Archive for January, 2015

Thumbs up to the film “The Imitation Game” and to Benedict Cumberbatch for giving such a convincing portrayal of Alan Turing.

The film is interesting, well-done and easy to understand by people who have little or no knowledge of Mathematics.

One of Turing’s achievements was the concept of a test, which could test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. This has come to be known as the Turing Test. I was pleased to notice how subtly the film handled and paid homage to this concept in one of the last scenes. There, Turing is shown concluding his conversation with the detective and saying: “So, am I a man, a machine, or a war hero?” It was as though Turing was turning the test onto himself…

The detective replies “I cannot judge you, sir”. It goes without saying that Alan Turing’s final years and treatment by the British judicial system were tragic and disproportionate to his contributions to victory in World War II, Mathematics and modern Computing. He died at the age of 41 on 8 June 1954. Had he lived for longer, he might have borne witness to the grand advances in Computing during the 60s and later: Unix, the Mac, maybe even Windows. Surely, he would have made his mark there…

PS As a Mathematician I could not help noticing a small slip by Keira Knightley: In the scene when Turing and Joan Clarke are on the lawn solving a mathematical problem, Keira Knightley alludes to a theorem of Euler, pronouncing the “Eu” as in “yew”. It is actually pronounced “oy” as in “boy”.


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