Alan Turing programme (and Maths Jam)

Today will see the first MathsJam in Leeds, have a look at the MathsJam website if you want to know more about the concept. The event tonight will be at Dock Street Market on Dock Street in Leeds at 7pm.

Anyhow, last night there was a documentary on Channel 4 on Alan Turing. You can watch it on their website by clicking here. My hopes were not high when the programme was introduced as a drama-documentary as I often find that the two don’t mix well. However, it worked very well in this case with the drama part mostly being conversations between Turing and a psychiatrist, Dr Franz Greenbaum.

One aspect that particularly pleased me was that Turing’s paper on morphogenesis was discussed in more than passing detail. Quite often this seminal paper on how reaction-diffusion processes could explain stripes and other patterns in animals is overlooked in favour of the computing papers. This is understandable, the effect of computers in our lives has been far greater and besides the paper was probably too far ahead of its time. Only recently have mathematicians and biologists really begun to understand the ideas and even then the process is only a possible explanation of biological patterns. It has never been proved that this is what is really happening.

The original paper, The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis, A. M. Turing, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 237, No. 641. (Aug. 14, 1952), pp. 37-72, can be found at the JSTOR wepage.

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