Thursday, September 17, 2009

WolframAlpha Live Webcast

WolframAlpha live webcast here.

"Whether it’s Wolfram|Alpha, Mathematica, or A New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram is a man of big ideas. And this Thursday, September 17, at 2pm U.S. CDT, he will be sharing some of his thoughts, and taking your questions during a live webcast on

If you have a question you’d like to ask Stephen, please send it as a comment to *this blog post or tweet to @Wolfram_Alpha. We’ll also be taking questions live on the chat during the webcast."


"Wolfram|Alpha is a computational knowledge engine being developed by Wolfram Research. The project was announced in March 2009 by Stephen Wolfram. Wolfram|Alpha will officially launch on May 18, 2009 as "one simple input field that gives access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms."

Watch live video from Wolfram|Alpha on

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Science Debate: Lord Drayson vs Dr Ben Goldacre

Science debate at the Royal Institution streaming live at The Times Higher.

Lord Drayson picture by Kate AG (from twitpic):

Picture of the night #scidebate on Twitpic

Live debate: Science reporting: is it good for you?
16 September 2009, 7pm
Join Science Minister Lord Drayson and Dr Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science) for an open discussion on the state of science reporting in Britain.

Participate in the debate via Twitter (@timeshighered) - air your views on what’s good and bad about the coverage of science and science-related stories in the UK. For full details visit or call 020 7409 2992. For customer support call 020 3194 3372.

Please note that the debate will also be available *here to view on demand from 17 September 2009 at 4pm GMT.


Dr. Ben Goldacre picture by Kate AG (from twitpic):

Alternative LOL shot, "I salute that" @bengoldacre #scidebate on Twitpic

Turing special promotional code for stay at Alan Turing's birthplace, now Colonnade Hotel, London W9

The Colonnade Hotel, which was the Warrington Lodge when Alan Turing was born there, 23 June 1912, are offering a special promotional code under “Turing” . Turing code enables visitors to a 10 per cent reduction on their Best Available Room Rate.

Colonnade Hotel

CONTACT details:

2 Warrington Crescent, Little Venice,
London W9 1ER
Tel: +44 (0)20 7286 1052

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alan Turing's birthplace, and the Colonnade Hotel

Alan Turing was born in Warrington Lodge, a nursing home in Paddington London, on Sunday 23 June, 1912. The Colonnade Hotel now occupies that spot in Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale W9.

On what would have been his 86th birthday, 23 June 1998, an official Blue Plaque was unveiled at Turing's birthplace by his biographer, author of Alan Turing: The Enigma, Andrew Hodges.

Picture from here.

The Colonnade hotel is offering 10 percent reduction, until the end of the year (2009), on its 'Best Available Rate' to visitors wanting to stay where Turing was born, and where Sigmund Freud once stayed. See the brochure below and don't forget to quote 'neighbour' if you book:

The Colonnade -

The Financial Crimes: Alan Turing: apologies required

The Financial Crimes: Alan Turing: apologies required

Friday, September 11, 2009

UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Apologises for "Appalling" Treatment of Alan Turing

Fantastic news! Great success for John Graham-Cumming and his petition to 10 Downing Street, demanding an apology to Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician and code-breaker, named by Time Magazine as "one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century" in 1999. UK's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has apologised:

"Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate - by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices - that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

Gordon Brown"

Read full statement on

"Plato said that there is no true measure of justice, but it is important for a government to give the appearance of justice to society. This is a textbook example of that in action".. (Computer World blogs)

BBC news report: PM apology after Turing petition

Gordon Brown has said he is sorry for the "appalling" way World War II code breaker Alan Turing was treated for being gay.

A petition on the No 10 website had called for a posthumous government apology to the computer pioneer.

The campaign was the idea of computer scientist John Graham-Cumming.

He was seeking an apology for the way the mathematician was treated after his conviction. He also wrote to the Queen to ask for Turing to be awarded a posthumous knighthood.

The campaign was backed by Ian McEwan, scientist Richard Dawkins and gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. The petition posted on the Downing Street website attracted thousands of signatures.

Mr Brown, writing in the Telegraph newspaper, said: "While Mr Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him."

National legacy

He said Mr Turing deserved recognition for his contribution to humankind.

From here.

Gordon Brown passes Turing test for humanness!

"The real Turing test: learning to say sorry" from: New Scientist


"Online petitions posted to the official 10 Downing Street website are plentiful, provide fodder for newspaper reporters when it is a slow news day and rarely have any real impact. So I didn't exactly hold out much hope when I added my signature to this one.

