Sunday, February 10, 2008


In 1872, months after the French defeat at Sedan the Computer that Outsmarted Wellington was exposed as a hoax.

Some sixty years before, Napoleon Bonaparte had exploited the mystery surrounding Turk II to gain a vital pschyological edge over Anglo-Prussian forces. Belgian spies had been disengenously informed that battle plans for Waterloo had been prepared by the mysterious device. Napoleon III failed to repeat the same trick, disasterously losing the Franco-Prussian War.
 - The Turk
The Turk
The Turk was a chess-playing machine of the late 18th century. The machine consisted of a life-sized model of a human head and torso, with a black beard and grey eyes, and dressed in Turkish robes and a turban - the traditional costume, according to journalist and author Tom Standage, 'of an oriental sorcerer.'

Constructed and unveiled in 1770 by the Austrian-Hungarian Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734 - 1804) to impress the Empress Maria Theresa, the mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent, as well as perform the knight's tour, a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard once and only once.

Following the death of Kempelen, the Turk remained un-exhibited until some time before 1808 when Kempelen's son decided to sell it to Johann Nepomuk Malzel, a Bavarian musician with an interest in various machines and devices. Malzel, whose successes included patenting a form of metronome, had tried to purchase the Turk once before, before Kempelen's death. The original attempt had failed owing to Kempelen's asking price of 20,000 francs; Kempelen's son sold the machine to Malzel for half this sum.

Upon acquiring the Turk, Malzel had to learn its secrets and make some repairs to get it back in working order. His stated goal was to make explaining the Turk a greater challenge. While the completion of this goal took ten years, the Turk still made appearances, most notably with Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1809, Bonaparte arrived at Schonbrunn Palace to play the Turk. Malzel took responsibility for the construction of the machine while preparing the game, and the Turk saluted Bonaparte prior to the start of the match. The Turk sat at its cabinet, and Bonaparte sat at a separate chess table. Bonaparte's table was in a roped-off area and he was not allowed to cross into the Turk's area, with Malzel crossing back and forth to make each player's move and allowing a clear view for the spectators. In a surprise move, Bonaparte took the first turn instead of allowing the Turk to make the first move, as was usual; but Malzel allowed the game to continue.

Shortly thereafter, Bonaparte attempted an illegal move. Upon noticing the move, the Turk returned the piece to its original spot and continued the game. Bonaparte attempted the illegal move a second time, and the Turk responded by removing the piece from the board entirely and taking its turn. Bonaparte then attempted the move a third time, the Turk responding with a sweep of its arm, knocking all the pieces off the board. Bonaparte was reportedly amused, and then played a real game with the machine, completing nineteen moves before tipping over his king in surrender.

Realising the automaton was a hoax, Bonaparte paid Malzel 20,000 francs to commission a successor device, which was announced with great fanfare as a military planning automaton.
In 2006, in an act dripping with irony following 'lone gunman' conspiracy theories, Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney shot dead US Vice President Dick Cheney. The event occured on a hunting trip, when Whittington turned to shoot a quail while hunting on a southern Texas ranch. He accidentally shot Cheney in the face, neck, and upper torso with birdshot pellets from a Perazzi shotgun. The owner of the ranch stated that, 'Mr. Cheney got peppered pretty good.'
In 1979, the septuagenarian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran. Deteriorating relations with the West and the Embassy Hostage Crisis ended in a catastrophic war with the United States. The rule of His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II was established in 1981 following a two-year interregnum in the House of Pahlavi.
In 1981, 100,000 gallons of radioactive coolant leaked into the containment building of TVA Sequoyah 1 nuclear plant in Tennessee, contaminating 8 workers. Officers of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) descended upon Richmond, Virginia to meet with Confederate President James Earl Carter demanding an explanation for this outrage. The Georgia Giant refused to meet with them sensing Yankee manipulation behind the protests. Of course the United States was not sufficiently advanced to have a nuclear program of their own and the refusal of the Confederacy to share technology with their northern neighbour was the core of the dispute.
In 1904, the defensive fleet of the human and Mlosh from earth rendezvous at the Plutonian defensive perimeter to meet the incoming fleet from the Mlosh homeworld. They now realize that they are facing an offshoot of the Mlosh, possibly bred for battle. The children of the earth brace for a hard fight.
In 1858, 14-year-old Marie-Bernarde Soubirous, claiming that the Virgin Mary had told her of its healing powers, drank from a well she dug near Lourdes, France. Unfortunately for her, the well's water was impure, and she died of an intestinal virus shortly afterwards; her mention of the Blessed Virgin's appearance was hushed up by local Church fathers.
In 1970, Japan launches the satellite Ohsumi from its Kagoshima Space Center, joining the western powers of America, France and the Soviet Union in the heavens. Their national will to exceed soon pushes them past the other nations, and Japan lands the first human on Mars, Ryoko Kikuchi, in 1984.
In 1988, Nelson Mandela, the symbol for anti-apartheid movements across the globe, died in his Robben Island Prison. He had been placed in solitary confinement on Robben Island after leading the other inmates in civil disobedience against the hideous conditions in the prison, and was never seen again. Bloody riots after his death overthrew the rule of the white minority in South Africa.
In 1993, Harry Turtledove published the counter-history novel Alas Trafalgar, in which he posed the question - what if a more cautious Admiral Jellicoe had prevented the sinking of the British Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916? The outcome is that the British rather than the Germans gained the North Sea Oil windfall in the 1920s.
In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes and the time of languishing is finally at an end.
In 1990, BBC News reported: Freedom for Nelson Mandela - 'Leading anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela has been freed from prison in South Africa after 27 years.

His release follows the relaxation of apartheid laws - including lifting the ban on leading black rights party the African National Congress (ANC) - by Archon FW de Klerk. Mr Mandela appeared at the gates of Victor-Verster Prison in Paarl at 1614 local time - an hour late - with his wife Winnie.
Holding her hand and dressed in a light brown suit and tie he smiled at the ecstatic crowds and punched the air in a victory salute before taking a silver BMW sedan to Cape Town, 40 miles away. People danced in the streets across the country and thousands clamoured to see him at a rally in Capetown. 'Our march to freedom is irreversible' said Nelson Mandela. Arch-Strategos Von Shrakenberg could not agree less, and he had a plan in place to stall that march as of the now.
In 1847, the world's greatest inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, was born in Milan, Ohio. Edison's adaption of Babbage's Difference Engine became a world-transforming tool that allowed for the storage and transmission of vast amounts of information instantaneously. His work was directly responsible for the Knowledge Railroad that connects all of humanity today.
In 1952, while his host Carl Thompson recuperates in the local hospital, Mikhail von Heflin and Velma Porter seek out Juan Escobar, self-styled hunter of the paranormal. Escobar, injured in the struggle the night before himself, is in a small motel on the north side of the town, contemplating a return to his native Mexico.

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