I just finished up reading The Turk
by Tom Standage (briefly mentioned in passing here
) a biography of the chess-playing automaton that toured Europe and later the Americas during the pivotal transition from the 18th to the 19th century. The Automaton was invented as an exercise in national pride by Wolfgang von Kempelen,
who considered it a trifle compared to his experiments with mechanical speech synthesis.
As a celebrity, the automaton had historic encounters with Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon, Beethoven, Philidor
and Charles Babbage, and fictional encounters with the monarchs Catherine the Great, George III and Frederick II. Standage credits it with influencing the development of the Difference Engine
, the power loom, Poe's mystery stories
, and Barnum's manipulation of the press.
The myths surrounding have even caught James Randi
, who seems to have been unaware of a colleague's reconstruction
based on notes from the last owner.
posted by KirkJobSluder
on Sep 21, 2005 -
The man who wrote 10,000 Grooks
), Piet Hein, was also the inventor of Hex
and the creator of the Soma Cube
. In the design world, he is most famous for the SuperEllipse
, a figure that rivals Buckminster Fuller's geodesics in ingenuity, an aesthetic balance between a circle and a square, and a mathematical figure
which has been used to design a square in Stockholm.
From the SuperEllipse, you can get the SuperEgg, a strange solid which will unexpectedly balance on one end and has been mistaken for an alien artifact
posted by Winterfell
on Oct 28, 2002 -