Tag Archives: Alan Turing

Young Turing’s Highly Effective Habits

14 Jul

Image: Alan Turing in 1927, Sherborne school archives

In celebration of the Turing centenary, Ars Technica‘s Matthew Lasar has a lovely list of seven of Alan Turing’s habits of thought, including this one: Be Playful.

There was something about Turing that made his friends and family want to compose rhymes. His proud father openly admitted that he hadn’t the vaguest idea what his son’s mathematical inquiries were about, but it was all good anyway. “I don’t know what the ‘ell ‘e meant / But that is what ‘e said ‘e meant,” John wrote to Alan, who took delight in reading the couplet to friends.

His fellow students sang songs about him at the dinner table: “The maths brain lies often awake in his bed / Doing logs to ten places and trig in his head.”

His gym class colleagues even sang his praises as a linesman: “Turing’s fond of the football field / For geometric problems the touch-lines yield.”

Turing’s favorite physical activity, however, was running, especially the long-distance variety. “He would amaze his colleagues by running to scientific meetings,” Hodges writes, “beating the travelers by public transport.” He even came close to a shot at the 1948 Olympic Games, a bid cut short by an injury.

The highly productive habits of Alan Turing


Papercraft Enigma

20 Jun

Franklin Heath, a UK security consultancy, offers plans for printing and assembling your own papercraft Enigma machine, approximately like the ones that Alan Turing and the Polish cryptographers and co broke at Bletchley Park. Now all we need are papercraft bombes, and a papercraft Collosus, and several thousand papercraft young women to work on code intercepts through the night…

The instructions note: “Using low-tack ‘removable’ sticky tape can make it easier to swap round and reuse the rotors if you want to do that, but it’s not essential.”

If you seriously want to explore paper computing, a good followup project is the legendary CARDiac computer.

Enigma/Paper Enigma

Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma continues at Manchester Museum until 18th November

Turing’s Cryptanalysis Papers Published.

25 Apr

GCHQ, the UK government’s communications headquarters, has published a set of code-breaking papers written by Alan Turing during WWII. The papers had been held in secret since they were written.

The papers are c”The Applications of Probability to Crypt” and “Paper on the Statistics of Repetitions” and they deal with cryptanalysis techniques to optimize breaking Nazi ciphers.

They’re displayed at the National Archives at Kew. From the BBC:

‘According to the GCHQ mathematician, who identified himself only as Richard, the papers detailed using “mathematical analysis to try and determine which are the more likely settings so that they can be tried as quickly as possible…”

Richard said that GCHQ had now “squeezed the juice” out of the two papers and was “happy for them to be released into the public domain”.

Manchester Museum’s ‘Turing and Life’s Enigma’ runs until 18th November

Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma.

9 Feb
The Alan Turning Memorial- Sackville Park, Manchester.

The Alan Turning Memorial- Sackville Park, Manchester.

Opening on 24th March 2012 and inspired by 1950s design, Manchester Museum’s Life’s Enigma exhibition documents Alan Turing’s investigation into one of the great mysteries of nature: how complex shapes and patterns arise from simple balls of cells.

Before the show opens we would like to direct your attention to two things; the first is  the BBC’s Alan Turing page which contains further links and information about his heroic work cracking the Enigma code during World War One.

The other link is to an e-petition asking the UK government to posthumously grant Turing a pardon for his conviction for ‘gross indecency’ with another man in 1952.  Turing’s conviction lead to a ‘chemical castration’ via organo-therapy and two years later he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. We’ve signed the petition and hope you will consider doing likewise;  find it here.