Normally you might expect a few hundred people to sign a petition such as this, maybe a couple of thousand if you are lucky. As of today, this one has more than 31,000 signatures.

Thanks largely to a word of mouth online campaign which spread across social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the number of people signing and the amount of publicity being generated rose quickly.

Beleaguered British PM Gordon Brown, no doubt looking for a good news story to boost his ratings, latched on and in a highly unusual turn of events acted upon the demands of the petitioners. He gave that apology for the treatment of Alan Turing.

As one of the signatories of the Alan Turing apology petition, I today received an email from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown"

Poignant apology to ponder, on the eighth anniversary of a terrible act against human-kind: 9/11.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

9.9.09 at the Rose Bowl sees 3rd ODI between England and Australia

England won toss and elected to bat, on partly cloudly cool day/night match in Southampton, for the 3rd ODI against Australia

""We've got to improve our batting," Strauss dead-pans like a total champion." From Cricinfo.

England: Strauss, Bopara, Prior, Shah, Collingwood, Morgan, Wright, Bresnan, Swann, Sidebottom, Anderson

Australia: SR Watson, TD Paine, CL White, MJ Clarke*, CJ Ferguson, MEK Hussey, JR Hopes, MG Johnson, B Lee, NM Hauritz, NW Bracken

Follow audio coverage via TMS

At ECB's on-line scorecard.

Text score and summary on Cricinfo.

England need to win, else they'll move to Lord's 4th ODI on Saturday 12 September, 3-0 down

Lord's Nine for 9/9/09:
On the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year of the new Millennium we look back on an action-packed year at The Home of Cricket - picking out nine highlights. Read our nine season's highlights

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Lancaster Bomber Flypast at Lord's Cricket Ground during 2nd ODI, 6.9.09

A veteran Lancaster Bomber pilot, Group Captain Bill Farquson, was one of Aggers' TMS guests in the innings' interval, during the 2nd ODI at Lord's between England and Australia.

From cricinfo:

"The fly past from a Lancaster Bomber that brought the Lord's crowd to their feet as it flew in over the Nursery Ground, then turned and made a return pass. The event was to commemorate 65 years since Lord's was handed back after being used as a RAF receiving base in World War Two".


On the Lord's Pavilion west side, back, is a memorial seat in the south wall with a bronze plaque above.


9.9.09 postscript from TMS blog:

Group Captain Bill Farquharson DFC who joined us in the commentary box to tell the amazing story of life as a bomber pilot. More than 55,000 people died in Bomber Command, three out of every five who joined, and Farquharson admitted that he was extremly frightened all of the time.

He told us that just before one mission a colleague asked him "'If you don't come back, can I have your hat?' You see, I had just got myself a new service hat. Well in fact I was reported missing and when I got back my hat was gone. However, it was returned to me in the end."

Farquharson also told us about a very lucky escape. He said: "I went on one mission and we were hit by flak. I knew we had been hit but I hoped not too badly. When I got back and pulled my parachute from under me I noticed a large lump of flak stuck inside it. If it had gone any further, it would have been the end of my matrimonial prospects!"

David Levy Winner of 2009 Loebner Prize for Artificial Intelligence & Information for 2010 Loebner Prize

David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships beats two other entrants to win the 2009 Loebner Prize for Artificial Intelligence.

From Hugh Loebner Robitron post #12868 4.26pm Sunday 6 September 2009:

No programs fooled the judges. Therefore, victory was determined by rankings (1 = highest)

First Place David Levy - Rank 4.5
Second Place Rollo Carpenter - Rank 5.0
Third Place Mohan Embar - Rank 5.5

David Levy won the 1997 Loebner Prize, well done on becoming twice winner.

9.9.09 postscript: 2009 Loebner Prize Transcripts, interlaced by Kris Schnee, available here.

Loebner 2009 Judge's assessment:
I was one of the judges for the Loebner prize.

None of the judges had any difficulty in distinguishing human from non-human interlocutors after the first or second turn in the conversation. The two main features which allowed me to identify a human vs. a non-human agent are (i) capacity for fluent domain general discourse marked by frequent and unpredictable changes in topic, (ii) willingness to allow the judge to take over the conversation, (iii) capacity to handle ellipsis, pronouns, and non-sentential fragments, and (iv) typing errors and corrections in human but not program contributions. The relative absence of progress in developing general purpose conversational agents contrast sharply with the substantial progress of the past 10-15 years in task driven, domain specific dialogue management systems and other types of NLP.

