Autistically Awesome Alan Turing

The future of our society and our planet lies in recognizing Neurodiversity. Different brains are organized in different ways and are skilled at different tasks. People with so-called Bipolar Disorder have different brains. People with so-called Attention Deficit Disorder have different brains and people who are Autistic have different brains. Having a Neurodiverse mind presents all kinds of challenges and may require learning certain skills both for dealing with sensory stimuli and with social settings, but it does not mean that the Neurodiverse individual is not completely beautiful as they are and that they cannot do amazing wonderful things that can save the world.

Alan Turing was on the Autistic Spectrum. Harvey Milk was almost certainly Bipolar (II) and had a lot of ADHD traits. Would we want them any other way? No.

In the novel series, you will see how Alan has many of the traits associated with Autism. He was brutally honest, trusting, pure, and at times child-like.  He has at his disposal a huge supply of facts. He takes people’s words literally. He is always evaluating fresh data to build up his incredible mental map of the universe. When Alan is interested in something, he goes all the way and learns it, and that will include anyone lucky enough to be loved by him. Alan’s eye contact is either non-existent or full-on staring. Often he has a distant look in his eyes. He cannot understand a world in which being Gay is illegal, since he sees it only in its natural purity. He has trouble figuring out what other people are thinking but his tender heart is full of kindness and he has enormous empathy, so much so, it often floods his system.

Oh yes, and he did stop World War II and invent the field of Artificial Intelligence, and many more achievements.

My working theory is that Autistic people are emissaries from a galactic civilization way more advanced than ours. They probably are a telepathic civilization, hence the inability to read faces. They saw all the manipulation and cruelty and poor critical thinking of the humans on earth and volunteered to help us out.

Stuck in an elevator, there is no contest. I would want an Autistic companion. I cherish every time I spent hours discussing Computer Science or Math or Theology with someone who is Autistic, It is joyful, fun and mind-stretching. An Austistic person expressing their passions is a most beautiful life-enhancing thing.

In my novel series. Autistic Alan is the perfect match for Harvey Milk, who like Alan, also has his special interests (Opera) and does not really fit in anywhere. Harvey has had some rather difficult romantic relationships in which he was treated very cruelly. What a blessing and relief for him to find such an honest, caring love, who like many Autistic people, could be incredibly funny when in his natural habitat. Harvey desperately needs to be with someone who can cast mental as well as sexual sparks and Alan usually does both at once! Autistic people can make incredible partners and be incredible parents!

Long live Neurodiversity! Let’s build educational systems that support all kinds of brains  and help them thrive!

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How Alan Would Like to Be Remembered (Gay YES, Martyr NO)

Alan’s Sponge Cake

Mathematical Knitting with Alan

How Did Alan Turing Break the Enigma?

In the Navy

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How Alan Would Like to Be Remembered: (Hint: Gay yes, Martyr no!)

There is no denying it. Alan Mathison Turing, one of the most magnificent beings to grace this planet, was treated most shabbily and we cannot even begin to comprehend the repercussions of his loss.

But that does not mean that he wanted to be remembered as a tragic figure.

Yet time and time again on Twitter, in movies, it is his torture and his end that is given so much prominence.

You don’t have to hold up the man who pretty much stopped World War II, invented artificial intelligence and won marathons to make the rather obvious point that no human should be persecuted for acts of love between consenting adults. A crime against a person of lesser fame is no less a crime.

I’ve studied Alan very closely, read his biography, his writings, including an unpublished short story, and I can almost hear him whisper in my ear, “Enough of that rot, why don’t they remember me by considering my ideas, my philosophies, my speculations? I shan’t mind if they disagree; I would most certainly be delighted. Just focus on the ideas, please!”

Alan, I think, would cringe at being thought of as a gay martyr. But he would be thrilled at being remembered for his pride at being a “queer” man. He writes in his short story that he liked to parade his homosexuality.

He also took a distinct thrill in being a gay codebreaking warrior against a regime that forbade to employ gay codebreakers. He enjoyed the risk involved in partaking in an illicit subculture.

Alan would also have liked to be remembered as a free-thinker with a fierce code of ethics, as a decent chef and baker, and as a lover of maths and games, for his kindness to others and for his ability to give wise counsel in a wide range of fields.

On June 7, 2017, the 63rd anniversity of Alan’s transition to another realm, let’s honor Alan’s equally beautiful mind and heart and study closely how he broke the Enigma, consider his idea of the Turing Machine and his brilliant work on morphogenesis. Explore too all that he thought might be possible with artificial intelligence.

In contrast with this rather cold world of Big data, Fintech, Internet of Things, Machine learning and Deep learning, Alan retained a sense of humanism in his wonder in how a computer might enjoy strawberries and cream, how one might have a meangful conversation with a computer, how a computer might create music or write poetry.

