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The Late Alan Turing - Many Thanks.......  
User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Posted (2 years 4 months 14 hours ago) and read 1725 times:

Alan Turing was born 100 years ago and died young - in 1954. He's virtually unknown nowadays, and was never very 'famous' even during his lifetime. But everyone who, like me, lived through the Second World War (well, I was born in October 1939, I missed the first month or so!) owes him a very great debt. And so, really, does everyone else - because he played a very significant part in preventing Nazi Germany from subjecting Europe to what Churchill vividly described as 'a new Dark Age.' And we A.Netters arguably owe him another significant debt; he took science about 80% of the way to inventing the computer........

It all goes back to a thing called 'Enigma' - a code that the Germans used which, for the first year or so of WW2, was genuinely 'unbreakable.' Turing and his colleagues (at a place called Bletchley Park) DID manage to break it - so that, henceforward, any German bombers who ventured over England found the fighters waiting; and people like me had to put up only with 'nuisance raids' by fast light bombers, rather than the heavy 'blitzes' Poland, France, the Low Countries, and Britain had to put up with in 1940.

What's more, the technological approach that Turing 'dreamt up' in the field of code-breaking set out a path that led directly to what we now call 'computer technology.'

Unfortunately, Turing lived in the days when being gay (not that I am) was practically a crime. Once his wartime 'usefulness' was over, he had a lot of difficulties in pursuing his career; and died young, in 1954, of cyanide poisoning. That COULD have been suicide, or it COULD have been an accident.

Anyway, lots of stuff on the Net about him for anyone who's interested; I'll just put on a link to the best short article I found about him - hope it's of interest:-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/20...n-turing-science-museum-exhibition

And I'd like to offer him (sure he's on the Net up there!) my personal thanks. One of my most vivid memories is of playing in the front garden (probably in 1944) with my older brother when a German fighter-bomber (I was later told that it was an ME110) came over low, pursued by Spitfires, and dropped its bombs on what must have looked like a military camp (but was in fact a prison camp) just north of our Hertfordshire village - only half-a-mile from us. As it happens, we had Italian prisoners-of-war mending the road outside our house, and Germans cutting the hedgerows. The Italians shouted warnings, and a couple of the Germans (still proudly wearing their threadbare Afrika Korps uniforms) rushed into the garden, threw us flat on the ground, and laid on top of us.......

An early example of 'European Unity.' What's more, but for Turing, there wouldn't have been just one of them, there'd have been a dozen or more; and they'd have flattened the camp AND the village........

I've probably said enough - maybe too much........ I'll shut up now and let people make up their own minds.

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, Alan Turing, RIP - and 'thanks again,' you did VERY well. I for one will celebrate your centenary.........

[Edited 2012-06-23 08:01:43]


"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
12 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12717 posts, RR: 25
Reply 1, posted (2 years 4 months 11 hours ago) and read 1666 times:

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
he played a very significant part in preventing Nazi Germany from subjecting Europe to what Churchill vividly described as 'a new Dark Age.'

Absolutely!

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
And we A.Netters arguably owe him another significant debt; he took science about 80% of the way to inventing the computer........

In the area of computer theory, it can be said he took it 100%. Of course he built on the works of others, but indeed he had many key insights.

In essence, he showed mathematically that some classes of problems are unsolvable, even with infinite time. This allows computer scientists to know to not try to solve those problems directly, at the best you can come up with some approximations that solve similar but different problems. He did this by inventing a theoretical mechanism now called a Turing Machine that can solve *any* problem, provided that (a) it does have a solution, and (b) the problem can be expressed in a way that the Turing Machine can cope with (most do).

Of course, he knew better than to work on the unsolvable problem, "What is she thinking?"  

BTW he did all of the above before WWII.

