The Bank of England has announced, following a public poll, that the new £50 note will feature mathematician, cryptographer and computer science pioneer Alan Turing. While this might seem like unambiguous good news, the issues it raises are more complicated than they first appear. Here’s a guest post from LGBT+ mathematician Calvin Smith with his thoughts on the decision.
It’s obviously fabulous that Alan Turing is being recognised on the new £50 note, but this joy at seeing a gay mathematician given this recognition is tainted with the memory of his cruel treatment by the society of the day and the ongoing persecution of queer and trans people today.
On the 15th of May 1951 the BBC broadcast a short lecture by the mathematician Alan Turing under the title Can Computers Think? This was a part of a series of lectures on the emerging science of computing which featured other pioneers of the time, including Douglas Hartree, Max Newman, Freddie Williams and Maurice Wilkes. Together they represented major new projects in computing at the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester. Unfortunately these recordings no longer exist, along with all other recordings of Alan Turing. So I decided to rerecord Turing’s lecture from his original script.
The University of Manchester’s annual Alan Turing Cryptography Competition and MathsBombe Competition are now open for registration. Now in its seventh year, the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition is for year 11 and below in England and Wales, S4 in Scotland and Year 12 in N. Ireland. There’s also a competition for older students – MathsBombe is open to year 13 and below in England and Wales, S6 in Scotland and Year 14 in N. Ireland.
Every one to two weeks a new chapter of the six-chapter story is released, and each chapter has a new cryptographic puzzle to solve. Teams consisting of up to four people can win prizes for being the first to solve each puzzle, and also for being randomly picked from all correct entries for each puzzle.
In September, Katie and Paul spent a week blogging from the Heidelberg Laureate Forum – a week-long maths conference where current young researchers in maths and computer science can meet and hear talks by top-level prize-winning researchers. For more information about the HLF, visit the Heidelberg Laureate Forum website.
5th Heidelberg Laureate Forum 2017, Heidelberg, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/HLF
The closing talk of the HLF’s main lecture programme (before the young researchers and laureates head off to participate in scientific interaction with SAP representatives to discuss maths and computer science in industry) was given by Fields Medalist Steve Smale.
The London Mathematical Society (LMS) has been honoured this autumn by receiving the first Royal Society Athena Prize to recognise its advancement of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within the mathematical community. The prize was awarded in a ceremony at the Royal Society’s annual diversity conference on 31 October.
Fourth Christopher Zeeman medal goes to Rob Eastaway
Mathematician, author and friend of the site Rob Eastaway has received the 2016 Christopher Zeeman medal, awarded to recognise and acknowledge the contributions of mathematicians involved in promoting mathematics to the public and engaging with the public in mathematics in the UK.
There will be an award lecture taking place on 22 March 2017, and details will be announced in Mathematics Today and the LMS Newsletter.
In our traditional mode of picking apart the programmes of upcoming science festivals to make sure they’re doing their maths homework, here’s a round-up of the mathematicial goodies on offer at the upcoming Manchester Science Festival, running from 22nd October – 1st November at venues across Manchester.