Put down your smartphone (Alan does not strike me a fan of the ‘phone) and  go outside tonight and gaze with wonder at the stars like Alan, who so loved stargazing, he slept with his tools in his bed. It says in the book of Daniel 12:3:

“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Alan was no bible-thumper by any stretch of the term, but I think he might have liked that quotation. His light will never go out.

The best source of Alan on the Internet is the Alan Turing Scrapbook., which will give you access to many of these papers.

I love and miss you every day, Alan!

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Alan’s Sponge Cake

Mathematical Knitting with Alan

How Did Alan Turing Break the Enigma?

In the Navy

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Mathematical Knitting with Alan

(Photo by Phil Parker)

 

Hand crafts are an excellent way to soothe the nerves and get into a meditative state. Alan Turing, like many wonderful people, could get rather anxious at times. Knitting was thus an excellent hobby for him. It also was a great tie-in with the knitting sheep/White Queen of ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, another favorite of Alan’s.

It has been noted that his attempts at making mittens required some intervention on the part of a relative to complete the project. It also has been observed that Alan liked to knit Möebius strips.

Möebius strips are a rather paradoxical shape because they look like they have two sides but if you follow the strip all the way around with your fingers, you will find it only has one side. A related shape is the Klein bottle whose inside and outside are one. Here I will give you instructions to make your own Möebius strip out of paper and then how to knit your own Möebius strip, just like Alan! Like the knitting blogger we’re citing, Alan was left-handed.

 

Paper instructions are courtesy of http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/math/what-is-a-möbius-strip-and-how-can-you-make-one

1.Cut about a two-inch wide strip of paper from your full sheet and lay it out in front of you so that the long side of the paper is laying horizontally.

2.Write the letter “A” at the top-left corner of this strip, the letter “B” at the bottom-left corner, the letter “C” at the top-right corner, and the letter “D” at the bottom-right corner.

3.Hold the strip of paper in front of you. Now twist it one-half a turn so that the letters “A” and “B” on the left still face you but the letters “C” and “D” on the right now face away from you.

4. Bring the two short edges of your twisted strip together and tape them to make one long twisted loop. Corner “B” should match up with corner “C” and corner “A” should match up with corner “D”. Knitting instructions are courtesy of http://www.toroidalsnark.net/mkmb.html

 

Here are two knitting options.

Method 1:

Knit from the inside out, using scrap yarn. You’ll need two different colors of yarn, one for the Möbius band itself and a scrap yarn for casting on. I find plain cotton yarn the easiest to work with in all cases, but especially for the scrap. You’ll also need a sufficiently flexible circular needle. I think I usually use a size 7 or 8 in 24″ length for this, but other sizes should work as well.

Cast on 90 stitches in your scrap yarn. Because you’ll be removing the scrap yarn later, use a cast on method that easily pulls out.

.I create a slipknot loop and, using my fingers, pull another loop through it to start. Then I wrap the free end of the yarn over the needle, and (again using my fingers) pull a loop through the previous loop. Then I repeat.

If that made no sense, try this description instead.) In case you’re wondering why the scrap yarn is necessary at all, it’s to avoid any appearance of a seam in the finished product. This means that your Möbius band will have a central circle of 90 stitches in circumference.

If you’re making a wearable Möbius band rather than just a mathematical manipulative, you will of course want to adjust this number for gauge and fit. Onto the cast-on row, knit one row loosely, using the yarn-for-the-Möbius-band-itself. Leave a bit of a tail when you begin so that you have some to knit in when you’re done. (No knots allowed!) Note: you may want to purl one row instead. I think that whether you should purl or knit depends on the handedness of your cast-on row and the handedness of your knitting; the point is that some ways of knitting will ensnare the scrap yarn so it won’t pull out easily, so be aware of the issue.

Now, if you were doing ordinary circular knitting, you’d continue by stretching the other end of your row to the other tip of the needle, and knitting onto that. However, you’re going to introduce the intrinsic twist by instead knitting into the loops between the stitches of the row you just knit.

In order to do this, don’t stretch the other end of the row. Leave it where it is, and bring the tip of the needle to it. Then rotate the-other-end-of-the-row a bit so that you can access the loops between your stitches. Because these loops are not at the tip of a needle, you cannot do the ordinary (insert needle into loop)-(wrap yarn ’round needle)-(pull new loop through old)-(slide old loop off needle).

Instead, you’ll just do the first three of these operations, leaving your old loops still on the skinny part of the circlar needle… but instead of just knitting or just purling, you must *k1p1*. This has the effect of casting on an additional 89 stitches so that each ‘row’ has 179 stitches. (Note that if you cast on n stitches originally, knitting into the loops between will add n-1 stitches, giving an odd number of stitches total. This ensures that your *k1p1* will become seed stitch rather than ribbing, and that your seam will be invisible.)

