Tuesday, August 10, 2010

the inner workings of ENIGMA

An Enigma machine is a rotor device used to encrypt messages. It was developed by a German engineer and the Wehmacht Enigma, used by German military during WWII was the one solved by Alan Turing.

It's a complicated but all-together basic electro-mechanical sytem. We can imagine it starting with a basic one-to-one encryption; ie. each letter standing for the one before it in the alphabet (A=>B, B=>C). There is a qwerty keyboard for entering code. When a letter is pressed, a rotor advances such that the letter would now represent the one 2 spaces before it in the alphabet (A=>C, B=>D). Except the Enigma has multiple rotors...You can find the details of it's set-up (and find more pictures) on the wiki.

When you're pros with the concept, check out this fun description sparked by a comparison of wristwatches.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

a bio of "Pat"

Her real name was Joan Clarke and physically she remains an enigma (pun intended--I can't find a photograph anywhere). Clarke continued as an academic after Bletchley and was not the "housewife" she seems later in the play. Check out this biography to learn more of the life and accomplishments of a brilliant female mathematician.

Turing Test

The original Turing test gauged a computer's ability to "think"--an experimenter and computer would engage in (text-only) conversation; if the experimenter could not differentiate a human from computer correspondence, that computer would pass the test. {details on wiki} It was the first test and definition of artificial intelligence.

We are considering a symposium on the topic of whether the Turing test still applies today. Perhaps it is too rudimentary to test modern robot minds? Read this article which outlines the flaws and ultimate infeasibility of the Turing test.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Turing Machine for Dummies


here's a short definition from a computer engineer buddy of mine (from an online conversation):

David: Suuuper simple

They are a thought experiment.

And are useful for proving things (ie, what a computer can and can't do)

David: basically a turing machine is a black box and a piece of tape

and the tape has writing on it

the box can read one character of writing at a time, then either move the tape left or right, replace the character it's reading, or do nothing

and that's pretty much it

but turing showed that that's all you need to do every computation a modern computer can do

David: so modern computers are modeled after the box

me: why is the infinite tape necessary?

David: there are a whole bunch of computations that you can't do with a turning machine

David: but the "tape" in a computer is 8.79609302 × 10^12 characters long, so essentially it’s the same as a Turing machine

for a more in-depth description from another computer scientist (who doesn't believe modern computers qualify as Turing machines!) click here

Friday, July 16, 2010

symptoms of bovine TB

Both images exhibit lesions of patients with bovine tuberculosis caused by drinking contaminated milk. It is likely that Christopher Morcom suffered similar such symptoms (in addition to the usual chronic cough) before his death.

more Manchester

Arial Photograph of the City of Manchester
The City of Manchester--located in northwest England and comprised of 25 districts/suburbs by 1938 (now 30+). Some background: Manchester dates back to before Roman times and been the setting of many British historical events through the medieval and industrial periods. {wiki} Manchester was an epicenter of manufacturing (beginning with the cotton mill); mobilization of its factories caused the city to be blitzed in 1940. During Turing's stay, Manchester would have been mostly restored and back to cotton/textile processing. Its port was growing into the 3rd largest in the UK (before closing down in the 80s).
[note: "Greater Manchester" is a county consisting of 10 boroughs, of which the City of Manchester is one.]
DEPRIVED: Windows are boarded upModern Harpurhey, a Manchester district that has changed little since the 50s and is considered one of the most deprived neighborhoods in all England.
The Northern Quarter of Manchester is considered very hip these days with its cafes/bars, music, and clothing shops. The architecture, however, has changed little.
Manchester town hall in Albert Square.
Canal street manchester.jpg Canal St. The center of what is now considered Manchester's Gay Village. Home to many bars and clubs that originally served canal workers, it became a "lesbian-oriented area" around the 1960s and is now one of the most successful gay villages in Europe. Queer As Folk is set here. Oh, the irony...
Brass band music has always been huge in Manchester, but one gets a better feel for the youth/music scene in the city from it's later products: the Smiths and Oasis in the 80s, Herman's Hermits and the Hollies, before them. Manchester is a rock'n'roll city.

And let us not forget the pride and joy of the city...
..its football teams! Manchester United and Manchester City. Both teams were formed in the 19th C. Man U is the former team of Beckham, and has been consistently ranked first amongst British and European club teams-a big deal! Turing would had been witness to football fervor during his time in Manchester.
and again, the University of Manchester.

Friday, July 9, 2010

snow white

Who's not familiar??Movie Poster for Walt DMovie poster for Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated film, 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' 1937.

A classic, Disney's Snow White was the first feature length animated film. It was created with cel-animation and revolutionized movie marketing and expectations. Snow White was the most expensive Disney film at the time and many thought it would be a failure. It came through as a success however, running at Radio City for more weeks than any film at its release in '38 (popular demand would have had it shown for longer) and getting named as one of the best movies of all time.
http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/snow-white-poison-apple.jpg ~video!! Snow White was allegedly Turing's favorite fairy tale and he found the film fascinating. Most believe his suicide to be inspired by the Queen's poisoned apple.
A lethal dose of cyanide halts respiration usually leading to coma, seizure, heart attack and death. Various solutions have been used for mass murder (hydrogen cyanide was the toxic agent in Holocaust gas chambers. It smells like bitter almond) Cyanide is said to taste bitter-salty...until the tongue fibers in contact die.