And, no offense, but if I lose this early in my career, to a horse as old as you, I could never recover. I’m really sorry, but I just can’t do it.”
The dog says, “Are you out of your mind? You’ve said yourself that you already have a great record, and he’s asking you to come in second, in one race, to save his life. How can you refuse that? Have you no soul at all?”
The young horse says, “Look — a dog that can talk!”