The Korean Godzilla, some political insults, Monty Hall problem, Wrong Way Corrigan, and the buttered cat paradox

Today, we look a a couple of political insults, a couple of thought exercises/problems, Pulgasari, and accidentally flying from New York to Ireland.

The Monty Hall problem hearkens back to the good old days of game shows, like Let's Make a Deal (the host of which lends his name to this puzzle). Originally posed in 1975, the issue is as such:
You are a contestant on a game show, and given a choice of three doors. Behind one is a car, and behind the other two are less valuable prizes (goats). After picking a door, the host (who knows what is behind each door), opens a different door, which reveals a goat. He offers to let you switch to the third door. Which is more advantageous?
Conventional wisdom makes people assume that there isn't any difference, and that each door still holds a 1/3 probability of having the car. However, this isn't true: switching doubles your chances at getting the car. For me, the best way to wrap my head around this was to establish that the choice isn't divided into even thirds. Instead, there is a 1/3 chance that the door picked (say #1 for example) has a 1/3 chance of being a car, while the other two not picked are a combined 2/3 chance. When the host opens door #3 (he has to pick one that he knows is a goat) and proves that there is no car behind it, the third door he offer to let you switch to (#2) still has a 2/3 chance of being the car; you've simply narrowed that same 2/3 probability down to one door instead of two. If it still seems hard to believe, go ahead and write out each permutation, you still get the car sixty seven percent of the time if you switch when offered.
Awww... but it's cute!

The other puzzle is sometimes jokingly called the buttered cat paradox. There are two conflicting adages involving the rotation of falling objects: that a cat always lands on its feet, and buttered toast always lands butter-side down. While the cat righting reflex is well-documented (though not always well understood), the toast one was disproved by an episode of Myth Busters; but the paradox must assume both are true. The problem posed is:
If cats always land on their feet, and buttered toast always lands butter down, what happened if you attach toast, butter up, to a cat and then drop them?
Given that the thought exercise is entirely tongue-in-cheek, the "solution" are typically equally cheeky, such as the conflicting energies giving the cat and toast a state of perpetual hovering.
WikiWorld comic by Greg Williams

Pulgasari (불가사리) is a 1985 film created in North Korea that borrows heavily from Japanese kaiju styles, especially Godzilla. What's most interesting about it, however, is that the South Korean director (Shin Sang-ok) was kidnapped in 1978 at the request of Kim Jong-il (then son of ruler Kim Il-sung) to make such propaganda films. Toho Studies, the Japanese film company that created Godzilla, helped with special effects, which helped it secure a 1998 release in Japan. The Goryeo-era story is a clear metaphor criticizing capitalism, centering around the titular beast which eats metal. Pulgasari helps a province overthrow their oppressive governor, but becomes just as bad a burden.

It's pretty common in political discourse to revert to ad hominem, attacking the person instead of the policy, especially during election season. Even the Canadians, which are oft-recognized as some of the friendliest and most polite people on the planet, can fall victim to it. In Ontario during the 2003 provincial elections, one staffer on the Progressive Conservative Party campaign grew frustrated with the media's constant doting on Ontario Liberal Party candidate Dalton McGuinty, and wrote a bogus press release, ranting about the hypocracy of McGuinty's own attack ads on incumbent Ernie Eves. The release, which was actually published, ended by declaring McGuinty to be an evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet. The accusation did the Tories little good, as Eves lost re-election, but was fodder for the political cartoonists for quite some time.
McGuinty asserts his love of felines in this Canadian Press Enterprises photo
Even royalty can get into it when it comes to political meanderings. I doubt many people would disagree that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is a bit of a blowhard, and he proved it at the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Chile. While Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was speaking, Chávez interrupted him repeatedly to criticize his predecessor, José María Aznar, even after his microphone was cut off. Zapatero was annoyed by Chávez so much that he began defending Anzar, even though the two were bitter rivals. Eventually, Chávez's disruption tested the patience of Spanish King Juan Carlos I, who leaned forward and barked "¿Por qué no te callas?", which translates to "why don't you just shut up?". The use of the familiar form of "you" was a further rebuke, as if Chávez were not a formal peer, but an insolent child. However, his lack of etiquette could not be fixed, as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had to reprimand Chávez a week later for suggesting oil to be used for political control (when later asked about the exchange by reporters, Chávez remarked that he had to pee à la Forrest Gump and asked them if they would like to get pissed on).

When Douglas Corrigan applied to the Bureau of Air Commerce (the 1935 equivalent of the FAA) for permission to perform a transatlantic flight, it was rejected, as his modified Curtiss Robin OX-5 was deemed unsound for a non-stop flight between New York and Ireland. After three years of modifications, reapplications, and re-rejections, he got frustrated and decided to just do it anyway. Having permission for transcontinental flight, he flew from California to Brooklyn, and filed a flight plan for a return trip along the same route. However, on takeoff the next day, he was advised not to fly over the building directly to the west of Floyd Bennett Airfield, and a combination of inability to see landmarks due to cloud cover and low light, as well as a compass malfunction, caused such a "navigation error" that he landed in County Dublin. He never publicly admitted performing one of the first transoceanic flights deliberately, but was given a short pilot's suspension and a hero's welcome.
Who knew that the New York Post could be funny?

No bonus today, faithful readers. Happy reading!

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