COMET • Vol. 4, No. 03 – 30 January 2003


Standard Setting Committee Members are Sought for the CSET

Source:  Susan Harp, CSET Project Manager (via David Pagni) – National Evaluation Systems, Inc. – (413) 256-0444

URL (CSET information):

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and National Evaluation Systems (NES) are seeking California educators to serve on Standard Setting committees for the new teacher certification test, the CSET [California Subject Examinations for Teachers].  Committee members will make recommendations to the Commission for passing scores on the CSET, which was first administered on January 25, 2003.

Multiple Subject educators as well as Single Subject educators in the fields of English, Mathematics, Social Science and Science are encouraged to submit an application to serve on a Standard Setting committee. These committees will meet for two days during the week of March 3, 2003.

Information concerning qualifications and expectations can be found at   An application is available online at (Self-nominations are permitted.)

Note:  If you are interested in serving as a scorer for the CSET, contact Project Manager Betty Harris in Sacramento at (916) 928-4102 (email: Scorers will be needed for a few days every other month beginning in February. Compensation for orientation and scoring hours: (a) $15/hour or (b) reimbursement to the scorerÍs district for substitute teacher pay.


(1) NSF Announces New Solicitation (TPC Program)

Program Contact:  Kathryn Chval (


The Teacher Professional Continuum (TPC) program [formerly Teacher Enhancement] at the National Science Foundation (NSF) announces new funding opportunities to conduct research studies as well as research and development projects for K-12 science, technology, and mathematics (STM) education.  This professional continuum includes K-12 experiences, teacher preparation programs, instructional practice, professional development, leadership development, and other life and professional experiences.

The principal mission of the TPC program is to promote quality K-12 STM teaching through (a) the production of resources, (b) the development of infrastructure, and (c) the advancement of knowledge.  To fulfill its mission, the TPC program set the following goals:

=  Improve the quality and coherence of the learning experiences that prepare and enhance STM teachers;

=  Develop innovative curricula, materials, tools, ideas, and information resources that prepare and support STM teachers and administrators;

=  Research, develop, and identify models, organizational structures, and systems that support the teacher professional continuum;

= Research teacher learning throughout the teacher professional continuum and its impact on teaching practice using scientifically-based investigations;

=  Advance the knowledge base on the preparation, enhancement, and retention of STM teachers, and on the strategies that strengthen and diversify the STM teaching profession; and

=  Disseminate this knowledge and research, as well as innovative models and resources, to a national audience.

Research studies from first-time Principal Investigators are especially encouraged.  The deadline for preliminary proposals (required) is May 19, 2003.  For more information and the TPC program solicitation, visit the NSF website at .

Other programs in the Division of Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education (ESIE) include the following:

*  Centers for Learning and Teaching –

*  Informal Science Education –

*  Instructional Materials Development –

*  Presidential Awards –

(2) The First F.I.D.E. Official World Chess Championship–Man (Kasparov) vs. Machine (Deep Junior)

Source:  X3D Technologies


In 1997, World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov played IBM’s Deep Blue computer in the most famous Man vs. Machine match to date. Ever since, Deep Blue, a new generation of super-computers, has been competing every year. Deep Junior, three-time world champion, won the last official world chess championship for computers in July 2002, in Maastricht, Netherlands, against 18 other machines.

Now, X3D Technologies presents the First Official World Chess Championship: Man vs Machine, sanctioned by F.I.D.E. (Federation Internationale des Echecs), I.C.G.A. (International Computer Game Association) and U.S.C.F. (United States Chess Federation).   World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov will play reigning computer Chess Champion Deep Junior in a world-broadcast event.

The match will take place at the New York Athletic Club. Kasparov and Deep Junior will play six games over a two-week period beginning January 26 and ending February 7. The matches will be broadcast live over the internet in Extreme 3D at   2D game playback with commentary and live photos will also be available at [the web site].    …F.I.D.E. President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov stated in Moscow: “New York is the best place in the world to showcase this historical event and promote the game of chess as a symbol of friendship between all the countries.”

(3) Man vs. Machine: History of the Battle

Source:  X3D Technologies


Ever since Professor Alan Turing described the first chess program in 1947 and became the first to write one in 1950, humans have tried their best to achieve emulation of human thought through chess. At first, in the world of vacuum tubes, computers were too rare, fragile and valuable to devote a great deal of time to chess. For decades, while some research was done in the area, the few chess programs that were in existence were quite weak, so bad they would lose to most all tournament players.

