Happy New Year Alan #Turing

Turing’s statue on his birthday in Manchester

As 2013 rolls in around the world the Alan Turing Year comes to end and what a year it has been – beyond our wildest expectations. We always new there were going to be some major academic conferences honouring the legacy of the father of computer science, but we didn’t expect the literally hundreds of conferences, meetings and public lectures that took place all over the world. We knew there would be some major museum exhibitions but again we didn’t expect the numerous and diverse events that took place celebrating Turing’s genius. We knew there would be some major publications from the usual Turing experts, but again we didn’t expect science-fiction books, childrens’ stories and more: art projects, plays, music, an opera, dance, documentaries and other projects that defy easy categorisation. The news media and commentators have published hundreds of articles on Turing and the radio and TV followed. Turing has not received a pardon (yet), but he still may grace the next £10 note.
   2013 is a new year for Alan Turing – I believe that he is now much better known and understood than he was on January 1st 2012 – the Alan Turing Year (and all who were involved) has started the process of Turing claiming his rightful place as one of the greatest minds who ever lived.

[Note: although the Alan Turing Year has ended, such is the interest that events are continuing into 2013, check the Alan Turing Year website for details. Also plans are in progress to archive as much of the activity that took place in 2012 under the Alan Turing Legacy.]

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2013/01/happy-new-year-alan-turing.html

In praise of… Oscar Niemeyer

Back in March I wrote a blog post about the architect Mies van der Rohe – this blog is (mostly) about computing, yet that post is the 4th most viewed post on this blog. I really don’t know why, perhaps geeks like modern architecture. So I figured I’d give another giant of modernist architecture some praise – Oscar Niemeyer
    A few years ago I was invited to lecture in Brazil and as part of the trip went to the capital Brasilia – their purpose built capital city, in the middle of nowhere, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The entire city was designed to look like a plane from the air; with Parliament where the cockpit is, government ministries down the fuselage and residential areas in the wings. Although much of the original design ethos has been lost to infill development the set piece buildings in the heart of the city are wonderful examples of modernist architecture. It was thrilling to see so many beautiful buildings in one space. Oscar Niemeyer passed away in June aged 104.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/12/in-praise-of-oscar-niemeyer.html

NORAD tracks #Santa (RAF shoots him down)

Since 1955 the North American Aerospace Defence Command NORAD has been tracking Santa as he, his sled and reindeer, deliver presents to all the good children in the world on the night of Christmas Eve.

Britain however, is not a member of NORAD and does not track Santa…

BBC Breaking News: RAF Says “Sorry, We Shot Down Santa” 06:15 25/12/12

A Senior RAF spokesperson has just made this announcement: Air Commodore Jack Ripper said, “It is with deep regret that I must inform the nation that at 02:15 hours we confirmed that the RAF had shot down Father Christmas as he crossed the Scottish border.
   he continued  “Two Tornado F3s of No. 111 Squadron were scrambled from RAF Leuchars in Fife Scotland to intercept the unidentified intruder but were too slow. Satellite data indicated the intruder had originated from somewhere in the  Arctic Polar Sea, actually from near the North Pole. It was concluded that it was likely an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from a nuclear submarine. The intruder was subsequently shot down by a surface to air missile. We can confirm there are no survivors, though Blitzen is unaccounted for.”
   A Ministry of Defense spokesperson has confirmed the incident and added that, “The Army will ensure that every child in the UK receives a toy this Christmas. Though for logistical reasons children will have to visit regional distribution centres to collect their toy.” So far the Prime Minister has been unavailable for comment.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/12/norad-tracks-santa-raf-shoots-him-down.html

The Universal Machine Kindle Edition – a perfect Christmas gift

Buy on Amazon

The Kindle edition of the Universal Machine is out in time for Christmas. It would make the perfect Christmas gift for that relative whom you never know what to buy. Anyone with any interest in computers will love to receive this – honest. Don’t just take my word for it, here are what some reviewers have said:
    The Universal Machine is a great way to get a real feel for where the machines that are at the centre of so many of our lives came from. 4 stars – PopularScience.co.uk
    There is something in here for anyone who has the vaguest interest in a history of computers including the internet, some of the major pioneers and some of the companies that have risen (and in some cases, fallen) along the way.  8/10 – British Computer Society
     It’s accessible and readable even to non-geeky types, written as it is in an easy-going and engaging style. At the same time, it’s also an enjoyable read for hard-core techies: you’ll almost certainly keep running into computers and engineers you haven’t heard of before – a fascinating history of computers and computer scientistsNakedSecurity
  I really enjoyed this book. It’s very informative, well written and very easy to read. I look at my computer now in a whole new light. 5 stars – Amazon review

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-universal-machine-kindle-edition.html

IBM predict computers will have all 5 senses in 5 years

IBM has made a prediction that in just 5 years cognitive computers will be able to see, hear, taste, touch and smell. Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer at IBM says, “This year, we focused the IBM Next 5 in 5, our 2012 forecast of inventions that will change your world in the next five years, on how computers will mimic the senses:
Touch:        You will be able to reach out and touch through your phone
Sight:          A pixel will be worth a thousand words
Hearing:     Computers will hear what matters
Taste:          Digital taste buds will help you to eat healthier
Smell:          Computers will have a sense of smell
   It’s all described in this video below.

Incidentally, I’ve always been puzzled by the “5 senses” as I’ve always thought I have 6 senses – motion being the 6th. The awareness of being up or down, accelerating or decelerating  moving forwards, left or right. To me that’s a “sense,” distinct from the other 5, but just as useful.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/12/ibm-predict-computers-will-have-all-5.html

Big Data for small business

Big Data has been the IT buzz word for 2012 and I’ve blogged about it before. It would be easy to think that Big Data was the sole preserve of mega companies like Google and Amazon, but an article in the Washington Post called How Main Street will fight big business with ‘big data’ shows how small local businesses, by sgharing their data, can gain significant benefits.

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/12/big-data-for-small-business.html

Stephen Hawking supports pardon for Alan #Turing

The Alan Turing Year brought this to my attention last night – a group of senior British establishment figures, including Professor Hawking, have written a letter to the Telegraph newspaper in support of a pardon for Alan Turing. I can’t find the letter online so here is a full transcript:

Pardon for Alan Turing
SIR – We write in support of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era. He led the team of Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which most historians agree shortened the Second World War. Yet successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41.
    We urge the British Prime Minister to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even to this day. To those who seek to block attempts to secure a pardon with the argument that this would set a precedent, we would answer that Turing’s achievements are sui generis. It is time his reputation was unblemished.

Lord Currie of Marlyebone
Lord Grade of Yarmouth
Lord Faulkner of Worcester
Lord Rees of Ludlow (Astronomer Royal)
Lord Sharkey
Lord Smith of Finsbury
Baroness Trumington
Sir Timothy Gowers (Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics Cambridge University)

Dr Douglas Gurr (Chairman, Science Museum Group)
Professor Stephen Hawking
Sir Paul Nurse (President, The Royal Society)

from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/2012/12/stephen-hawking-supports-pardon-for.html