SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
October 23, 1972
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October 23, 1972


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The voters of Colorado go to the polls on Election Day to choose between Nixon and McGovern and also to decide whether they really want Denver to put on the 1976 Winter Olympics. If the voters approve a proposed amendment to the state constitution, further state spending on the Games would be prohibited. This would deprive the organizing committee of about $4.7 million in funds. In addition, a pending $15.5 million from the Federal Government would also go down the drain, since it depends on Colorado putting up state money. This would wipe out 60% of the funds needed for the Olympics. "It would be ill-advised to proceed in the face of such an obstacle," says Carl De-Temple, president of the Denver Organizing Committee.

So, what Denver and Colorado have is a lively election campaign. The anti-Olympic forces are many and loud; the pro-Olympic forces are close-knit, organized and heavily financed by a nervous business community. Fear of runaway growth, massive hidden costs and environmental damage has united the diverse opposition to the Olympics, and polls indicate that a vote taken now would send the Winter Games packing. But the Olympic boosters are spending $150,000 in the election campaign, 10 times what their opponents are, and pressure is being applied where it counts most. "A lot of old debts are being collected," says one observer. "You can't believe the arm twisting taking place on this one."


George Allen, forceful coach of the Washington Redskins, has been having trouble with the press. Sportswriters have discussed in print experiments Allen has made in practice, and the coach bitterly resented the articles. "Personnel changes are strategy," he told the press, "and I refuse to have anyone writing about strategies at my practice. You're helping the enemy." He implied that reporters should be fans of the Redskins, supporters of coach and team.

He barred them from certain practice sessions because they would not agree to restrictions he set. Hell sort of broke loose. Finally Allen retreated and reopened the practices. But he said he hoped the press would understand it could not write about unannounced strategic changes, which would occur rarely, until Sunday, game day. The reporters were not sure they could agree to that, but they were mollified by Allen's uncharacteristic gesture of compromise, and an uneasy truce ensued.


Mad scientists, chess nuts and other students of impossible possibilities have dreamed of creating a computer that can play chess perfectly. Prototypes have already been introduced, and while their games have been faulty, a whole school of not-so-mad scientists like Mikhail Botvinnik, who was once world chess champion, says it is only a matter of time before Superfischer Robot makes his debut.

Others say it is a matter of time, and there's the rub. They claim it is impossible to build a computer that can calculate all possible moves in a chess game. If you figure the average number of possible moves in a given position is 30 and then look ahead a few moves, the variations soar into the billions. In a 25-move game, well below the 40 to 45 good players average, the total number is staggering, even for a computer.

"Calculating 25 moves ahead," says Edward Lasker, international chess master and a mechanical and electrical engineer, "means a machine would have to generate a total number of moves in the order of 1075 [which means 1 followed by 75 zeros]. Even if a computer could operate at a million moves a second, which is 500 times faster than the most optimistic designer would consider feasible, it would take 1069 seconds to complete the calculation before each move. We could not wait that long, not even in chess. Since our planetary system came into being some 4.5 billion years ago, no more than 1018 seconds have elapsed."

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