Monday, July 06, 2009

The Broken Rules

Via a Ninja, news of why Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman believes that the project of science is analogous to watching the gods play games of chess - except no-one's told you the rules, so you're trying to work it out for yourself:



Maybe, maybe not. After all, humans can agree to change the rules of chess, which have evolved over centuries into the game we know today. And they're still changing in modern times: for instance, castling with a rook promoted on the e-file was banned by FIDE in 1972. Even more recently, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has changed the rules so that a player not seated as the game starts automatically loses.

And tomorrow? With the gods who rule our game today, why bother even asking. Physics sounds a lot easier.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

How is it possible to castle with a rook on the e-file, because surely the king would be on that square.
I'm interested in this old castling rule. Please could you explain what was possible before the rule change.

Tom Chivers said...

It used to be inadvertantly legal to castle with a pawn promoted to a rook on the e-file, due to a loophole in the way the laws were written. Obviously the opponent king will have had to have gotten out of the way. I don't believe it ever happened in a game, but in 1972 Tim Krabbé composed a problem where O-O-O-O-O-O was featured. Then the rule was corrected.

I'm not sure of the exact history of the en passant and checkmate rules, but believe they were only agreed upon surprisingly recently, some time in the 19th century. These would have been better examples for the point I was making, but less interesting ones all the same.

SonofPearl said...

I've seen that clip many times before and never grow tired of hearing Feynman talking about science. He was a great man.

Jonathan B said...

The rules for promotion also changed in the 20th century apparently

Anonymous said...

Anyone else a bit bored of people quoting chess just to sound clever?

August's edition of Decanter magazine (about wine!!), page 104, full page interview with Dr Miles Thomas, apparently a very famous psychologist, begins:

"Psychologist Dr Miles Thomas thinks wine has 'multiple realisability'. Which means there are lots of ways it can pan out. A bit like chess."

Further references to chess in the interview to explain this comment: zero.

Why chess? Surely lots of things have "lots of ways they can pan out"? How the hell is chess like fine wine???

Adam B.

Jonathan B said...

I'm still waiting for Swiss Toni to explain why playing chess is very much like making love to a beautiful woman.

Tom Chivers said...

First, you pick your piece up...

Tom Chivers said...

Then you look for holes in your opponent's position . . .

ejh said...

You know, Adam, that would have done very well as a guest post....

Tom Chivers said...

The Krabbe puzzle is here, I just found.

ejh said...

I'm still waiting for Swiss Toni to explain why playing chess is very much like making love to a beautiful woman.

Here you go