Get out of jail free: how the WWII Allies used the game Monopoly to help POWs escape

Most of us think of Monopoly as a board game. Intellectual Property folk also think of it as a source of IP issues: trademarks in the name, trade dress of the game, copyright, and even patents. But how about this: a POW escape kit?

Megan Garber writes in the Atlantic about how the WWII Allies used the board game Monopoly to help POWs escape. Turns out that the U.K. manufacturer and licensee of Monopoly, Waddington, had perfected a method of printing on silk, which is in turn an extremely useful way of making maps that can be easily hidden and which make no noise when pocketed or used. (Again patent issues in the method of making the silk!)

The games/escape kits were sent via fake charities:

Posing as “charities” . . ., [the Allies] sent packages to their POWs that featured clandestine escape kits — kits that included tools like compasses, metal files, money, and, most importantly, maps.

And: They disguised those kits as Monopoly games. The compasses and files? Both disguised as playing pieces. The money, in the form of French, German, and Italian bank notes? Hidden below the Monopoly money. The maps? Concealed within the board itself. “The game was too innocent to raise suspicion,” ABC News’s Ki Mae Heussner put it — but “it was the ideal size for a top-secret escape kit.”

As someone who grew up watching Hogan’s Heroes and movies such as The Great Escape, this is fascinating stuff. Although numerous maps were made and helped prisoners to escape, unfortunately, none of the Monopoly escape kits remain.

For more info, see the story Garber links to at ABC News.

Cross-posted at Infoglut Tumblr.

Animals, information, and language

This summer has been a wonderful three months of reading and writing. Currently, I’m reading Alex Wright’s Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages, a book about information and information overload, a topic of long interest to me. Wright’s book includes interesting discussions of just how basic information management techniques are to humans and others, including how non-human species such as insects and birds preserve and disseminate information for the benefit of the group. Serendipity also struck when I recently came across this video from Time Magazine, showing Kanzi, a bonobo ape from the Great Ape Trust, who has a vocabulary of nearly 400 words that he expresses using a touch screen. Through Kanzi and earlier apes such as Koko (who used sign language to ask for a pet cat), we need to be reminded that information management and language skills are not limited to homo sapiens.

Physics and rap music

Geek alert: the Large Hadron Collider (“LHC”), making its debut this year, is the world’s largest particle accelerator.  Built by CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research), the LHC is a 27 km particle accelerator near Geneva, running through both France and Switzerland.  As noted in the NYT, the LHC “will smash together subatomic particles at a rate just short of the speed of light in search of new forms of matter and new laws of physics.”

Some have objected to the LHC as creating an unnecessary risk of, um, destroying the world, such as by creating a micro black hole that swallows the planet.  Several LHC opponents have filed a federal lawsuit seeking delay of its operation, and the government is seeking dismissal.  Ultimately, it’s somewhat moot, as the LHC makes it official debut on “Red Button Day,” Sept. 10, about a week after the court hears the motion to dismiss.

Although I love physics, my physics knowledge is more of the “wouldn’t warp travel be really cool” variety.  So I don’t know how risky the LHC really is.  However, I can say with more confidence that this rap video explaining the operation of the LHC, apparently done by folks connected to CERN, is pretty entertaining (if you’re a physics geek, that is):

Bonus assignment: check out PBS’ program The Elegant Universe, a three-hour miniseries on the development of physics string theory.

H/T on rap vid: SlashDot