(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘chess

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination”*…

 

70222-600w-us-capitol-rotunda-painting-trumbull-declaration-independence

John Trumbull’s depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Capitol Rotunda

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
—The Declaration of Independence

These words, from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, are so familiar that it is easy to assume their meaning is obvious. The puzzle lies in the assertion that we have a right to pursue happiness. John Locke, in his Two Treatises of 1690, said we are all created equal and have inalienable rights, including those to life and liberty. But for Locke the third crucial right was the right to property. In Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, also published in 1690, he wrote about the pursuit of happiness, but it follows from his account there that there can be no right to pursue happiness because we will pursue happiness come what may. The pursuit of happiness is a law of human nature (of what we now call psychology), just as gravity is a law of physics. A right to pursue happiness is no more necessary than a right for water to run downhill.

Jefferson meant, I think, that we have a right to certain preconditions that will allow us to pursue happiness: freedom of speech, so we can speak our minds and learn from others; a career open to talents, so our efforts may be rewarded; freedom of worship, so we may find our way to heaven; and a free market, so we can pursue prosperity. Read this way, Jefferson’s right to the pursuit of happiness is an elaboration of the right to liberty. Liberty means not only freedom from coercion, or freedom under the law—or even the right to participate in politics—it is also a right to live in a free community in which individuals themselves decide how they want to achieve happiness. The “public happiness” to which Jefferson aspired can therefore be attained, since public happiness requires liberty in this expanded sense.

Jefferson was well aware that being free to pursue happiness does not mean that everyone will be happy. And yet we trick ourselves into thinking we know what is needed to be happy: a promotion, a new car, a vacation, a good-looking partner. We believe this even though we know there are plenty of people with good jobs, new cars, vacations, and attractive partners, and many of them are miserable. But they, too, imagine their misery can be fixed by a bottle of Pétrus or a yacht or public adulation. In practice, our strategies for finding happiness are usually self-defeating. There’s plenty of empirical evidence to suggest that much of what we do to gain happiness doesn’t pay off. It seems that aiming at happiness is always a misconceived project; happiness comes, as John Stuart Mill insisted, as the unintended outcome of aiming at something else. “The right to the pursuit of happiness,” wrote Aldous Huxley, “is nothing else than the right to disillusionment phrased in another way.”

This problem is particularly acute in our modern consumer economy, in which political institutions, the economic system, and popular culture are all now primarily dedicated to the pursuit of happiness…

How have we come to build a whole culture around a futile, self-defeating enterprise: the pursuit of happiness?  David Wootton explores the implications of our (mis)understanding of America’s founding document: “The Impossible Dream.”

* Mark Twain

###

As we think twice about self-gratification, we might send porcelain birthday greetings to Marcel Duchamp; he was born on this date in 1887.  A painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist, Duchamp was, with Picasso and Matisse, one the defining figures in the revolution that redefined the plastic arts in the early Twentieth Century– in Duchamp’s case, as an early Cubist (the star of the famous 1913 New York Armory Show), as the originator of ready-mades, and as a father of Dada.

In the 1930s, Duchamp turned from the production of art to his other great passion, chess.  He became a competitive player; then, as he reached the limits of his ability, a chess writer.  Samuel Beckett, an friend of Duchamp, used Duchamp’s thinking about chess strategy as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame.  Then in 1968, Duchamp played an on-stage chess match with avant-garde composer, friend, and regular chess opponent John Cage, at a concert entitled Reunion, in which the music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered when pieces were moved in game play.

Duchamp (center; his wife Teeny, right) “performing” Reunion with John Cage (left) in 1968

source

 

“He does nothing, but he does it very well”*…

 

It might look like a simple chess problem, but this puzzle could finally help scientists uncover what makes the human mind so unique, and why it may never be matched by a computer…

The chess problem – originally drawn by Sir Roger Penrose – has been devised to defeat an artificially intelligent (AI) computer but be solvable for humans. The Penrose Institute scientists are inviting readers to workout how white can win, or force a stalemate and then share their reasoning…

The backstory– and a chance to crack the puzzle– at “Can you solve the chess problem which holds key to human consciousness?