From here:

Information on the 2010 Loebner Prize, 20th consecutive Loebner sponsored contest, will be held 23 October 2010 at California State University, Los Angeles:

First Prize: $3000 and the Bronze Annual Medal
Second Prize: $1000
Third Prize: $750
Fourth Prize: $250.

At risk will be the $25,000 Silver Medal Prize. This prize will be awarded to any submitter(s) whose program:

1. Can, when, tested by the method of Paired Comparisons with a human, fool more judges into thinking it is a human than can any other entered program;

2. And can fool at least 1/2 of at least four judges (i.e. 2 of 4, 3 of 5 or 6, etc.) when compared with at least 4 humans.

3. In the event that two or more programs succeed equally with regard to point 2, the prize money will be split, but the Silver Medal itself will be awarded to the submitter(s) whose entry is scored highest by the judges who judged the program to be a program.

Cuban Numbers, Enigma Machines and Lancaster Bomber Flypast, all at 70th Anniversary Bletchley Park Event, Saturday 5 September, 2009

Saturday 5 September 2009, place to be: Bletchley Park

for the Annual Enigma Reunion

celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Alan Turing & Gordon Welchman.

My day began listening to Professor Nick Gesslar's talk on Cuban Numbers Station: The Little Spy Engine . Fascinating story revealed of Ana Belen Montes,

US Defence Intelligence Agency's primary intelligence analyst responsible for Cuba and Latin America, arrested days after the 9/11 attacks for espionage: "She had nothing to do with the terrorist strikes, but her arrest had everything to do with protecting the country at a time when national security was of paramount importance." ( from FBI's Case of the Cuban Spy).

Professor Gesslar discussed Scott Carmichael, Defense Intelligence Agency's senior counter-intelligence investigator covering 2000 intelligence agents including Montes. In his book True Believer, Montes is revealed as a rewarded agent who detested the manner in which the US treated its neighbour, Cuba. She considered US's actions cruel, unjust and overly aggressive. Apparently she has these words on a piece of paper pinned to a wall in her prison cell:

The king hath note of all that they intend by interceptions which they dream not of

Lancaster bomber flypasts, and a 1940s fashion show, were other notable parts of an eventful day, as were the company and reminiscence of Julia and Anna, two wonderful ladies I met at Bletchley's excellent 70th anniversary Annual Enigma Reunion.

9.9.09 postscript:

Bletchley Park features in BBC1's The Week We Went to War.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Alan Turing Petition: Report on BBC2's Newsnight, 3.9.09

Jeremy Paxman on BBC 2's Newsnight asks whether Alan Turing deserves a posthumous apology. John Graham-Cumming's 10 Downing Street Turing petition has reached 26,419 signatories.

Tonight's Newsnight episode can be viewed at BBCiPlayer after the show.

Here's a biography of Jeremy Paxman:

After a stint making the tea at Radio Brighton, Jeremy Paxman began his journalistic career covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

After three years in Belfast he had almost learned the language, but then moved to London and became a reporter, first on Tonight and then on Panorama, where assignments took him all over the world.

He then had a few undistinguished months of reading aloud on the Six O'Clock News, before becoming a presenter on the regional news programme London Plus (known within the building as "Sod Off Kent") in the mid-80s, and then on the BBC's Breakfast Time.
For four years Jeremy presented Start the Week on Radio Four before deciding that he didn't like getting up that early in the morning.

Although taken onto a resettlement programme to learn how to become a producer, he proved incapable of even the most basic tasks and in 1989 was given a temporary stint presenting Newsnight. Since then the BBC has been unable to find anything else to do with him.

Jeremy has chaired University Challenge since 1994, where his capacity for mispronouncing Italian has led to frequent complaints.

His books include: The Victorians; Friends in High Places; Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life; The English; The Political Animal and On Royalty, some of which are almost readable.

The scion of a long line of illiterate peasants and benefit scroungers, he was born in Leeds, educated in Worcestershire and took a degree (in English, although it does not sound to be his first language) at St Catharine's College, Cambridge.
Even more unexpectedly, he has some honorary degrees, fellowships and awards.

From here.

The Internet is 40 years old today!

"This was the day that the infant Internet took its first breath of life" Leonard Kleinrock, Professor of Computer Science at UCLA - one of the men who enabled two computers to exchange data over a network for the very first time. "It was the first time...this baby came out and looked around and started talking to the world" (from Computer World).