In 1968, Scottish International Master David Levy made a wager that no chess computer would be able to beat him in ten years. The amount? $3,000, against Professor John McCarthy, one of the top researchers in the realm of artificial intelligence. Spurred on by the wager and by the rapidly developing technology of computers, chess programs began to appear as more formidable opponents, both as players and as analytical tools.

As early as 1975, Grandmaster David Bronstein used a database in the “Kaissa” program in order to win an adjourned game in Vilnius, Lithuania. By the time 1978 rolled around, Levy found himself playing a match against one of the top computer programs of the time, “Chess 4.7,” at a tournament in Toronto. While Levy easily won the bet, winning the match by the score of three wins and one draw, he did become the first International Master to give up a draw to a computer program. In hindsight, while Levy would win the battle, he most certainly wouldn’t win the war.

By the time the 1980’s rolled around, chess computers had really arrived. Strong enough to achieve Master ratings, computers became very popular among chess players and profitable for manufacturers. Spurred on not just by scientific aims, but by financial ones, chess programs experienced a quantum leap in strength. In 1989, David Levy was finally vanquished by “Deep Thought” by the score of four wins to no losses. After faithfully defending humanity for twenty-one years, Levy had to give way to a new representative of the human race. But who?

Enter Garry Kasparov. The young man from Baku, Azerbaijan took the chess world by storm in 1985 when he won the World Championship from Anatoly Karpov in Moscow at the young age of twenty-two. Only five years old when Levy first made his wager, Kasparov immediately saw the future of the computer and decided to take his first challenge against the machines. At a 1985 event in Hamburg, Germany, Kasparov took on fifteen of the top programs of the day. The final score? A perfect thirty-two wins for Kasparov, giving up not a draw, nor a loss.

In 1989, Kasparov took on “Deep Thought” at the same event where David Levy was finally vanquished. Kasparov, however, had no problems with the machine, winning the match two games to none. Computer programmers around the world now had a very daunting target in front of them: the World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time.

It wouldn’t take long before the first blow was landed by the computers. At a 1992 event in Cologne, Germany, Garry Kasparov took on the program “Fritz 2” in a match at a five minute per player time control. At this speed, the computer’s abilities to not make mistakes and think quicker than the human brain are very real factors. While Kasparov won the match by the score of six wins, one draw and four losses, he became the first World Champion to lose to a computer, albeit in a speed game. Kasparov was still better, but these programs could not longer be ignored.

In 1994, another incarnation of “Fritz”, this time “Fritz 3”, took on Kasparov in a five minute game and won. In a five game match later on in the event, Kasparov had learned his lesson, winning a match against “Fritz 3” by the score of four wins, two draws and no losses. While computers had shown great promise and results, there was still clearly work to do, and also, results were needed at something slower than blitz chess. We did not need to wait long to see the next blow.

Later on that year, at the Intel Professional Chess Association Grand Prix in London, Kasparov was paired against a wildcard entry, the chess program “Genius”. This time, Kasparov was to play a two game match with the program at a time control of twenty-five minutes per player for the game. The first game was drawn, but it was the second game that sent shockwaves around the chess world, as Kasparov was beaten and eliminated from the tournament.

Naturally, Kasparov was to stage a comeback in 1995 when he played two matches against “Fritz 4” and “Genius 3.0” in London and Cologne, respectively. In these twenty-five minute games, Kasparov won both matches by the score of one win and one draw, with no losses. The time had come for a program to step up and challenge Kasparov at a classical time control, the true test of a chess player’s mettle, and an area in which the humans always considered superior due to the long time to think. It was clear that this was no ordinary project.

One company stepped up to the challenge to face Kasparov: IBM, the computer and technology giant. “Deep Blue”, a new incarnation of the program “Deep Thought” challenged Kasparov to a six game match in Philadelphia in the Winter of 1996. The program blended both enhancements to software and to hardware, to be as formidable opponent as possible. “Deep Blue” could analyze a mind-boggling fifty billion (50,000,000,000) positions every three minutes, while Kasparov would analyze roughly ten (10) positions in the same time period.

