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The Turing Problem

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 07:00 PM

100 years ago this year, the man who first conceived of the computer age was born. His name was Alan Turing. He was also a math genius, a hero of World War II and he is widely considered to be the father of artificial intelligence. But the world wasn't kind to Alan Turing. In 1952, he was arrested and convicted under a British law that prohibited "acts of gross indecency between men, in public or private."


In 1936, a young Alan Turing devised a machine that would ultimately change the world. You're staring at it right now--except Turing's "universal machine" was much, much simpler and totally imaginary. Nonetheless, he proved that with just a few simple ingredients, the machine could compute any mathematical problem that a human could compute.

You: So?

Us: So this was back when the only "computers" were people doing math by hand. It was also back when machines were single-function. "Reprogramming" required a screwdriver. To think the kinds of thoughts Turing was thinking, you had to be either a genius or a psychic.

Turing lived his whole life with machines. He built the machine that deciphered the German "Engima Code" during World War II. He imagined a day when machines would flirt with us, joke with us, listen to our problems and, above all, think for themselves. He even thought up a way to test whether machines had become indistinguishable from humans (for more on the Turing Test, check out our episode Talking to Machines).

The idea that machines would become our equals was unsettling for many of Turing's peers. (Frankly, it still unsettles a lot of folks today, just ask Robert!) But to Turing, it was just the natural extension of his fundamental belief that we, all of us, are machines ourselves in a way. And he worried that society might judge the computers of the future as harshly as it judged him.

Alan Turing was arrested and convicted in 1952 for activities that are no longer illegal in England. Janna Levin and David Leavitt help explain how Alan Turing's personal life may have shaped his relationship to machines. And James Gleick muses about how profound Turing's contributions to math and computing really were.

Read more:

Janna Levin, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

David Leavitt, The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

James Gleick, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

Enigma machines on display in Block B at Bletchley Park National Codes Centre
ell brown/flickr/CC-BY-2.0
Enigma machines on display in Block B at Bletchley Park National Codes Centre
Recreation of the Bombe (a code-breaking machine) on display in Block B at Bletchley Park National Codes Centre
ell brown/flickr/CC-BY-2.0
Recreation of the Bombe (a code-breaking machine) on display in Block B at Bletchley Park National Codes Centre


James Gleick, David Leavitt and Janna Levin


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Comments [80]

nada from Sydney

Philosophy of Mind from centuries ago will pose the questions about the nature of mind that we dont even understand what we understand. Algorithmically model-able is not necessarily algorithmic.

However, does not subtract from the contributions Turning has made nor the suffering that society forced on him.

It saddens me - both that we do not take into account answers and questions that philosophers have already answered - as well as repeating of history in terms of continuation of persecution of people that society doesn't understand + harms no one.

Nov. 04 2015 09:27 PM
Elinor Rousseau from usa

It's quite funny to see how much our technology has cbanged over 70 years. With the use of mathematics and science instead of weapons and fighting Turing changed the course of war. He was a wonderful thinker, to me an average student, I find it fascinating learning about a genius I will never be. His thoughts were and are revolutionary. The fact that he classified minds as machines before machines were even created is awe inspiring.

Mar. 24 2015 01:01 AM
Anna A. Dickinson from Florida

It's incredible how instrumental one man was in changing the face of our world forever. Turing's developments were absolutely groundbreaking, and are largely responsible for much of modern technology. The fact that such a brilliant mind was forced to endure barbaric treatment to 'cure' his homosexuality is extremely horrible. It's hard to stomach the truth that not even a century ago, one of the world's most forward thinking countries punished gay people with arrest and sickening 'treatment'.

Mar. 23 2015 06:20 PM
Anna A. Dickinson from Florida

It's incredible how the government mistreated the person almost solely responsible for the machines that are so crucial to life in today's society. His intelligence was mindblowing, and his discoveries were groundbreaking. It's very scary to realize that not even a century ago, being gay meant being punished with cruel and barbaric punishment- and that was one of the most developed countries in the world. His recent pardon from the British government is a small consolation, and I wish he could've seen how he changed humanity.