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
It all goes back to a thing called 'Enigma' - a code that the Germans used which, for the first year or so of WW2, was genuinely 'unbreakable.' Turing and his colleagues (at a place called Bletchley Park) DID manage to break it - so that, henceforward, any German bombers who ventured over England found the fighters waiting; and people like me had to put up only with 'nuisance raids' by fast light bombers, rather than the heavy 'blitzes' Poland, France, the Low Countries, and Britain had to put up with in 1940.

In this space, he also built on the work of others (in particular three young brilliant Polish mathematicians) but came up with the key contribution.

The contribution was a technique that rapidly ruled out solutions that could NOT be the correct one, so you could focus on the ones that could be the correct one.

But what should be also highlighted is his role in solving the codes of the German Navy. They used machines with more rotors than the other services, and they used a different more secure procedure for the initial settings of the machine, and Turing took the lead in working this out.

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
What's more, the technological approach that Turing 'dreamt up' in the field of code-breaking set out a path that led directly to what we now call 'computer technology.'

Yes, he figured out a good way to automate the above rapid technique for ruling out false solutions to Enigma. The machines were known as 'bombes'.

And he figured out the operating principals to solve a highly complicated follow-on machine known by Brits as Tunney, which led to the creation of a primordial computer called Colossus.

I'm now reading a book about this:

http://www.amazon.com/Colossus-secre...le_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1340471090&sr=1-1


He also did post-war work on early electronic computers.

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
Unfortunately, Turing lived in the days when being gay (not that I am) was practically a crime. Once his wartime 'usefulness' was over, he had a lot of difficulties in pursuing his career; and died young, in 1954, of cyanide poisoning. That COULD have been suicide, or it COULD have been an accident.

It's a fact that he was arrested for homosexuality (yes, back then it was illegal) and chose "chemical castration" over a prison sentance. Such chemicals were known to depress the taker, and many feel the arrest and the chemicals led to his (presumed) suicide.

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
And I'd like to offer him (sure he's on the Net up there!) my personal thanks. One of my most vivid memories is of playing in the front garden (probably in 1944) with my older brother when a German fighter-bomber (I was later told that it was an ME110) came over low, pursued by Spitfires, and dropped its bombs on what must have looked like a military camp (but was in fact a prison camp) just north of our Hertfordshire village - only half-a-mile from us. As it happens, we had Italian prisoners-of-war mending the road outside our house, and Germans cutting the hedgerows. The Italians shouted warnings, and a couple of the Germans (still proudly wearing their threadbare Afrika Korps uniforms) rushed into the garden, threw us flat on the ground, and laid on top of us.......

Amazing story!

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, Alan Turing, RIP - and 'thanks again,' you did VERY well. I for one will celebrate your centenary.........

  



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineeinsteinboricua From Puerto Rico, joined Apr 2010, 3181 posts, RR: 8
Reply 2, posted (2 years 4 months 10 hours ago) and read 1644 times:

Today's Google Doodle is in his honor. It's quite fun!


"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21486 posts, RR: 53
Reply 3, posted (2 years 4 months 7 hours ago) and read 1596 times:

Quoting Revelation (Reply 1):
Of course, he knew better than to work on the unsolvable problem, "What is she thinking?"

Not least because it just wasn't his problem.

It's good that PM Brown has publically acknowledged his contributions and apologized for the horrendous treatment Alan Turing suffered – Turing was instrumental in helping to save the same people from oppression who then turned around and did this to him. Just heartbreaking.

It is good that times have gotten better, but it is profoundly sad that they had been that horrible.

May he rest in peace, and may his memory inspire more people to put decency above prejudice.


User currently onlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 10101 posts, RR: 26
Reply 4, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 1508 times:
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I was at a wedding in Chicago a few weeks ago, for an old family friend's son. The dad happens to be a professor of computer science, and they are well connected in that world (and in many other worlds - there were 715 guests at this wedding!!!).

Anyway, the groom was giving a speech at the reception, and he said, "we are also honored to have here ____ ____, who's a Turing Award winner. In fact, we have three Turing Award winners here tonight, which is probably the most at any wedding ever!"