The enormous advantage in calculation bore fruit immediately, as once again, Kasparov would be a horrible first, the first World Champion to lose to a computer at a classical time control. Down 1-0 in the match, Kasparov immediately came back, winning Game 2. Draws followed in Games 3 and 4, and the match was tied two games to two. Kasparov, however, had learned enough in the first four games to hand the computer defeats in the final two games in order to win the match by the score of four to two. Humanity still had that edge over the computer.

May 1997 changed everything. “Deep Blue” got a rematch in New York in a very heavily publicized rematch. A huge media glitz surrounded the event, and in Game 1, Kasparov didn’t disappoint. Once again, Kasparov showed significant dominance over the computer and soundly defeated “Deep Blue”. Game 2 was even more stunning. Showing very deep understanding of the position, “Deep Blue” played one of the most human games ever seen by a computer to crush Kasparov and tie the match. Three draws ensued, leaving the match tied going into the final game. The final game was over almost as quick as it started. After only nineteen moves, Kasparov had resigned, missing a crushing knight sacrifice in the opening, which began a decisive attack on Kasparov’s king. Machine had finally beaten Man in a classical chess match.

Fast forward almost six years later. The program “Deep Junior”, authored by Israeli programmers Amir Ban and Shay Bushinsky, has won all of the important world chess titles available. The three time world champion, “Deep Junior” has achieved marvelous results in events both against other computers and against world class Grandmasters. In a match sanctioned by FIDE (F³d³ration Internationale des Ächecs [World Chess Federation]) and by ICGA (International Computer Game Association), Kasparov and “Deep Junior” will play for the First Official World Chess Championship Man vs. Machine. The World’s #1 player versus the reigning Computer World Champion.

(4) “Chess Fans Tune in to Their Own Big Game” by Amy Harmon

Source:  The New York Times – 27 January 2003

URL: (free registration required for access)

As most Americans huddled around the television [Sunday] evening to watch the annual clash of the nation’s two strongest football teams, 400 chess fans at the New York Athletic Club were glued to a man-versus-machine showdown that many seemed to feel was somehow more profound.

The first game of a six-game match between Garry Kasparov, the world’s leading chess player, and Deep Junior, a computer program, kicked off yesterday at 3:48 p.m, about three hours before the Super Bowl. Twenty-seven moves later, shortly before halftime, Mr. Kasparov scored an initial victory for humanity.

Organizers said they regretted that scheduling hurdles forced the event to coincide with America’s biggest sporting event. But the audience at the Athletic Club–and hundreds of thousands more who tuned in over the Internet–barely seemed to have noticed…

Attendees, who received free tickets by signing up on the Web site of the tournament’s sponsor, X3D Technologies Corporation, stared attentively at a screen that for nearly four hours showed only a chess board and occasionally the back of Mr. Kasparov’s head as carbon faced silicon in isolation on another floor. Many wore black sunglasses provided by X3D that gave the slightly hallucinogenic effect of seeing the pieces floating in 3-D space…

Even some football fans said the drama of humankind trying to maintain dominance over ever more powerful machines was more compelling than that other game–at least this year.

In 1997, Mr. Kasparov lost a highly publicized battle against Deep Blue, the computer that I.B.M. built to beat him. Mr. Kasparov was widely regarded as having failed to play his best, but the company declined his request for a rematch.

The two Israeli programmers who designed Deep Junior, Amir and Shay Bushinsky, say that instead of relying on sheer calculation power, their program incorporates artificial intelligence that gives it more humanlike judgment. The program has not lost to a human in two years…

Some attendees noted the similarities between chess and football. “They’re both really competitive, and they’re both male-dominated,” said Jennifer Shahade of Brooklyn, who played for the United States Olympic women’s chess team.

And both are played for money, although on a different scale.  Mr. Kasparov, 39, will be paid $500,000 by the World Chess Federation, the international governing body of the game, for playing Deep Junior. He can earn an additional $300,000 if he wins the match…

One key to Mr. Kasparov’s victory [in game one] was an opening attack that caused Deep Junior to “think” for 25 minutes before responding.

After the game, Mr. Kasparov, the charismatic Russian, appeared in person to analyze his victory.  The crowd, in universal sports fan reflex, went wild.

(5) “Maths Proves Tetris is Tough” by Helen Pearson

Source: Nature – 28 October 2002


Computer scientists have confirmed what every geek has always known: Tetris is really, really hard.

Since its invention in 1985, the best-selling computer game has robbed numerous addicts of sleep as they race to fit falling blocks together. Now reformed player Erik Demaine and his colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston have proven how thorny the puzzle really is.

