In 1770, Hungarian engineer Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled a miracle: a mechanical man who could play chess against human challengers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll meet Kempelen's Mechanical Turk, which mystified audiences in Europe and the United States for more than 60 years.
We'll also sit down with Paul Erdős and puzzle over a useful amateur.
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Lyudmila Pavlichenko was training for a career as a history teacher when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. She suspended her studies to enlist as a sniper in the Red Army, where she discovered a remarkable talent for shooting enemy soldiers. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll trace the career […]
Denis Vrain-Lucas was an undistinguished forger until he met gullible collector Michel Chasles. Through the 1860s Lucas sold Chasles thousands of phony letters by everyone from Plato to Louis the 14th, earning thousands of francs and touching off a firestorm among confused scholars. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll trace the […]
The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was a disaster for the Dutch East Indies, but its astonishing consequences were felt around the world, blocking the sun and bringing cold, famine, and disease to millions of people from China to the United States. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the […]
The key to learning any new language is feedback. When you’re immersed in conversation, it’s easy to pick up key phrases and pronunciation, but not all of us have the means to jet off to Spain, France or wherever we can learn to speak like a local. The next best thing: The Mondly app. Mondly […]
Got a gadget-minded geek on your holiday list this year? Don’t wait for Black Friday. The prices are already dropping on some quality tech toys, and we’ve got a roundup of some of our favorites. Force Flyers DIY Building Block Drone MSRP: $49.99 | Normally: $42.99 | Price Drop: $39.99 (20% Off) Compatible with everybody’s […]
Ever wondered what it takes to make the transition from amateur photography to a full career? If you answered “a better camera,” you’re half right. Before you get the equipment, get the know-how to use it with the Hollywood Art Institute Photography Course & Certification. Taught by experienced pros, this course is geared towards shutterbugs […]