Century Marks

Century Marks

Low demand, high payoff

When Sameer Bhatia, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, came down with acute myelogenous leukemia, a business associate sent an e-mail to more than 400 acquaintances about Bhatia's situation. Those e-mails were forwarded to others, and Facebook and YouTube videos were used to promote the Help Sameer campaign. Nearly 25,000 people registered in a bone-marrow database and eventually a match was found. The key to using social media for promoting causes like Bhatia's, says Malcolm Gladwell, is not making high demands on people (New Yorker, October 4).

Fool me twice

Paul Hoffman was editor of Discover in the 1990s when for five years the magazine published a hoax each April. Many people were taken in by the April fool articles. Hoffman, an avid amateur chess player, was himself taken in recently by the "discovery" that 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen, ranked the best chess player in the world, is a second cousin to actor Matt Damon. Smart people are some of the easiest ones to fool, says Hoffman. They think they're too smart to be fooled, they've learned to believe in things that are counterintuitive and they know scientific explanations often defy everyday experience (Discover, October).

Different business model

Sadie was a successful businesswoman. She started out with a dry goods store that expanded to include everything from bulk foods to hardware. Then she opened stores in other areas, eventually owning eight stores. But there was one problem: Sadie is Amish, and the Amish believe, as one put it, that "bigness ruins everything." So Sadie sold off some of her holdings to other Amish, including some of her employees, keeping her own enterprises small. Spreading the wealth came at a price to herself: she had gone into business to help cover the considerable medical expenses of her children (Donald Kraybill et. al, The Amish Way, Jossey-Bass).

Pancakes and prayer

For more than a decade in Kansas City, Missouri, the name IHOP has referred not only to a restaurant chain featuring pancakes but also to a church named the International House of Prayer. Open seven days a week, 24 hours a day—just like the restaurant—the congregation is known for nonstop praying and singing in anticipation of the Lord's return. Early last month the restaurant chain sued the church for trademark infringement. The two organizations both use IHOP as a web address, distinguishable only by the use of .com for the restaurant, .org for the church (RNS and American Scholar, Autumn).

Maybe Moses had some help

A team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, thinks it has an explanation for the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus. Using a computer model of a section of the Nile Delta, the team determined that a wind of 63 miles per hour, lasting 12 hours, could have opened the waters for a passage some 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide and providing a four-hour window for the crossing. This phenomenon is known as a wind setdown. Other researchers suspect that the NCAR team's findings are tainted by a desire to prove the biblical story (CSMonitor.com, September 21).