From Discover magazine:

"On September 2, 1969, computer scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, hooked up two computers via a 15-foot cable, allowing them to exchange data. It marked a milestone in the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, which later gave rise to the Internet t wasn’t until October 29 of the same year that the first message was sent between computer nodes; for that reason, some say the Internet was really born at the end of October. In any case, the Internet has come a long way since 1969: The first message was supposed to be “login” but [computer scientist Leonard] Kleinrock was only able to type “lo” before the system crashed [ABC News]."

From the Telegraph:

"Forty years ago today computer was joined with computer in a union that would not be limited to just a few minutes of slow, buggy data transfer, it would transcend the boundaries oftechy types and become part of everyday life, closely bound into our economic and social structures. Here we celebrate the ten cleverest youngish men who made it happen, and in so doing designed the mechanics behind the modern world."

UK Alan Turing petition number passes 25,000, and Bletchley Enigma Reunion

John Graham-Cumming's petition "to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death" has now reached 25,682 signatories on the 10 Downing Street Turing petition site. Awesome!

The World Turing petition has reached 9750.

Remembering WWII code-breakers

This weekend, 5/6 September 2009 will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman at Bletchley Park for the Annual Enigma Reunion. Highlights inlcude:

"guest speakers giving talks, which will be taking place over the two days of the event. So why not come along and see these unique machines and attend one of the talks.

In addition all of the regular, fascinating exhibits at BP will be open to visitors. These include the rebuilds of Colossus and the Bombe, Jack Darrah’s unique collection of Churchillian memorabilia and Block B museum. Our popular guided tours are available to visitors.

Watch the skies above Bletchley Park come alive with a Battle of Britain Memorial Flypast of a Lancaster." (On Saturday 5th September at 3.15pm)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

World Turing Petition upto 9175 signatures!

World Turing petition "Started by Cameron Buckner, as a show of solidarity with Graham-Cumming's effort in the UK, so that those who are not British citizens can also express their opinion." now has 9175 signatures here:

10 Downing Street's Turing apology petition raked up 23,723 signatories, amazing! Could it reach 1 million by John Graham-Cumming's 20 January 2010 deadline?

Link here to sign:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

70th Anniversary of the Invasion of Poland

News articles:

"The controversy began on August 23, 1939, when a non-aggression treaty was signed in Moscow by German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

The pact secured Soviet neutrality and consequentially sealed the fate of Poland, which was invaded by the German army on September 1, 1939. ...

...the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will speak in Gdansk, Poland, to defend the Soviet Union's policies vis-a-vis the war."
More here,

"70 years on, Poland's WWII wounds haven't healed ......the resentments that still bubble up from the war that broke out with Hitler's attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Today, as Polish, German and Russian leaders join on Tuesday to mark the anniversary, Polish-German relations are at one level an idyll of open borders and shared membership in the prosperous, democratic European Union.

But at another level, they are one rancorous episode after another: a Polish prime minister demanding greater voting power in European forums to make up for Poland's war-related loss of population; a German magazine article that stirs Polish outrage by saying Germany had the willing help of Poles and others in executing its genocidal actions."
From AP.

Other reports:

18,559 signed up to Turing petition and '"Why People became White"

Awesome, as of 15.54 UK time, there are now 18,559 signatories to the 10 Downing Street Alan Turing pardon petition. That's an incredible increase; can it reach half-a-million signatories by 20 Jan 2010 deadline? Or even a million? Sign here if you haven't already (UK residents only):

Why people became white, article on LiveScience:

Humans come in a rainbow of hues, from dark chocolate browns to nearly translucent whites.

This full kaleidoscope of skin colors was a relatively recent evolutionary development, according to biologists, occuring alongside the migration of modern humans out of Africa between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago.

The consensus among scientists has always been that lower levels of vitamin D at higher latitudes — where the sun is less intense — caused the lightening effect when modern humans, who began darker-skinned, first migrated north.

But other factors might be at work, a new study suggests. From the varying effects of frostbite to the sexual preferences of early men, a host of theories have been reviewed.

Vitamin iDea

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone growth and the body's natural protection against certain diseases, and the inability to absorb enough in areas of less-powerful sunlight would have decreased life expectancies in our African ancestors. The further north they trekked, the more vitamin D they needed and the lighter they got over the generations, due to natural selection.

This explanation accounts for the world's gradients of skin color traveling south to north, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among African immigrants to higher latitudes, as well as the relatively darker skin of Canada's Inuit peoples, who have good levels of vitamin D despite living in the Arctic, due to their diet rich in oily fish.

Rest of article here.