P.H. Clarke after his match with Tigran Petrosian

###

As we make our moves, we might note that today is International Tabletop Day, a day devoted to the celebration of tabletop gaming.  Find a place to play here.

 

 

Written by LW

April 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance”*…

 

Roman 12mm dice

Random numbers are central to more than we may realize.  They have applications in gambling, statistical sampling, computer simulation and Monte Carlo modeling, cryptography (as applied in both communications and transactions), completely randomized design, even sooth-saying– in any area where producing an unpredictable result is desirable.  So how they’re produced– the certainty that they are, in fact, random– matters enormously.

It’s no surprise, then, that random number generation has a long and fascinating history.  Happily, Carl Tashian is here to explain.

“As an instrument for selecting at random, I have found nothing superior to dice,” wrote statistician Francis Galton in an 1890 issue of Nature. “When they are shaken and tossed in a basket, they hurtle so variously against one another and against the ribs of the basket-work that they tumble wildly about, and their positions at the outset afford no perceptible clue to what they will be even after a single good shake and toss.”…

From I Ching sticks and dice to the cryptographically-secure PRNG, “A Brief History of Random Numbers.”

[TotH to the eminently-numerate Reuben Steiger]

Robert Coveyou

###

As we roll the bones, we might spare a thought for Samuel “Sam” Loyd; he died on this date in 1911. A chess player, chess composer, puzzle author, and recreational mathematician.  A member of the Chess Hall of Fame (for both his play and for his exercises, or “problems”), he gained posthumous fame when his son published a collection of his mathematical and logic puzzles, Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles after his father’s death.  As readers can see here and here, his puzzles still delight.

Loyd’s most famous puzzle was the 14-15 Puzzle, which he produced in 1878. His original authorship is debated; but in any case, his version created a craze that swept America to such an extent that employers put up notices prohibiting playing the puzzle during office hours.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess”*…

 

Chess has been revolutionized several times since 1850. 1851 marked the first international chess tournament in London, leaving the German Adolf Anderssen as the official best chess player in Europe at the time. The 20th century saw several breakthroughs in chess theory as chess players began to treat chess as a science more than a pastime. With the advent of computers in the mid-1900s, chess players started analyzing games and writing computer opponents to hone their craft. Then in the 1990s, the widespread adoption of the Internet allowed players to play chess games with anyone in the world online.

That leaves us to wonder: How has chess changed in that timespan?…

Find out at “A data-driven exploration of the evolution of chess.”

And for a close look at one of the most recent developments– the surreptitious use of illegal technology– check out “Chess grandmaster accused of using iPhone to cheat during international tournament.”

* Terry Pratchett

###

As we begin to understand Marcel Duchamp’s choice, we might spare a thought for the polymathic Benjamin Franklin; he died on this date in 1790.  Justly remembered and rightly revered as a Founding Father of the U.S., author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, diplomat, and aphorist, it is perhaps less well known that Franklin was a fanatic chess player.  He was playing chess by around 1733, making him the first chess player known by name in the American colonies.  His widely-reprinted and translated 1786 essay “The Morals of Chess,” a paean to the game that prescribed a code of behavior for its players, is the second known writing on chess in America.  He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.

Edward Harrison May’s “Lady Howe faisant mat Benjamin Franklin” (“Lady Howe mating Benjamin Franklin”), 1867

 source

 

Written by LW

April 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists”*…

 

A painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist, Duchamp was, with Picasso and Matisse, one the defining figures in the revolution that redefined the plastic arts in the early Twentieth Century– in Duchamp’s case, as an early Cubist (the star of the famous 1913 New York Armory Show), as the originator of ready-mades, and as a father of Dada.

In the 1930s, Duchamp turned from the production of art to his other great passion, chess.  He became a competitive player; then, as he reached the limits of his ability, a chess writer.  Duchamp’s   Samuel Beckett, an friend of Duchamp, used Duchamp’s thinking about chess strategy as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame.  In 1968, Duchamp played an on-stage chess match with avant-garde composer, friend, and regular chess opponent John Cage, at a concert entitled Reunion, in which the music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered when pieces were moved in game play.