Mar. 23 2015 06:17 PM

He got pardoned today by the british government.....

Dec. 24 2013 06:00 PM

If a human could create a machine that is our equal; that can think and respond and create beloved watercolors and preludes, it could not possibly diminish human dignity or the "meaning of humanity", but increase it, for us as humans have made this machine.
Although the machine is humanity's equal, humans have made it that way and our dignity and meaning is always in our own hands (and minds)

Sep. 02 2013 02:18 PM

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it is complex to write.

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Nov. 29 2012 09:10 PM
Phil Maslow from NYC

For those who were looking for the classic piece used at 15:45 - 16:15 in this story (which, may I add, is a great one), I finally stumbled across it!

It's Metamorphosis I by Phillip Glass.

Of course I only found this once I stopped looking for it. C'est la vie!

Oct. 18 2012 11:47 AM
lishou pink from r

Calculate your current BMR (basal metabolic rate). Your current BMRis just what your body needs to keep typical features such as breathing as well as digestive system. Here is the lowest number of calories you need to take in on a daily basis.

Sep. 17 2012 09:21 PM
Tarun from Montana

I was wondering where can I find credits for music used in this podcast? I can recognize some of the famous classical pieces used while describing Turing's life but I can't recall the composers, perhaps Eric Satie.. Anyways, i shall much appreciate if you could point me to the credits for musical pieces used. Thanks

Aug. 17 2012 10:10 PM
Johnny from Denver, CO

This comic about Turing now makes sense:

Jun. 25 2012 06:28 PM
David Henderson from Columbia, Missouri

Happy 100th birthday anniversary to Alan Turing! Great work Radiolab!

I just discovered a minor detail worth mentioning. Your story reports that "nothing of value" was stolen from Alan Turing, yet Alan foolishly called the police which lead to a series of bad outcomes. However, John Turing (Alan's brother), reports that the thief took his brother's gold watch that was given to Alan by their father.


An inherited gold watch is hardly "nothing of value", least I remind everyone of lengths of effort to maintain possession of the family gold watch in the movie Pulp Fiction.


Jun. 23 2012 02:56 PM
Sawyer from Vermont

Oops! Forgot to post the link in the previous message. Here it is now:


Jun. 23 2012 10:42 AM
Sawyer from Vermont

Hey, everybody. I there is an artice on the BBC today that calls into question the assumption that Turing's death was a suicide, however perfect the story with the poison apple may seem. The story doesn't offer any proof one way or another, but says there would not be nearly enough evidence for a suicide ruling today. Just more food for thought.

Jun. 23 2012 10:36 AM
Jon Tjhia from Melbourne, Australia

Enjoyed this short - thank you. A couple of timely notes – this Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of Turing's birth. And Wired reports today on a LEGO Turing Machine, with video demo:

Jun. 21 2012 02:10 AM
Valdaquendë from Albany, Oregon

Turing's work at Bletchley Park is excellently described and very well documented in Stephen Budianski's "Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II" (ISBN: 0-684-85932-7)

Turing's accomplishments during this period (as well as a good deal of information about him as a person, gleaned from interviews with surviving fellow cryptanalysts) are well-described and you can see, in his ideas and inventions, the foundations of modern computing, artificial intelligence and many other concepts, ideas and techniques that have become realities in the 60 years since his death. If you are interested in Turing, this is an important read.

My understanding is that Budianski was one of the first persons to be allowed access to the Enigmas, Bombes and other sensitive codebreaking information when the term of secrecy expired in the 1990's. He also interviewed a number of the surviving codebreakers. This book is an exciting and entertaining telling of the narrative of codebreaking during this period,as well as being scholarly and well-researched.

