Napier’s bones


I’m leaving Edinburgh tomorrow – it’s a wonderful city, not just beautiful but with a long history of achievement in the sciences and arts. One of Edinburgh’s most famous sons was John Napier who in 1617 published a work called Rabdologi√¶, that made use of multiplication tables embedded in “bones.” Using Napier’s bones multiplication can be reduced to addition operations and division to subtractions. More advanced use of the bones can even extract square roots. Napier’s bones are not the same as logarithms, with which Napier’s name is also associated. Napier University in Edinburgh is named in his honour.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/napier-bones.html

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Completely Automated Public #Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart


Have you ever wondered if you’re the only person who sometimes finds it difficult to correctly decipher those CAPTCHA forms? An article in Forbes Magazine called “Artificial Intelligence Will Defeat CAPTCHA — How Will We Prove We’re Human Then?” reveals that 20% of people will leave a web site without successfully completing a CAPTCHA form. This interesting article goes on to discuss how AI is trying to solve CAPTCHAs and how new, easier, and better ways are being developed to discriminate between humans and bots. Next time you struggle to complete a CAPTCHA don’t feel so bad – you’re not alone!


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/completely-automated-public-turing-test.html

A bird in the hand…


Here’s some interesting footage of a flying robotic bird that can land and perch on someone’s hand.
There are several video clips here plus other links to background information about the project from the Aerospace Robotics and Control Research Lab at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-bird-in-hand.html

In praise of… Neil #Armstrong


When NASA landed the Curiosity rover on Mars I blogged in praise of NASA; commenting that NASA and the space programme were probably largely responsible for me becoming a scientist. I was obviously therefore sad to hear that Neil Armstrong had died.
He was a “reluctant hero” and often said “he was just doing his job.” In an age where people with no obvious talent or achievements crave fame and celebrity his modesty is a lesson to us all. He may have “just been doing his job” – but what a job!


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/in-praise-of-neil-armstrong.html

The #Turing Festival Edinburgh


in case you’re wondering why the number, but hopefully not the quality, of posts has recently declined it’s because I’m at the Turing Festival in Edinburgh. The first day I attended a fascinating program of talks by current and ex CERN employees. It really brought home how vital computers are in their work. The amount of data they capture from the LHC is staggering.
In the afternoon Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, gave an excellent keynote. At dinner I gave the after dinner speech and proposed the toast: “To Alan Turing.” My speech seemed well received.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-turing-festival-edinburgh_24.html

Crypted – a play about #Turing


This afternoon I went to see a play called Crypted by Freddy Syborn at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The play opens with Turing explaining the Liar’s Paradox, introducing the audience to the notion that something may be true but unprovable. A very promising start. Ranging across all Turing’s life from school, through Bletchley Park, to his tragic death, the play deals with the issue of truth in mathematics, life and crucially for Turing sexuality.
What may surprise is that Turing is played by a young woman – Harriet Green. She does an excellent job and although another reviewer found this distracting I thought it worked well. It brought home the fact that Turing was struggling to be true to himself. I recommend the play which runs until Sunday.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/crypted-play-about-turing.html

In praise of… Digital Literacy


The Guardian newspaper is running a Digital Literacy campaign, with lots of articles and resources. I’ve blogged on this before – it’s a reflection that ICT teaching has failed and that children need to know how to program, not just how to use software apps.


from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/08/in-praise-of-digital-literacy.html