I wouldn't be surprised if he was correct!

Just a little tidbit to show that Turing is remembered in certain circles, at least.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 3):
Not least because it just wasn't his problem.

Ha!



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offline1stfl94 From United Kingdom, joined May 2006, 1455 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 1479 times:

Quoting NAV20 (Thread starter):
And I'd like to offer him (sure he's on the Net up there!) my personal thanks. One of my most vivid memories is of playing in the front garden (probably in 1944) with my older brother when a German fighter-bomber (I was later told that it was an ME110) came over low, pursued by Spitfires, and dropped its bombs on what must have looked like a military camp (but was in fact a prison camp) just north of our Hertfordshire village - only half-a-mile from us. As it happens, we had Italian prisoners-of-war mending the road outside our house, and Germans cutting the hedgerows. The Italians shouted warnings, and a couple of the Germans (still proudly wearing their threadbare Afrika Korps uniforms) rushed into the garden, threw us flat on the ground, and laid on top of us.......

Wow, amazing story, probably happened not far from where I grew up as well (many years later though!)

I think today we do remember for his achievements, certainly any of us having the ability to use a computer and for practically keeping our supply flow going through the war


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12717 posts, RR: 25
Reply 6, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 1450 times:

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 4):
In fact, we have three Turing Award winners here tonight, which is probably the most at any wedding ever!

Indeed, quite amazing. The Turing Award is the closest thing the computer science world has to the Nobel Prize, so that was quite an interesting gathering IMHO.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 7, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 1424 times:

Quoting Revelation (Reply 1):
In this space, he also built on the work of others (in particular three young brilliant Polish mathematicians)

Agreed, Revelation - those Poles played a crucial role. My only excuse is that I try to keep my posts as short as possible; and, also, that there's next to no doubt that Turing played the essential 'coordinating' role that eventually made it all come together.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 3):
It is good that times have gotten better, but it is profoundly sad that they had been that horrible.

Indeed, Klaus. Only thing is, having been literally 'born into WW2,' at the time it felt 'normal' rather than 'horrible.' That 'nuisance raid' I mentioned left a lot of bomb craters along the short cut (over the fields) that we used to use on the way to school. Within weeks, they'd flooded and become ponds, and we were taking gear with us and fishing for newts in them. Call it 'adaptation'.........  

Not to say that I don't realise what Germany went through at the hands of the RAF. Years later I found myself in the army and 'defending' the place. I'll never forget a few of us clubbing together for a cab and going to see Cologne Cathedral. The cathedral itself was still standing - but there were no OTHER intact buildings there, for hundreds of yards around.........

Funny thing was, though, the way we all 'adapted to war.' My father was born in 1900, so he was called up into a rifle regiment (1/18th. Battalion, the London Regiment, 'London Irish Rifles') at age 17, and sent to France a week after his 18th. birthday - in March 1918, just in time to be on his first spell in the front line when the Germans made their last attack ('Second Battle of the Somme'). Surviving that and getting home, at only 39, he was young enough to be called up AGAIN in 1939; but, luckily, by that time he was a noted malaria researcher, so he was kept out of 'active service' and assigned to command of a Home Guard unit instead.

We kids just 'adapted.' Quite honestly, in the 1940s, we ended up thinking of wars as a 'permanent' part of life and of air-raids more or less the way that one thinks of rainstorms nowadays.........

About that prison-camp, besides the air-raid I've already described, I guess that I was also in at the birth of the United Nations. Walking to the village shops with Mum, a platoon of Canadian Bren-carriers (the Bren was a British light machinegun, invented in Czechoslovakia; 'BREN' actually standing for 'BRno-ENfield,' one of the best weapons ever IMO) came past us; no doubt on their way to D-Day, the Normandy invasion. The convoy was escorted by US motorcycle MPs; and there were German and Italian prisoners-of-war, guarded by British soldiers, doing their usual 'gardening.' I still vividly recall the prisoners waving the convoy down, and ALL of them - British, Canadians, Americans, Germans, and Italians - shaking hands all round.......