"It is not necessary to be crazy to be a cryptanalyst. But it always helps"
- Joseph Rochefort (The father of cryptanalysis in America)

Jun. 19 2012 01:53 PM
William Charlwood from La Palma, Canaries

Regarding music generated by computers: see the work of David Cope:

Professor Cope's programs produce original music in the style of various composers,
music that is indistinguishable from original music by the composer in question.

Jun. 09 2012 05:16 PM

Just a slight issue with the bit about the Enigma Machine. It was NOT a solely British effort. It should be noted that several Polish mathematicians were the first to break the enigma ciphers in 1932. They presented their findings to the British and French military commands before WWII. This breakthrough was a huge help in breaking the code.

Jun. 08 2012 05:58 PM
Simon from Bordeaux, France

Radiolab, could you please post the music samples that are used during each episode. A lot of comments deal with this issue and it would be nice to be able to find the music, that is often quite beautiful, used in your episodes. Thanks, Simon

May. 29 2012 06:42 AM
Peter from Sweden

What was the song at 16:00?


May. 28 2012 07:13 AM
Peter from Sweden

What is the song at 16:00?

May. 28 2012 05:08 AM

Great short! I have a minor, and rather nerdy quibble, however. I'm always frustrated by the occasional lack of philosophical astuteness from Jad and Robert. In this particular case one of the guests was allowed to suggest that any ontology of persons that was not bare materialism was somehow a 'religious opinion'*. It's not very reasonable to think of 'religious' as a pejorative term (perhaps he didn't mean it that way, though), and more importantly it is much more false to think that more dualistic solutions to the mind-body problem as religious in their motivation. Since Plato (at least) such arguments have come about as logical demonstrations that mental activity cannot, in principle, be merely material. Rather than point out this rather obvious and egregious error on the part of the interviewee, Robert merely put more effort into getting him to imagine some scenario with intelligent machines that he probably wouldn't like. Whether or not a person finds the idea of a real life thinking machine to be palatable probably makes for some interesting drama, but it is wholly inconsequential to the truth. Perhaps a more interesting question might have been why the machine would then be capable of writing great music or making great art, or more specifically, could one ever talk about the functions of such a machine without making reference to its builders (I think that the answer is quite obviously "no"). There's a whole host of work out there on this problem from non-religious scholars like John Searle, Thomas Nagel, David Chalmers and Raymond Tallis.

*It might be noted that the majority of dualists out there are religious to some extent, as the majority of the non-religious are some type of materialist. While this is sociologically interesting, it has little bearing on the mind-body problem and whether or not dualist solutions are religious solutions to the issue.

May. 14 2012 02:12 PM
MECKENICAL::ROBOT from chicago

what a wonderful thing it is. this is an existence i can live with too... Our thoughts are mere switches... and from simplicity, complexity emerges.

May. 06 2012 09:39 PM
Pete from Australia

Thanks very much. Amazing story.

Particularly enjoyed touching on humans being really just a machine ourselves. Personally, I believe we are more than that. Humans - IMO - mean more than being a toaster or where we basically don't have a soul. A soul is a spiritual thing. Even atheists have souls. :o)

I live on some land and have farm animals. I've seen nature and survival of the fittest at work. Animals leave their sick young to die in the paddock without missing a beat. We'd die to save our sick and potentially - excuse my bluntness - costly child. We all would. There's more to us than a collection of matter, I think.

May. 05 2012 05:01 AM

With respect to other commentors, noone seems to have it right yet, and not RadioLabs piece either - the "bomba" was invented by the Polish cryptanalysts, and only shared with the British and French in '39 (if I remember right). Touring did not invent it, as stated above and in the RadioLab article. Here's a link or google "Bomba" on Wikipedia:

May. 03 2012 12:24 AM

The song in the background--which really begins somewhere around 2:30 I think--is "Welcome to Lunar Industries" by Clint Mansell.

