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It is said of the ancient Chinese game go that the number of possible positions on its board exceeds the number of atoms in the known universe.

This is old news, presumably, to masters of go and master mathematicians. To the rest of us it came as something of a shock when it became common knowledge in March, the occasion being the defeat — shocking in itself — of a world-ranking go master by a mere (so we would have said, once upon a time) computer. Or perhaps, giving it a positive spin, we should say “victory” instead of “defeat”: a computer’s victory over a mere human.

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