Did an 18th-century engineer manage to build a chess-playing automaton?


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/19/did-an-18th-century-engineer-m.html


#2

Did an 18th-century engineer manage to build a chess-playing automaton?

Spoiler: No, it was a hoax.


#3

What were the odds of finding a little person in the 18th century who was a good chess player and not claustrophobic.


#4

Just a quick note here.

I used to see these interesting posts and get mad when I would click through and find out it was the podcast again and there was no interesting article to go with the headline!

Well, I finally smartened up and started listening to the podcast and it is most excellent!

I apologize for being mad about the posts.


#5

Further endorsement: The Futility Closet Podcast is one of the scant few that I will happily download without reviewing the ingredients. It is consistently entertaining brain food. It has made many car trips much less monotonous. The only reason I’m saying this is because I’d like to keep it going.


#6

Hint: headline contains a question mark.


#7

“What were the odds of finding a little person in the 18th century who was a good chess player and not claustrophobic.”

The odds of it are much better than the odds of an engineer building a chess playing robot in the 18th century. Also, it did not have to be a little person…could have been a small teenager, or an amputee.

It was a hoax. Refuted in 1794.


#8

One could not ask for a more faithful example of Betteridge’s law.


#9

Given the length of time over which the mechanical turk was actively displayed and played against and the average human lifespan of the era, it would likely have required several small people who were quite extraordinarily gifted at chess to maintain the machine’s exception winning record. That alone is fairly impressive. Or horrifying, if your imagination prefers to bend that way.


#10

Searching for Bobby Fischer.

Found him, he’s in this box!


#11

I never review the contents. I want to be surprised by shows I listen to. I figure if I have to preview the contents, I’ve likely added the wrong my feed.

Then again, I HATE the “In this episode we’ll…” previews in general if it’s part of the show instead of in show notes. Including TV. This is especially annoying for news.

Just get on with the show already.

That being said, I agree it’s a good podcast.


#12

Far more interesting than The Turk was El Ajedrecista – a real chess-playing machine from 1912. It could only play a small endgame, but in principle a larger and more complicated machine along the same principles could have played the whole game.


#13

Wow! Thanks for that. The mechanical Turk was a staple of kids science books when I was a kid but I’ve never heard of el ajedrecista before.


#14

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.