May. 01 2012 05:34 PM
Sloppy Boggins from Toronto

The capture of an Enigma machine and the lack of sophisticated code wording, possibly due to to much faith in the machine, made it possible for Turing to crack it. With a basic code wording and machines secure I don't see it possible to crack the Enigma style of code. To do so individual messages would need to be long enough to discover phrase patterns, not really code wording, and from one message to the next a Key would need to be identified.
All of the above were not done properly and thus decoding the Enigma was accomplished.

Apr. 29 2012 03:57 PM
gdhsq from

i actually thank you

Apr. 25 2012 04:26 AM

Apr. 18 2012 03:00 PM

Paul.. The piece is "Don't Blow It" by Cliff Martinez, it's from the Solaris(2002) soundtrack.

And as already stated the Bach piece is: The Well-Tempered Clavier (Book One, Fugue No. 2 in C minor, BWV 847).

Apr. 17 2012 12:02 PM

Any idea what the song in the background is at 2:10?

Apr. 17 2012 12:00 PM
faisal from Notre Dame, IN

Which Bach piece features on this show?

Apr. 14 2012 09:35 PM

What is the background music at 5:30 or so when they describe Turing lying in the field? Thanks!

Apr. 13 2012 04:29 PM

I watched an entire stage play about Turing some years ago, and I thought this short radio piece did a much better job of telling his story. Thanks, Radiolab! (and to playwrights--keep at it!)

Apr. 10 2012 10:31 PM

They could have slipped in a sentence in the podcast on the Polish contribution (far from trivial) to cracking the Enigma ...

Apr. 07 2012 05:30 PM
W Richard Stark from USF Tampa

The belief that "we" are nothing more than Turing machines, or that information processing in biological systems is (within a primitive recursive coding of) Turing computability misses the fact that no random function on the integers (or any other infinite language) is Turing computable. Yet random events are a part of every biological process. Thus the idea of representing biological information processing as a partial recursive function (ie., a Turing computable function) is a non-starter. I cannot conclude that this implies anything magical about our minds, but it is sloppy thinking to conclude that we are Turing machines.

Apr. 06 2012 04:04 PM
jane from usa

What the British [url=]five finger shoes[/url]did to him, which isn't mention here, was despicable. They gave him a choice of either chemical castration or an extended prison sentence

Apr. 06 2012 04:28 AM
Ubd from

This invention is great and unbelievable and we should respect the inventor.However different new inventors brought us different benefit,just like 5 toe shoes .What it has brought is far from we could image,the great contribution to our health development.

Apr. 06 2012 03:28 AM
Jim H

Be careful with using the term "universal" with Turing Machines. There's a distinction, which I don't remember whether the podcast addressed.

Turning Machines are single-function as defined above. However, Turing realized that there was a "single-function" Turing Machine, whose function was to read the definition of any Turing Machine and simulate it. This general purpose Turing Machine is what computer scientists refer to as the Universal Turing Machine.

The genius of this is that Turing realized that a Universal Turing Machine could read its own definition and simulate itself. That concept led to his proof of the halting problem.

He proved that you cannot determine whether a Turing Machine will ever complete - i.e., whether it contains an infinite loop to use a more common phrase. It goes like this using Proof by Contradiction.

Assume you have a TM, named HALT that reads the definition of any TM and HALT(TM) returns success when the TM halts and failure when it does not halt.

Modify TM HALT slightly, called HALT', such that HALT'(TM) goes into an infinite loop when TM halts and it halts when TM goes into an infinite loop. Basically HALT' does the opposite of TM.

Now what does HALT'(HALT') do? HALT' is a TM, so it can test itself. Since we've defined HALT'(TM) to do the opposite of TM, then if HALT' halts, it goes into an infinite loop, and if it goes into an infinite loop it halts. Huh? This is a contradiction.

This means our assumption is incorrect, and HALT cannot exist.

Apr. 04 2012 12:36 PM

Wasn't it Bovine Tuberculosis? I think Janna said Bavarian? Is bovarian a word?

