The Disappointment of John von Neumann's Unopened Box

John von Neumann in the 1940s, as shown on wikipedia

I saw my friend George Dyson last night. He’s working on a book based on the letters between von Neumann and his wife Klara, one of the first modern programmers. I’d heard from George about a box that was among von Neumann’s papers, with a note that it should not be opened till 50 years after his death.

We were all awaiting news of the contents of the box — and it turns out not to have been von Neumann’s at all, but rather, from Klara’s next husband! Schroedinger’s cat was nowhere to be found.

(P.S. The Mad Times blog has a summary of one of George Dyson’s recent talks on John von Neumann. There’s also lots of coverage elsewhere of George’s talks at OScon about the early history of computing at Princeton. And if you haven’t read it yet, George’s essay about Google, Turing, and von Neumann, Turing’s Cathedral, is one of the most thought-provoking documents you’ll read in many a year.)