Fridaygram: early chess computer, Angkor Wat mystery, Art Project expansion

NOV 02, 2012
Author PhotoBy Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

This year marks the 100th anniversary of El Ajedrecista, a very cool chess-playing machine that is credited as the first computer game. To celebrate El Ajedrecista and its creator, Leonardo Torres-Quevedo, Google and the Technical University of Madrid are holding a conference next week. This event will discuss Torres-Quevedo’s many inventions, which included a cable car that still runs over the Niagara Whirlpool and an arithmometer that could perform calculations.

The first El Ajedrecista (photo by Museo Torres Quevedo)

The conference takes place on Wednesday, November 7th and features lectures and exhibits, including El Ajedrecista itself. If you’re going to be in Madrid, you can request an invitation. Note that if you play against El Ajedrecista, you’re going to lose: Torres-Quevado cleverly designed the machine to play an endgame from a superior position.

Speaking of moving pieces around, Angkor Wat is a huge temple complex, made from literally millions of massive sandstone blocks. Historians have wondered how ancient laborers moved these blocks to the building site. According to a new study reported by +LiveScience, the blocks were made in quarries and transported 37 kilometers via a network of canals. A previous theory suggested the blocks spent part of their journey going upstream in a river, but the newly discovered canals make the trip much shorter, and a shorter route is important when you’re pushing multi-ton hunks of sandstone around.

Finally, if you’re have some time this weekend, you can lose yourself in a bunch of new works available from the Google Art Project, including collections from Italy, Turkey, Peru, the U.S., and China. Beautiful.

Every Friday, we take a break from technical posts and publish Fridaygram, which contains stuff about science, history, the arts, and anything else cool and nerdy. And then pretty soon it’s Monday again.