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<   No. 1618   2007-07-02   >

Comic #1618

1 Ginny: Well, right away I can see two inconsistencies in da Vinci's problem that might help us solve it.
1 Minnesota Jones: Yes, Dr Smith?
2 Ginny: Trains heading north from Florence have to climb the Appenines. There's no way they can reach 35 mph.
2 Minnesota Jones: Go on...
3 Ginny: And there is no train line running directly south from Venice - it passes west through Mestre and Padova.
3 Minnesota Jones: Well done!
4 Monty: Uh. What about the fact that this alleged da Vinci text mentions trains? In English?!
4 Minnesota Jones: Irrelevant!

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I don't think Leonardo da Vinci knew English, but given how much other esoteric stuff he knew, I wouldn't want to put a bet on it.

I originally wrote this using Florence and Pisa, but the geography was against me, as trains wouldn't need to climb any particularly high hills to travel between these two cities, and there is a pretty much straight-line rail connection between them.

2017-09-16 Rerun commentary: I've just finished rereading the Harry Potter novels, and I noticed again that the Ravenclaw common room in Hogwarts is not protected by a password like the Gryffindor common room. Instead, the eagle-shaped doorknocker asks a riddle-like question, and you have to figure out the answer. Somewhat like Leonardo's door in this comic.

This raises a few questions:

[1] In fact, although not revealed in the novels, J.K. Rowling's Pottermore website contains the answer to this question. As paraphrased on Harry Potter Wiki, Hufflepuff's common room is protected by a stack of barrels, a specific one of which you must tap in the rhythm of "Helga Hufflepuff", to reveal a secret opening. If you tap the wrong barrel or use the wrong rhythm, you get doused in vinegar.

And entry to the Slytherin common room is... controlled by password access, in the same manner as Gryffindor. Well that's a bit uncreative. I was hoping it would be magical face recognition, with a mandatory sneer.

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