About This Show
Hosted by Greg and Sharon Ross, Futility Closet is a celebration of the quirky and the curious, the thought-provoking and the simply amusing. This podcast is an audio companion to the popular website that catalogs more than 8,000 curiosities in history, language, mathematics, literature, philosophy, and art. In each episode we explore intriguing finds from our research, share listener contributions, and tackle an entertaining puzzle.
Most Recent Episode
031-Pigs on Trial
4 days ago
For 500 years of European history, animals were given criminal trials: Bulls, horses, dogs, and sheep were arrested, jailed, given lawyers, tried, and punished at community expense. In the latest Futility Closet podcast we'll explore this strange practice and try to understand its significance to the people of the time.
We'll also rediscover the source of Futility Closet's name and puzzle over how a ringing bell relates to a man's death.
Sources for our segment on animal trials:
Anila Srivastava, "'Mean, Dangerous, and Uncontrollable Beasts': Mediaeval Animal Trials," Mosaic, March 2007.
Jen Girgen, "The Historical and Contemporary Prosecution and Punishment of Animals," Animal Law Review, 2003.
Esther Cohen, "Law, Folklore, and Animal Lore," Past & Present, February 1986.
"Medieval Animal Trials," medievalists.net, Sept. 8, 2013 (accessed Oct. 20, 2014).
James E. McWilliams, "Beastly Justice," Slate, Feb. 21, 2013.
E.P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, 1906.
The Hour of the Pig (released in the United States as The Advocate), BBC, 1993.
Here's the original UTILITY sign from American University's administration building that inspired our name:
This week's lateral thinking puzzles come from Paul Sloane and Des MacHale's 1994 book Great Lateral Thinking Puzzles and from listener Meaghan Gerard Walsh.
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