Claude Shannon's "spooky hand in a box" toy
julesrichardsonuk at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Dec 24 05:30:22 CST 2006
Brent Hilpert wrote:
> "Nothing could be simpler. It is merely a small wooden casket, the size and
> shape of a cigar box, with a single switch on one face. When you throw the
> switch, there is an angry, purposeful buzzing. The lid slowly rises, and from
> beneath it emerges a hand. The hand reaches down, turns the switch off and
> retreats into the box. With the finality of a closing coffin, the lid snaps
> shut, the buzzing ceases and peace reigns once more. The psychological effect,
> if you do not know what to expect, is devastating. There is something
> unspeakably sinister about a machine that does nothing -- absolutely nothing
> -- except switch itself off."
You know, along vaguely similar lines I was thinking only yesterday that the
following would be an interesting little demo.
You have three robots. Each robot is programmed with the following 'simple'
"Dismantle the robot to my right (if it isn't already), then assemble the
robot to my left, switch the robot to my left on, and switch myself off"
So, place the robots in a triangle - one assembled and two in bits - and when
the assembled one is turned on they'll sit there forever taking each other
apart and putting each other back together again. Utterly pointless, but
probably quite fascinating to watch :-)
Of course finding a robot (without spending billions) which is sufficiently
dexterous to do that kind of assembly, and yet sufficiently simple to be
easily dismantled, is left as an exercise for the reader.
> I'm just curious whether they are still being made or are they all gone,
> except perchance to find one at a garage sale (ebay?)? Is this recognisable to
> anyone younger than ~35, or is it a forgotten amusement from the past?
Never heard of it before - was it a worldwide thing though, or something that
just existed within the US?
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