Duchamp (center; his wife Teeny, right) “performing” Reunion with John Cage (left) in 1968

source

 

Media artist (and childhood chess whiz) Scott Kildall wants the world to have the chance to share his admiration for Duchamp, so he created Playing Duchamp:

Marcel Duchamp is widely recognized for his contribution to conceptual art, but his lifelong obsession was the game of chess, in which he achieved the rank of Master. Working with the records of his chess matches, I have created a computer program to play chess as if it were Marcel Duchamp. I invite all artists, skilled and unskilled at this classic game, to play against a Duchampian ghost.

So go ahead, play Duchamp.

* Marcel Duchamp

###

As we contemplate Duchamp’s urinal, we might note that it was on this date in 1863 that Thomas Crapper patented his version of the one-piece pedestal flushing toilet that still bears his name in many parts of the English-speaking world.

The flushing toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596; Joseph Bramah patented the first practical water closet in England in 1778; then in 1852, George Jennings received a patent for the flush-out toilet.  While Crapper’s improvements merited a patent, his real contribution was promotional:  In a time when bathroom fixtures were barely mentionable, Crapper, who was trained as a plumber, set himself up as a “sanitary engineer”; he heavily promoted “sanitary” plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom.  His efforts were hugely successful; he scored a series of Royal Warrants (providing lavatories for Prince, then King Edward, and for George V) and enjoyed great commercial success.

source

(book available here)

Written by LW

January 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”*…

 

Deep into the Dog Days of Summer, readers are likely struggling to beat the heat… and thinking defensively about those predatory pests-of-the-season, mosquitoes (or as Bill Gate’s calls the species, “the deadliest animal in the world“).  The little-bitty buzzers just keep on coming…  And perhaps most frustratingly, they seem to bother some of us much more than others.

Smithsonian runs down the surprisingly long list of reasons in “Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?”  (Spoiler alert:  while 85% of them are genetic, beer makes one a more attractive morsel to the little bloodsuckers.)  Happily, there is a prospect of some relief.

* Dalia Lama XIV

###

As we splash on the DEET, we might recall that it was on this date in 1254 that the first known court case involving chess and violence was heard in Essex, England.  It dealt with a chess player who stabbed his opponent to death after losing.  But while this was the of relatively few such incidents to make it into the criminal justice system, chess violence was apparently pretty wide-spread– common enough to move French King Louis IX to ban chess.  And indeed, such violence continues to this day.

“The King is dead”

source

 

Written by LW

August 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“All philosophy lies in two words, sustain and abstain”*…

 

 source

To Epictetus’ dictum in the title of this post, one might add “disdain”…

“That most deformed concept-cripple of all time.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche on Immanuel Kant

“Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer on Georg Hegel

“There’s no ‘theory’ in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find… some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a 12-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying.”

– Noam Chomsky on Slavoj Žižek

“Well, with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my… point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate… well, I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong.”

– Slavoj Žižek on Noam Chomsky

“Russell’s books should be bound in two colors, those dealing with mathematical logic in red – and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue – and no one should be allowed to read them.”

– Ludwig Wittgenstein on Bertrand Russell

The hits just keep on coming at “The 30 Harshest Philosopher-on-Philosopher Insults in History” and “Philosophers’ Insults.”

Special bonuses:  Monty Python’s “Philosophers’ Football” and “Dead Philosophers in Heaven.”

* Epictetus

###

As we live the examined life, we might send porcelain brithday greetings to Marcel Duchamp; he was born on this date in 1887.  A painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist, Duchamp was, with Picasso and Matisse, one the defining figures in the revolution that redefined the plastic arts in the early Twentieth Century– in Duchamp’s case, as an early Cubist (the star of the famous 1913 New York Armory Show), as the originator of ready-mades, and as a father of Dada.

In the 1930s, Duchamp turned from the production of art to his other great passion, chess.  He became a competitive player; then, as he reached the limits of his ability, a chess writer.  Duchamp’s   Samuel Beckett, an friend of Duchamp, used Duchamp’s thinking about chess strategy as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame.  In 1968, Duchamp played an on-stage chess match with avant-garde composer, friend, and regular chess opponent John Cage, at a concert entitled Reunion, in which the music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered when pieces were moved in game play.

Duchamp (center; his wife Teeny, right) “performing” Reunion with John Cage (left) in 1968

source

 

Written by LW

July 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: