The Mechanical Turk

The Turk, the Mechanical Turk or Automaton Chess Player was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854, it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was exposed in the early 1820s as an elaborate hoax.

Imagine a half-open wooden desk with a chessboard and a human sized dressed puppet at one side of the table. Visible are some cogs and other mechanics that appear to control the puppet.

The Mechanical Turk

Constructed and unveiled in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen 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 exactly once.

The Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was initially revealed only in the 1820s by the Londoner Robert Willis.

The identity of the operator within the mechanism during Kempelen’s original tour remains a mystery. When the device was later purchased and exhibited by Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, the chess masters who secretly operated it included Johann Allgaier, Boncourt, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger.

The nineteenth century English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage also played the Turk and lost. In his professional career Babbage originated the concept of a programmable computer. If he had known that the ‘mechanical chess-computer’ was in fact a man-operated Turkish puppet controlling a chessboard. Imagine how it could have damaged the future of the computer if Babbage would have discovered the mechanical Turk was just an illusion.

Geordie Accent

Geordie is a regional nickname for a person from Tyneside, a region of the north east of England, or the name of the English-language dialect spoken by its inhabitants. Depending on who is using it, the catchment area for the term ‘Geordie’ can be as large as the whole of north east England, or as small as the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

In most aspects Geordie speech is a direct continuation and development of the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon settlers of this region. Initially mercenaries employed by the ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders after the end of Roman rule in Britannia in the 5th century, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who thus arrived became, over time, ascendant politically and – through population transfer from tribal homelands in northern Europe – culturally over the native British. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged during the Dark Ages spoke largely mutually-intelligible varieties of what we now call Old English, each varying somewhat in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon. This Anglo-Saxon influence on Geordie can be seen today, to the extent that poems by the Anglo-Saxon scholar the Venerable Bede translates more successfully into Geordie than into modern day English. Thus, in northern England, dominated by the kingdom of Northumbria, was found a distinct Northumbrian Old English dialect.

Phonetically, Geordie consonants generally follow those of Received Pronunciation. Some phonological characteristics specific to Geordie are listed as follows:

– Geordie is non-rhotic, like most Anglo-English dialects. This means speakers do not pronounce /r/ unless it is followed by a vowel sound in that same phrase or prosodic unit. The rhotic sound (/r/) in Geordie is pronounced as [ɹ].

– Unusual for language, there is some differentiation in pronunciation in the Geordie dialect based upon the speaker’s sex. For example, English sound /aʊ/, pronounced generically in Geordie as [əʊ], may also have other, more specific pronunciations depending upon whether one is male or female. Males alone often pronounce the sound /aʊ/ as [uː], for example, the word house (/haʊs/) pronounced as [huːs]. Females, on the other hand, will often pronounce this sound as [eʉ], thus: [heʉs].

– /ɪŋ/ appearing in an unstressed final syllable of a word (such as in reading) is pronounced as [ən] (thus, reading is [ˈɹiːdən]).

– /ər/ appearing at the end of a word (such as in sugar) is pronounced as [a] (thus, sugar is [ˈʃʊga]).

– Yod-coalescence in both stressed and unstressed syllables (so that dew becomes [dʒuː]).

– T-glottalization, in which /t/ is replaced by [ʔ] before a syllabic nasal (e.g. button as [ˈbʊʔən]), in absolute final position (get as [gɛʔ]), and whenever the /t/ is intervocalic so long as the latter vowel is not stressed (pity as [ˈpɪʔi]).

– /æ/ specifically in the words had, have, has and having is pronounced as [ɛ].

– /ɛ/ specifically in words with the spelling “ea” (such as bread and deaf) may be pronounced as [iː].

– /əʊ/ specifically at the ends of words, with the spelling “ow” (such as in throw and follow) is pronounced as [a] in monosyllabic words and [ə] in polysyllabic words (thus, window as [ˈwɪndə]).

Satisfaction with Life Index

The Satisfaction with Life Index introduced in analytic psychology, using data from a metastudy. It is an attempt to show life satisfaction in different nations.

In this calculation, subjective well being correlates most strongly with health (.7), wealth (.6), and access to basic education (.6).

This is an example of directly measuring happiness – asking people how happy they are – as an alternative to traditional measures of policy success such as GDP or GNP. Some studies suggest that happiness can be measured effectively.

Hero Syndrome

The Hero syndrome is a psychological disorder where you cause scenarios that would make you save the day, like setting a building on fire in order to be seen as a hero.

It a phenomenon affecting people who seek heroism or recognition, usually by creating a desperate situation which they can resolve. This can include unlawful acts, such as arson. The phenomenon has been noted to affect civil servants, such as fire-fighters, nurses, police officers, and security guards.

Acts linked with the hero syndrome should not be confused with acts of malicious intent, such as revenge on the part of a suspended fire-fighter or an insatiable level of excitement, as was found in a federal study of more than seventy-five fire-fighters arsonists. However, acts of the hero syndrome have been linked to previously failed heroism. The hero syndrome may also be a more general yearning for self-worth.

A few of those who suffer from the Hero syndrome or complex may begin to turn ‘toward the evil side’. The need to help becomes the want to hurt. Those that are closest will be pushed away, and a secret longing to create a quiet oblivion begins to form. Instead of using powers for good, they begin to think about how to use their powers for evil purposes. This has also been called the ‘Villain Complex’.

In the field of criminology the syndrome has often been diagnostically related to a narcissistic personality whose attention and recognition needs are not met.

The Significance of Significant

‘Almost anything can be attacked as a loss of amenity and almost anything can be defended as not a significant loss of amenity. One must appreciate the significance of significant.’

– Lynn J., Jay A. 1981. The Complete Yes Minister London, Great Britain: BBC Books (1991) p. 133