Apr. 02 2012 02:51 PM

Ada Lovelace (1838) beat Turing to the punch about what Babbage's "Engine" --the computer -- could be used for. Lovelace, generally recognized to be the world's first programmer, was working with Babbage on the Engine and foresaw (wrote about it) that the computer would do far more than just crunch numbers.

Apr. 01 2012 04:34 AM
happysos from china


Apr. 01 2012 03:22 AM
Richard Rosson

Your program states that Turing invented the computer. He invented the Turing machine which is certainly a major accomplishment, but the idea of the programable computer dates back to the 19th century (1833) and Charles Babbage who is a well known historical figure. It was hardly a new idea when Turing created his Turing Machine.

Mar. 30 2012 01:02 PM

James Gleick? Bwahahaha! The laundering has begun!

Mar. 26 2012 01:02 PM
Scott from Portland, OR

Haha here it is!

Mar. 26 2012 05:45 AM
Scott from Portland, OR

And apparently Metamorphosis *was* used in Battlestar Galactica. From Wikipedia, "Metamorphosis for Piano (1988) was featured in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica in the episode "Valley of Darkness"."

Mar. 26 2012 05:38 AM
Scott from Portland, OR

Yes, the music is Glass Metamorphosis 5. Quite fitting. And interesting Battlestar Galacticat associations. Though not literally "correct", also fitting, telling of unconscious thematic connections. Love this stuff.

Mar. 26 2012 05:28 AM

If non-biological machines one day can think and feel or even have some form of self-awareness and can express themselves through art, music, poetry, etc. it would to me be just as interesting and relevant as observing the same qualities with humans of any cultural or historical background.

I imagine, if humans haven't wiped themselves off the face of this planet before they can develop machines who can at least think and feel and make decisions based on more than just instinct like animals do, it would be just as interesting or exciting and we could learn something about ourselves as well.

But one problem with all this fantasy is the time factor.
It took a long time for even primitive life forms to develop, let alone animals and humans.
And to think that machines could skip the time required for the evolution of the human brain, probably remains but a fantasy in that very unique mind of ours.

Mar. 25 2012 08:15 PM
Myka from Davis, CA

Yes it is in BSG!!! Philip Glass's "Metamorphosis" is the piano piece I think you were looking for.

Mar. 25 2012 08:05 PM
Amy H

Jad please come back soon! Radiolab isn't good without you.

Mar. 25 2012 07:34 AM

I loved the episode. yeah, was that a bit of music from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series? the scene where Starbuck and Helo are sitting in Starbuck's apartment on Caprica? because IF SO, totally nerded out. hard. such a great pick for music given the topic!

Mar. 23 2012 11:59 PM

Woah, Jad is on paternity leave? I literally just listened to 'Are We Coins?' from 2009, for which Jad was also not present due to baby things.


Mar. 23 2012 07:50 PM
Jennifer Vaughn

The music was one of the fugues from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (Book One, Fugue No. 2 in C minor, BWV 847).

Mar. 23 2012 01:16 PM
howard zugman from pinole, ca

I think that this "long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place" is wrong if it means that amends can never be made. Yes they are part of history and if a sorely needed pardon is made that is also history. Sharkley's statement sounds an awful lot like "we were right at the time." Not so, they were wrong at the time.

Mar. 23 2012 12:50 PM

Great podcast. Anyone know what the main piano piece was that they played repeatedly?

Mar. 23 2012 10:35 AM

I think not quoting the latter half of Lord Sharkey's statement in response to the petition to issue a pardon presents a picture that isn't complete. In addition to what was quoted, he went on to say:

"It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times."

Mar. 22 2012 10:21 PM
Ian Watson from New Zealand

It's correct that the Poles had cracked the Enigma machine before the war (the machines were commercially available and the UK Post Office used them). There's a statue to the Polish cryptographers at Bletchely Park where Turing worked in WWII. The Naval Enigma machine had an additional rotor which made it much more complicated. Turing devised what today we'd call an heuristic search technique and designed an electromechanical machine called the Bombe to implement it. This made it possible to decode all Enigma machines. He also devised a technique called "Turingery" to crack the much more complex German High Command's Lorenz code, building on Bill Tutte's work on discovering the logical makeup of the Lorenz machine. Tommy Flowers then designed the first electronic programmable computer called Colossus to run Turingery on Lorenz codes.