My mother - a very quiet and unassuming Irish lady - spent the war as a mere secretary. Only trouble was, she was actually an Admiral's secretary, and spent most of WW2 travelling into Central London to the Admiralty every day. Knowing what I know now, it seems nothing less than a miracle that I can never recall a time when she didn't somehow get home to cook supper for all of us......

Quoting 1stfl94 (Reply 5):
Wow, amazing story, probably happened not far from where I grew up as well

Village called Boreham Wood, 1stfl94 - as teenagers, we used to call it 'Bore 'em Wood.' But not at all a bad place, looked at 'in the round'...........

[Edited 2012-06-24 09:14:50]


"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21486 posts, RR: 53
Reply 8, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 1396 times:

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 7):
Indeed, Klaus. Only thing is, having been literally 'born into WW2,' at the time it felt 'normal' rather than 'horrible.' That 'nuisance raid' I mentioned left a lot of bomb craters along the short cut (over the fields) that we used to use on the way to school. Within weeks, they'd flooded and become ponds, and we were taking gear with us and fishing for newts in them. Call it 'adaptation'.........

I can see that; But I was referring to what was done to Alan Turing.

There is still quite a difference between everyone around you standing together for getting through hard times together and the people around you who you helped saving turning on you and driving you into suicide, ironically mirroring the horrors which Britain had ostensibly been fighting against in the war.


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12717 posts, RR: 25
Reply 9, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 1307 times:

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 7):
Not to say that I don't realise what Germany went through at the hands of the RAF. Years later I found myself in the army and 'defending' the place. I'll never forget a few of us clubbing together for a cab and going to see Cologne Cathedral. The cathedral itself was still standing - but there were no OTHER intact buildings there, for hundreds of yards around.........

Interesting. How long after the war was this?

I was in Germany with a family friend, and he was giving me a tour of one of the cities in the Rhine a couple of years ago. After walking around the 'old town' for a while, we got in the car and drove through the outskirts of town and I noticed that everything there was newer. My friend said it was "American style urban renewal" but the comment went over my head, because in the 70s that terminology was used by many US government agencies for rebuilding the centers of cities. I caught on later, when I learned that part of town had an aircraft factory and had been bombed heavily in WWII.

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 7):
We kids just 'adapted.' Quite honestly, in the 1940s, we ended up thinking of wars as a 'permanent' part of life and of air-raids more or less the way that one thinks of rainstorms nowadays.........

It reminds me of my mom and her siblings growing up in a refugee camp after WWII. My uncle told me he could talk to all the other kids, but everyone was using different languages, pretty much every European language one can imagine. To him, it was normal, but of course today he can't remember any of those words.

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 7):
Quoting Revelation (Reply 1):
In this space, he also built on the work of others (in particular three young brilliant Polish mathematicians)

Agreed, Revelation - those Poles played a crucial role. My only excuse is that I try to keep my posts as short as possible; and, also, that there's next to no doubt that Turing played the essential 'coordinating' role that eventually made it all come together.

Absolutely, I'd take it a step further by saying he had the key insights, especially with regard to the Naval Enigma, whose solution saved so many ships and lives on the North Atlantic and prevented many others from starving.

He was the right man in the right place at the right time. Before the war, he studied at IAS and Princeton and worked with Bell Labs, where he gained a lot of hands on experience with the electronics of the time, so he could put his mathematical brilliance together with the advances in electronics.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 8):
There is still quite a difference between everyone around you standing together for getting through hard times together and the people around you who you helped saving turning on you and driving you into suicide, ironically mirroring the horrors which Britain had ostensibly been fighting against in the war.

Indeed, an utter tragedy. The UK Government has recently apologized for its persecution of Turing, but it's no consolation.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 10, posted (2 years 3 months 4 weeks ago) and read 1258 times:

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 7):
Quoting Revelation (Reply 9):
Interesting. How long after the war was this?

