Alan Turing’s research in the latter part of his life focused, among other things, on morphogensis – particularly of animal pattern formation. According to a King’s College London press release, Turing “put forward the idea that regular repeating patterns in biological systems are generated by a pair of morphogens that work together as an ‘activator’ and ‘inhibitor'”. Now researchers at Kings have provided experimental evidence to confirm this theory. This study:
not only demonstrates a mechanism which is likely to be widely relevant in vertebrate development, but also provides confidence that chemicals called morphogens, which control these patterns, can be used in regenerative medicine to differentiate stem cells into tissue.
The press release quotes Dr Jeremy Green from the Department of Craniofacial Development at King’s Dental Institute saying:
“Regularly spaced structures, from vertebrae and hair follicles to the stripes on a tiger or zebrafish, are a fundamental motif in biology. There are several theories about how patterns in nature are formed, but until now there was only circumstantial evidence for Turing’s mechanism. Our study provides the first experimental identification of an activator-inhibitor system at work in the generation of stripes – in this case, in the ridges of the mouth palate.
“Although important in feeling and tasting food, ridges in the mouth are not of great medical significance. However, they have proven extremely valuable here in validating an old theory of the activator-inhibitor model first put forward by Alan Turing in the 50s.
“Not only does this show us how patterns such as stripes are formed, but it provides confidence that these morphogens (chemicals) can be used in future regenerative medicine to regenerate structure and pattern when differentiating stem cells into other tissues.”
Source: Scientists prove Turing’s tiger stripe theory.
I have a piece in this week’s Pod Delusion episode 123 at 45:00 on the pardon for Alan Turing.
Here are links to some of the bits I talked about in this.
I spoke about concerns of overdoing the Turing celebrations, saying: what Turing did was brilliant, but we should celebrate what Turing actually did, not some imagined feats, and we should not forget others in doing so. You can read more about this and find out about the article which suggested that had Turing lived then Silicon Valley might have been started in the UK at ‘Beware the Alan Turing fetish‘ by John Graham-Cumming.
Turing was convicted under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. In 2009 Gordon Brown issued an official apology for the way Turing was treated. Read about the official Government apology in ‘PM’s apology to codebreaker Alan Turing: we were inhumane‘. Read how the apology came about in ‘How Alan Turing Finally Got a Posthumous Apology‘ by John Graham-Cumming.
Now there is a current e-petition calling for a pardon for Turing. John Leech MP issued an early day motion calling for this pardon. (I also mentioned the current e-petition calling for a pardon for Oscar Wilde.)
Asked a question in House of Lords, a Government Justice Minister said “a posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate”. Read the text of Lord McNally’s statement.
I’ve seen the refusal to pardon Turing described as “homophobic” and an “act of malice“. Particularly, the complaint is that Turing is still seen as a criminal in the eyes of the law.
John Graham-Cumming on ‘Why I’m not supporting the campaign for a pardon for Alan Turing‘, in which he writes about the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which “specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing”.
To honour Turing I suggested you might attend events under the Alan Turing Year banner, or donate to Bletchley Park’s Action This Day! fundraising campaign.
This piece used audio from episodes 84 and 85 of the Pulse-Project Math/Maths Podcast.
A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Every odd integer larger than 1 is the sum of at most five primes; No pardon for Alan Turing; more super bowl math; Early results from the Met Office weather game; Trends in Race/Ethnicity and Gender Representation in the Mathematical Sciences; Wolfram|Alpha Pro; more on Elsevier boycott; & more.
Download or stream via pulse-project.org.
Subscribe via Math/Maths on iTunes or Math/Maths RSS feed.
A government minister in the Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, in response to a question from Lord Sharkey on Thursday 2nd February 2012 made a statement in the House or Lords that “a posthumous pardon [for Alan Turing] was not considered appropriate”.
The statement acknowledges that the offence of which Turing was convicted “now seems both cruel and absurd” but says that Turing “would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted”. This says that the:
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.
Back when the pardon petition was launched in November 2011, John Graham-Cumming, the man responsible for the Turing apology petition in 2009, wrote a blog post explaining why he did not support the pardon petition: Why I’m not supporting the campaign for a pardon for Alan Turing (26 November 2011).
On the Math/Maths Podcast this week Samuel Hansen spoke convincingly about a pardon, above an apology, as having the effect of removing the conviction, not merely apologising for it. Graham-Cumming points to the Protection of Freedoms bill, currently passing through the House of Lords, which:
specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing. Once disregarded the law causes their convictions to be deleted. It’s not quite the same thing as a pardon, but its effect is to lift the burden of a criminal record from these living men [those who are “still hurt by that law”].
Math/Maths 84 is now available.
A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. This week Peter spoke with special guest Matt Parker about Festival Of The Spoken Nerd, Your Days Are Numbered, use of the word ‘geek’ and the Telegraph Numeracy campaign, and with Samuel, live from the streets of New York City, spoke about: superbowl math; The Crafoord Prize; John Leech MP says Alan Turing should be pardoned; singingbanana code challenge 2012; Non-transitive Grime Dice; Facebook-type Mathematics networking site; Torus Games & more.
John Leech MP, on his blog, reports having submitted an Early Day Motion (EDM) to Parliament calling for a pardon for Alan Turing.
The Parliament website defines EDMs:
Early day motions (EDMs) are tabled by MPs to publicise a particular event or cause, and to gather support among MPs for that event or cause. MPs demonstrate their support for an EDM by signing the motion.
Gordon Brown issued a Government apology in 2009 for the way Turing was treated following a conviction of gross indecency in 1952. A pardon would go further. In his blog post, John Leech reports that the EDM is “prompted by a petition on the Downing Street web page”. This e-petition calls for a pardon to go “some way to healing” the damage caused by the circumstances of Turing’s death, in recognition of the work Turing did, and to “act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws”.
The full text of the petition is available on the Downing Street website and the full text of the EDM is on John Leech’s blog.
John Leech MP: Alan Turing should be pardoned (31 January 2012).
e-petition: Grant a pardon to Alan Turing.
BBC: PM apology after Turing petition (2009).
Parliament: Early Day Motions.