How do I know this? I've just written a book on the history and future of computing

Mar. 22 2012 09:09 PM
lisa ann from los angeles

Sounds weird an strange that nine months later Steve Jobs was born after Alan Turnig death, reincarnation doesn't mean much in science just thought it was kinda cool that someone carried on in spirit so soon after.

Mar. 22 2012 01:25 PM

The question that should have been asked at the end of the episode is, will a machine that was designed to produce works of art ever just volitionally decide that it would rather be a painter, and then learn how to do that instead? This would be more in line with what a human can accomplish.

Mar. 21 2012 10:58 PM
Janna Levin from NYC

It does sound weirdly like I say "Bavarian" Tuberculosis instead of "Bovine" Tuberculous. I mean, in A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines I wrote a whole passage about the seemingly innocuous glass of milk that harbored the deadly bacteria. My own bio-electrical Turing machine glitched.

Gorgeous show, thanks to Robert and the Radiolab gang.

Mar. 21 2012 09:35 PM
Tadhg Caffrey from Ireland

Love this follow up to Turing! I've placed this short alongside a really provactive exhibit going on in London in my latest blog post. Some here may be interested!

Mar. 21 2012 02:35 PM
James Marks from Houston, TX

Religious opinions about whether we are "just organic machines" or something more have nothing to do with it. Whether we are created in the image and likeness of God, or simply evolved out of a cosmic explosion in the distant past, we are nonetheless _UNIQUE_ even if our sentience in and of itself is not unique. Unfortunately, that uniqueness traps us within the universe. We might as well be the only sentience in the universe, because even if we are not, we may never truly be able to communicate with any other sentience which exists.

Mar. 21 2012 01:30 PM
James Marks from Houston, TX

There is a huge problem with the conversation at the very end of this piece.

If human thought evolved into what it is, up from the raw materials of the universe, to the point where that thought mechanism can produce "great works of art" ... they are only "great" (and "art" for that matter) within the context of human thought. As Radio Lab has pointed out before, the Voyager golden records which include famous pieces of music from around the world are _semantically meaningless_ to an alien mind even _if_ they figure out how to correctly play the record. Bach's Preludes _MEAN NOTHING_ except within the context of human thought, _human_ thought.

If computers ever become sentient to the point that they will be able to understand "art" and to create "art", their art will have no meaning to us. Because it will not be human art produced by human thought. It will be computer art produced by computer thought. Computer sentience will not be simply the silicon version of what our bodies do with organic materials.

Computers may one day produce their own equivalent of Bach's Preludes, but this will _neither_ mean that they appreciate Bach's music _nor_ will it mean that we will appreciate theirs. It will mean that they have produced music that _they_ appreciate in a quantifiable magnitude to the way that humans appreciate Bach.

Which even that is problematic because really only Western and Central Europeans or those culturally influenced by them appreciate Bach, but the subjectivity of aesthetics is a whole separate topic. It is not simply a matter of "computers will have a culturally distinct aesthetic from ours" such that I could learn to appreciate computer music in the same way that I can learn to appreciate the music of the Imperial court of feudal Japan. I may not even be capable of listening to computer music! Computer music will be, ultimately, electrical impulses. Music, for them, may ultimately be a purely rhythmic event. It may be that the 8, 16, 32 or 64 bit strings of impulses that are arbitrarily produced as part of the piece may spark a kind of synesthesia whereby experiencing a series of musical impulses compels the computer's mind to "evoke" images, thoughts, ideas, concepts...

We forget that just because a computer can "think" and can become "sentient" doesn't mean that it will have eyes to see, ears to hear or hands to touch and shape.

