John von Neumann (; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians"; who integrated both pure and applied sciences.
He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics.
He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer.
He published over 150 papers in his life: about 60 in pure mathematics, 60 in applied mathematics, 20 in physics, and the remainder on special mathematical subjects or non-mathematical ones. His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while he was in hospital, was later published in book form as The Computer and the Brain.
His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. In a short list of facts about his life he submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, he stated, "The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929. Also, my work on various forms of operator theory, Berlin 1930 and Princeton 1935–1939; on the ergodic theorem, Princeton, 1931–1932."
During World War II, von Neumann worked on the Manhattan Project with theoretical physicist Edward Teller, mathematician Stanisław Ulam and others, problem solving key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb. He developed the mathematical models behind the explosive lenses used in the implosion-type nuclear weapon, and coined the term "kiloton" (of TNT), as a measure of the explosive force generated.
After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and consulted for a number of organizations, including the United States Air Force, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a Hungarian émigré, concerned that the Soviets would achieve nuclear superiority, he designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race.
- "John von Neumann" | 2015-06-26 | 20 Upvotes 3 Comments
Kató Lomb (Pécs, February 8, 1909 – Budapest, June 9, 2003) was a Hungarian interpreter, translator and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. Originally she graduated in physics and chemistry, but her interest soon led her to languages. Native in Hungarian, she was able to interpret fluently in nine or ten languages (in four of them even without preparation), and she translated technical literature and read belles-lettres in six languages.She was able to understand journalism in further eleven languages. As she put it, altogether she earned money with sixteen languages (Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian). She learned these languages mostly by self-effort, as an autodidact. Her aims to acquire these languages were most of all practical, to satisfy her interest.
According to her own account, her long life was highlighted not primarily by the command of languages but the actual study of them. Through her books, published in Hungarian in several editions as well as in some other languages, interviews (in print and on the air) and conversations, she tried to share this joy with generations. As an interpreter, she visited five continents, saw forty countries, and reported about her experiences and adventures in a separate book (Egy tolmács a világ körül, "An interpreter around the world").
- "Kató Lomb" | 2019-02-21 | 145 Upvotes 42 Comments
Witold's Report, also known as Pilecki's Report, is a report about the Auschwitz concentration camp written in 1943 by Witold Pilecki, a Polish military officer and agent of the Polish resistance. Pilecki volunteered in 1940 to be imprisoned in Auschwitz to organize a resistance movement and send out information about it. His was the first comprehensive record of a Holocaust death camp to be obtained by the Allies. He escaped from the camp in April 1943.
The report includes details about the gas chambers, "Selektion" and the sterilization experiments. It states that there were three crematoria in Auschwitz II able to cremate 8000 people daily.
Pilecki's Report preceded and complemented the Auschwitz Protocols, compiled from late 1943, which warned about the mass murder and other atrocities taking place inside the camp. The latter consists of the Polish Major's Report by Jerzy Tabeau, who escaped with Roman Cieliczko on 19 November 1943 and compiled a report between December 1943 and January 1944; the Vrba-Wetzler report; and the Rosin-Mordowicz report.
- "Pilecki's Report" | 2020-01-23 | 104 Upvotes 20 Comments
The Turk, also known as the Mechanical Turk or Automaton Chess Player (German: Schachtürke, "chess Turk"; Hungarian: A Török), was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854 it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was eventually revealed to be an elaborate hoax. Constructed and unveiled in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen (Hungarian: Kempelen Farkas; 1734–1804) to impress the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent, as well as perform the knight's tour, a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard exactly once.
The Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. The device was later purchased in 1804 and exhibited by Johann Nepomuk Mälzel. The chess masters who secretly operated it included Johann Allgaier, Boncourt, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger, but the operators within the mechanism during Kempelen's original tour remain a mystery.
- "The Turk" | 2018-10-29 | 81 Upvotes 24 Comments
A Stolperstein (pronounced [ˈʃtɔlpɐˌʃtaɪn] (listen); plural Stolpersteine; literally "stumbling stone", metaphorically a "stumbling block") is a sett-size, ten-centimetre (3.9 in) concrete cube bearing a brass plate inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution.
The Stolpersteine project, initiated by the German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992, aims to commemorate individuals at exactly the last place of residency—or, sometimes, work—which was freely chosen by the person before he or she fell victim to Nazi terror, euthanasia, eugenics, deportation to a concentration or extermination camp, or escaped persecution by emigration or suicide. As of December 2019, 75,000 Stolpersteine have been laid, making the Stolpersteine project the world's largest decentralized memorial.
The majority of Stolpersteine commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people (then also called "gypsies"), homosexuals, the physically or mentally disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses, black people, members of the Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the anti-Nazi Resistance, the Christian opposition (both Protestants and Catholics), and Freemasons, along with International Brigade soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, military deserters, conscientious objectors, escape helpers, capitulators, "habitual criminals", looters, and others charged with treason, military disobedience, or undermining the Nazi military, as well as Allied soldiers.
- "Stolperstein" | 2022-06-18 | 445 Upvotes 170 Comments