Mathematically, the team concludes, Tetris poses some of the hardest head-scratchers possible: NP-complete problems. The most famous of these is the travelling-salesman problem, which involves finding the shortest route through many cities. So building an algorithm to play Tetris quickly and efficiently is nigh on impossible, says Demaine.

The discovery holds little help for frustrated fans. “There is no simple strategy,” explains computer scientist David Eppstein, who studies games at the University of California, Irvine “It’s mathematical justification for something we had an intuitive feeling for,” he says.

But before players start banging their heads on the keyboard, Demaine has a small pat on the back to offer: “You’re really solving big problems.” The game is so cripplingly addictive precisely because of the intellectual challenge, he says.

During Tetris, block-shaped pieces appear at the top of the screen and drop down, while players manipulate them so that they fit into point-scoring rows. Invented by Russian Alexey Pazhitnov, the game exploded in popularity after Nintendo put it on their popular gaming machines.

That Tetris scenarios are comparable to existing NP-complete conundrums means that the only way to find the perfect fit of a given sequence of pieces – even without any time pressure – is to work through every possible permutation. This eats up computer power.

Galled gamers could be worse off, though–two-player games rate even harder on the brain-stumping scale. Chess, for example, is as an EXPTIME-complete problem: the amount of time it takes to solve rockets exponentially as the size of the board increases. The Asian board game Go, meanwhile, hits the extreme echelons of difficulty because it needs time and memory to solve.

This is why programmers struggle to beat human minds. Last week, the stand-off between chess world champion Vladimir Kramnik and supercomputer Deep Fritz, ended in a draw. No one has yet pitted man against machine in Tetris, although a computer would probably win, predicts Demaine. “It would be really cool,” he says.

(6) “Chess and GO No-brainers?” by Helen Pearson

Source: Nature – 12 December 2002


The board games chess and GO take practice, not intellect, brain scans of players suggest. Intelligence areas appear inactive when people puzzle over game strategy.

Amateur chess and GO players do not use an area that is believed to house general intelligence, sometimes called ‘g’, US and Chinese researchers have found. “It’s a provocative claim,” admits team member Sheng He, who is based at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The result goes against common sense. Chess is considered one of the most mentally taxing of pursuits. And the Chinese game GO, in which players use stones to ring-fence territory on a grid, is thought to be on a cerebral par.

The challenges involved in the two games have “lots in common” with IQ problems used to measure ‘g’, argues John Duncan, who studies intelligence at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK. He wonders whether technical hitches obscured activity in intelligence areas in the scans.

Sheng He concedes that expert players, or those with money riding on a game, might stretch their minds more. In the test, players pondered the best move in a non-competitive scenario.

Alternatively, practice and expertise may actually account for a lot of winning moves. “Most of the stuff we think of as smart is based on experience,” says psychology expert John Gabrieli of Stanford University in California.

Sheng He and his colleagues also tested the assumption that chess exercises the mind differently from GO.

Chess players select from a limited array of possible moves. By throwing huge amounts of silicon at the problem, computer programmers can build powerful machines that rival humans: Deep Fritz drew with world champion Vladimir Kramnik in October.

But when it comes to GO, where players can make any move across the 19×19 board, man leaves machine trailing. The game is thought to require more instinct or ‘human’ strategy: “Sometimes a move just feels more threatening,” explains He.

Brain scans did little to unravel these differences. As expected, GO players use the right half of their brain, which works out position and orientation, more than the problem-solving left half used by chess aficionados.

Otherwise, the mind’s tactics look similar. GO must use “different brain mechanisms we don’t understand”, concludes He.

(7) “Forty Years of Computer Games” by Christopher Surridge

Source: Nature – 17 May 2002


…Game On celebrates 40 years of computer games. Exhibits are grouped to illustrate aspects of game culture such as the development of genres, the use of sound and the evolution of the machines on which they are played. The real joy is the sight of so many games from so many different eras in the same place. And this isn’t just a chance to stand and stare. You get to play them all…

GameOn is not the place for anyone whose blood pressure is raised by the mere sound of Mario’s turtle-stomping, head-butting progress. But if you ever spent your last coin or missed a hot date for one last vain attempt to better a previous high score, GameOn is the arcade of your dreams.

GameOn is at the…Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh…[through] February 2003; and then to venues in Europe, America and Japan.