I highly recommend the short novel "Exegesis" by Astro Teller to begin to get a sense of just how different silicon sentience will be from our own.

Our communications with each other carry meaning because, despite all being unique and carrying our cultural and phenomenological baggage, we are biologically similar enough, culturally similar enough and phenomenologically similar enough that we can _presume_ to derive meaning from each other's words, or artistic actions. We will be able to make no such assumptions with alien life or silicon life.

Mar. 21 2012 01:29 PM
Chet from USA

The Polish Cipher Bureau were the first to crack the Enigma code and machine and presented their discovery to England and France shortly before the outbreak of WWII. Turing was intrumental in breaking the revised Naval version of Enigma.

Mar. 21 2012 11:52 AM
Tarjei from Oslo, Norway

The song at around 15:00 is one of Philip Glass's Metamorphosis pieces (I think it's number 5, but I'm not sure).

Mar. 21 2012 07:53 AM
chris K from CA

Is that song at 15:00 from the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica"? (Which is perfect since the concept of Cylons present great questions about artificial sentience :)

Mar. 21 2012 05:44 AM

What's the song around 15:00, that beautiful piano piece?

Mar. 21 2012 02:21 AM

Cudos to Cryptonomicom

Mar. 20 2012 11:52 PM
Laurel in LV

My connection is too slow to listen to the podcast. I hope you also mentioned that Turing came up with an idea that is now a major foundation for understanding how embryos develop, the morphogen gradient. His brilliance was not limited to one field.

Mar. 20 2012 10:57 PM
The Code Crimson from

Alan Turing has been my favorite scientist for a long time. It's such a tragedy that a brilliant and gentle man who changed the world was forced to suffer so very much for the "crime" of loving the wrong gender. This was a touching piece that brought tears to my eyes. Thanks again for touching both my heart and my brain!

Mar. 20 2012 03:20 PM
Sean Cole

Hi Rob from Manchester,

We actually cover all of that in the podcast itself. Didn't want to give too much of the story away here on the web-site. :)


-- Sean.

Mar. 20 2012 02:54 PM

This story should have a link to the Turing tape machine that this guy built:

Mar. 20 2012 02:39 PM

regarding my previous comment; i should have listened to the whole piece before making it. the relevance becomes evident. just getting sick of ubiquitous and gratuitous insertions of irrelevant sexual info into everything. initially thought this was yet another example

Mar. 20 2012 02:22 PM

how is turing's sexual deviancy important to this story?

Mar. 20 2012 02:04 PM
Kit from Washington

Hang on, Jad's out on paternity leave? Is this an old short that just now is getting posted, or are congratulations in order again? :)

Mar. 20 2012 01:31 PM
Mike from North Carolina

I always love a show about Alan Turing.

I spotted an error though:
Christopher Morcom died of bovine tuberculosis not Bavarian tuberculosis.

Mar. 20 2012 12:01 PM
Rob from Manchester, UK

What the British Government did to him, which isn't mention here, was despicable. They gave him a choice of either chemical castration or an extended prison sentence. Turning chose the former and what he believed to be his freedom. The drugs they gave him not only destroyed his body but also his mind. He was tormented so much by their mental and physical pain that he committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple. An ode to his favourite film, Snow White, It wasn't until a couple of years ago that the British Government apologised for their mistreatment of Alan Turing.

Mar. 20 2012 11:41 AM

Hi Dub,

There were some variations on the Enigma machine. The Polish mathematicians did indeed crack the original machine, but the germans then started using one with an added gear sprocket, which gave it a ton more permutations. It was this version of enigma that was assumed to be uncrackable, and which Turing and his team ultimately cracked. (Note: I think the beefed up Enigma was only used by german naval command, but I'm not certain about that).


Mar. 20 2012 11:32 AM
Dub from UK

I thoght a group of Polish mathematicians cracked Enigma first (not Churchill's idea)

Mar. 20 2012 11:13 AM

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