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Analytical Engine, Lovelace & Babbage LEGO Ideas proposal needs support

Analytic Engine LEGO set

LEGO have a system where people can propose new LEGO sets. If they get 10,000 supporters, they will be reviewed by LEGO. If LEGO like the idea, it may become an actual set they sell (and the person who proposed the idea benefits with 1% of net sales and other rewards).

Anyway, Stewart Lamb Cromar (an e-learning chap at University of Edinburgh) has proposed a set based on the Analytical Engine and featuring Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage minifigures (including, apparently, spanners). An idea has to get 1,000 supporters in its first year or it will expire; this one has passed that bar in less than two months and has over 2,600 supporters at time of writing.

Anyway, I think it looks quite cool. To support it is free, though you have to sign up for a LEGO ID and answer a short survey: ‘What would you expect this product to cost (USD)?’, ‘How many do you think most people would buy?’, ‘Who do you think this project would be good for?’ and ‘How difficult would you say this project would be to build?’. It only took a couple of minutes (I was supporter no. 2604).

Expect more Ada Lovelace this year as it’s the 200th anniversary of her birth on 10th December. For example, on 17th September at 9pm BBC Four is showing a documentary by Hannah Fry: Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing.

More information

Lovelace & Babbage at LEGO Ideas.

Via Alice Ballard ReTweeting @LegoLovelace on Twitter.

Babbage’s difference engine is really, really pretty

Hands up if you knew there was a working replica of Babbage’s difference engine in California.

(My hand is not up.)

This glorious machine lives in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. A company called xRez Studio, which specialises in taking extremely high resolution gigapixel photos of things, has taken some extremely high resolution gigapixel photos of the difference engine. They’re so lovely that it feels wrong to be looking at them at work.

The photos are only avaiable on xRez Studio’s website, or as part of the Babbage exhibit at the Computer History Museum, but xRez has also released a video of the machine in action, which we can embed here.

Ada Lovelace Day Book out now

A-Passion-for-Science-coverAda Lovelace Day was on 15th October this year. It’s an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, comprising blog posts about women scientists as well as live events around the world.

The nice people at, the home of the Ada Lovelace Day project, have collated a set of essays on famous (and those perhaps unfairly overlooked) women in science, celebrating their contribution to many different areas, and telling their stories. The resulting book is called “A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention”. Maths is certainly represented: as well as being part of a project named after a woman famously involved in mathematics, the book also contains (awkward plug ahead) a chapter on the mathematician Kathleen Ollerenshaw, written by the Aperiodical’s own Katie Steckles (me).

The book is available to buy as an eBook from the Finding Ada website for £5.99.

More information

Buy the book: A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention

About Ada Lovelace Day

Much ado About Noether

Calvin Smith tweeted this morning to tell us that today is International Women’s Day, and took the opportunity to remind his followers of some of the women in the mathematical sciences. Stealing his idea Following his lead, we thought we would write a post on the theme.

The Aperiodical is of course a pro-everybody enterprise all year round, but it doesn’t hurt to take some time to remind ourselves of the fact that women are just as capable as men of contributing to the field of maths. Incredibly, some people still don’t think this is the case!

Women in Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

At the Royal Society this week, they’ve celebrated Ada Lovelace Day with an Edit-A-Thon of everyone’s favourite The Free Encyclopedia. A group gathered yesterday to hack away at some of Wikipedia’s most neglected entries – those covering famous females. Partly due to the under-representation of women in editing, such articles can be under-developed and/or have a male slant.

While Ada Lovelace’s entry is pretty impressive and full of information about the pioneering mathematician, there are many others worthy of note which haven’t had so much attention. This article in The Guardian describes some examples of pages which need sprucing up, and the planned list of pages to edit can be found here.

Many other events are being planned along similar lines, including this one at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and this one in Manchester. Why not join in and edit some pages yourself?

Calculus of the Nervous System

Emily Howard - Photo by Daniel RMAnyone who caught any of this summer’s BBC Proms may have noticed that in the midst of the World’s Greatest Classical Music Festival, someone managed to sneak in a bit of mathematics. Emily Howard, whose degree was in Mathematics and Computing at Oxford, has become a composer whose works are performed alongside Glinka and Shostakovich. I spoke to Emily about her latest composition, Calculus of the Nervous System, which was part of this year’s Prom 51, on 21st August.