1958, Revelation. The reason we went to see it was that a German friend told us that they had just finished repairing the cathedral the previous year; and even when we visited, the area round the cathedral hadn't been properly re-paved, it was all still just gravel and cinders............

This will show you how much damage - courtesy of RAF Bomber Command - was done to Cologne during the War. Though, of course, they had previously tried to do the same to us!

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/g...tos/slides/wwii-bombing-cc-gordonr

Click on the 'Back to Gallery' button at the top and you'll get more pictures of the mess the Germans had to clean up; plus some more cheerful shots of Cologne as it looks today......

Quoting Revelation (Reply 9):
I caught on later, when I learned that part of town had an aircraft factory and had been bombed heavily in WWII.

The 'military targets' thing never really applied in WW2, Revelation. It was almost all 'area bombing.' The Germans and the British started off bombing in daylight, but losses to defending fighters were so high that they both largely switched to night raids after 1940; except for the odd 'cloud-cover raid,' like the one I experienced. The RAF used the 'bomber stream' tactic - aircraft flew independently, on a pre-determined track, and bombed 'target markers' (flares dropped beforehand by the most experienced crews, known as the 'Pathfinders'). Sure, some effort was put into concentrating the bombs on 'industrial areas,' but it was basically 'carpet bombing.' Indeed, a friend of the family once told me that, quite often, the target markers were obscured by cloud or smoke; in which case they reverted to 'bombing on ETA' - that is, dropping the bombs at the time that the flightplan said they would be over the target (meaning, of course, that the bombs probably dropped many miles from the 'official' objective).

The USAAF went across in daylight, of course - to their cost. But, even so, all that talk about 'precision bombing' was just that, talk. Because they went over in daylight, they had to maintain close formation to defend themselves from fighters. And they bombed in formation too. Their big formations (usually several hundred bombers) would have been spread over square miles of sky, so the bombs would inevitably have covered square miles of ground. And that friend I mentioned, who was attached to them for a time (to help train them in navigation) said that, to his surprise, USAAF 'bombardiers' didn't in fact aim their bombs individually; no point when they were in strict formation. Instead they just watched the formation leader and dropped when he did......

[Edited 2012-06-25 21:02:32]


"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently onlineMD11Engineer From Azerbaijan, joined Oct 2003, 14072 posts, RR: 62
Reply 11, posted (2 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 1243 times:

Quoting Revelation (Reply 9):
Interesting. How long after the war was this?

In the less afluent parts of West Berlin you could still see bomb sites (ruins of bombed buildings) in the 1990s. The house I lived in after I moved out from my parent´s home, in the working class district of Neukölln in West Berlin, still had bullet and shrapnell holes in the facade in 1992.

Incidentaly most bombings concentrated on industrial areas and the worker´s accomodations around the factories (in most German and British cities factories would not be located on the outskirts of cities as today, but right interspaced among residential buildings, mostly for the workers, who before cars and public transport, could walk to work). The posh areas in the suburbs were hardly hit (in Berlin maybe a bit during the house-to-house fighting between the Red Army and the last German troops during the last weeks of the war).

Jan


User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 12, posted (2 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1209 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 11):
Incidentaly most bombings concentrated on industrial areas and the worker´s accomodations around the factories

Agreed, MD11Engineer. Plus, of course, city centres..........

Just in the interests of balance, I'd better offer posters this (truly iconic) photograph of St. Paul's Cathedral, in the heart of the City of London, during the 'blitz' of 1940/1941. Click on the photograph for a full-screen view. Still reckon that it was nothing short of a miracle that this (just plain beautiful) building has survived to the present day............

Eerily similar to its Cologne counterpart, really. In both cases just about every other building, for miles around, was smashed into rubble..........

http://blitzwalkers.blogspot.com.au/...con-st-pauls-watch-and-flawed.html

[Edited 2012-06-26 07:49:55]


"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
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