The Sea Devil: the gentleman pirate who made friends of his enemies in World War I


Felix von Luckner was a romantic hero in the Great War, a dashing nobleman who commanded an old-style sailing ship. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Luckner's uniquely civilized approach to warfare, which won admiration even from his enemies.

We'll also puzzle over how a product intended to prevent drug abuse ends up encouraging it.

Show notes

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LISTEN: Charley Parkhurst's Secret

drawing of face

One of the most fearless and admired stagecoach drivers of the Wild West was discovered after death to be a woman.

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LISTEN: Back From the Dead?

Was an Australian butcher really a long-lost English aristocrat?

The Strange Misadventures of Famous Corpses

Being well known can make it harder to rest in peace.

LISTEN: Godless in Missouri

What happens to a town founded explicitly to reject Christianity?

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Embrace the Manic Pixie Dream Witch!

We’re happy for the Hugos, sad for the last Terry Pratchett novel, and J.R.R. Tolkien has a new book. Plus, we wrap up Uprooted by Naomi Novik and make our peace with a trope.

The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of science fiction / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. For show notes and previous episodes, head here. You can also help support us on Patreon! Read the rest

LISTEN: Sunk by a Whale

Follow the desperate journey of 20 surviving seamen stranded a thousand miles from land.

LISTEN: Lateral Thinking Puzzles


Here are four new lateral thinking puzzles to test your wits! Read the rest

Psychology’s unhealthy obsession with the WEIRDest people in the world

Psychology studies are almost always about WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic – the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world's population.

Why you should welcome the robots

Tom and Veronica talk to J-F Dubeau, author of 'The Life Engineered,' about why we should build more robots.

LISTEN: The Niihau Incident

What happens when a Japanese fighter pilot crash-lands on a remote Hawaiian island after the attack on Pearl Harbor?

LISTEN: Composing Beyond the Grave


Did the spirits of dead composers contact British medium Rosemary Brown to dictate new music?

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Sound is the forgotten flavor sense

Manipulating sound can transform our experience of food and drink, making stale potato chips taste fresh, adding the sensation of cream to black coffee, or boosting the savory, peaty notes in whiskey.

LISTEN: How the U.S. Air Force rescued a downed navigator

When the largest rescue operation of the Vietnam War failed to reach downed navigator Gene Hambleton, how did his lifelong passion for golf become the key to his rescue?

LISTEN: Was Cyrano de Bergerac plagiarized from a Chicago real estate developer?

That being the highly successful French play.

LISTEN: Murder at the Priory

Can you solve "the prize puzzle of British criminal jurisprudence"?

LISTEN: Neil Gaiman writes all the things!

Enjoy the latest podcast from Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt

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