Bizarre though this may seem, it’s consistent with the fact that a Möbius Band has only one edge, so it will appear that you’ll be knitting twice ’round the strip to traverse the edge once. Also, this will probably hurt your fingers or at least be rather uncomfortable, so don’t be shocked when that happens. When you’ve finished knitting into the loops-between-the-stitches, your needle will be loop-de-looped. Now you can just do *k1p1* forever, or rather, until you feel like you’re done. For a cute li’l strip, five ‘rows’ should be fine.

For a scarf, you’ll want more like twenty. When you’re done, just cast off as usual. There are three tasks that remain: knit in the end of the yarn, get rid of the scrap yarn, and knit in the beginning of the yarn.

When knitting in the beginning of the yarn, look carefully at your stitches so that you don’t create a hole or piece of seam. This is a modified/expanded version of Maria Iano-Fletcher’s translation of Miles Reid’s pattern.

Method 2:

Knit from the inside out, no scrap yarn needed. Once you’re used to it, this is the fastest method. However, the yarn forming the central circle doesn’t look quite as spiffy as when scrap yarn is used, because this method induces a little bit of additional torque on the yarn. (At least, it does when I do it. This could be a peculiarity of my less-than-orthodox left-handed knitting style.)Also, lots of people seem to have trouble figuring out how to do this, so be forewarned that it does require some thinking.

You’ll need some yarn and a circular needle that can coil twice ’round a circle (the way they’re conventionally used requires that they coil only once ’round a circle). Make a slip knot and slip it over one point of your needle. Grab the point in your right hand and hold the knot so it doesn’t slide away. Bend the needle so that the other point is (a) pointing to the left (b) in front of the point with the slipknot (c) in front of the yarn.

Now, using the cable instead of a piece of scrap yarn, do stranded cast-on. (Online instructions can be found on YouTube by Cat Bordhi—note that to be mathematically correct, you’ll need to omit her last yo in order to have an odd number of stitches—or on Eunny Jang’s blog.

Printed instructions for stranded cast-on can be found in June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting, p. 138 of the first edition; in Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, p. 66, it’s called invisible cast-on.) The number of stitches you cast on will be the number in the central circle of the Möbius band, which is roughly half the number of stitches on the boundary of the Möbius band. Pull the yarn to the front, so that it’s coming toward you from behind the cable (not the point of the needle). This will ensure that you end up with an odd number of stitches, which is necessary for the whole seed stitch thing to work out correctly.

What you do next depends on your handedness. If you’re left-handed, like me, you’ll turn the whole business around and knit into the slip knot. If you’re right-handed, you’ll purl into the slip knot.

After that, continue in seed stitch (*k1p1*), always knitting/purling by slipping the needle into the side of the stitch closest to you. I know, that sounds silly to say—that’s how we always knit/purl—but you might feel like you’re putting the needle in from a funny direction or in a funny piece of the stitch.

And you might actually be. Just alter your usual stitch in whatever way you have to, so that none of your stitches twist. (If that confuses you, I recommend reading The Principles of Knitting, pages 23-24 and 32-34 of the first edition, or Anna Zilboorg’s Knitting for Anarchists, pages 14-22.)

 

Then keep going until you’ve reached the desired width. Bind off in pattern and weave in the end. Now go back, untie the slip knot (which may take some doing) and weave in that end in pattern as well, being careful not to leave a hole. If you don’t remove the slip knot, it will be very easy to see where you started.

 

Congratulations! You have now been able to share the joy of knitting and math at the same time!

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Alan’s Sponge Cake

How Did Alan Turing Break the Enigma?

In the Navy

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Alan’s Sponge Cake

Cake from WHR(P).jpg

Alan Turing was a man of numerous talents.  He could break unbreakable codes, invent artificial intelligence, make huge contributions to morphogenesis, run marathons at an Olympic level, knit and bake.

Now Harvey Milk (Alan’s husband in the novel series) was quite the gourmet chef and an excellent host to boot,  but he was not much of a baker. Apparently, on the day of his death he offered to make a carrot cake for a friend who had a birthday and the friend promptly declined. Whereas cooking can be rewarding for those who like to make things up as they go along and like to interact with the dish while in progress, successful baking rewards patience, precision, and following step-by-step procedures to the T, none of which are particular strengths of the otherwise amazing Harvey.

Alan Turing, in contrast, has all these qualites. He liked to cook and was very proud of his baking ventures. This is no wonder since baking is really a form of applied Chemistry. The constant temperature water bath is just but one of many chemistry techniques you can apply to the kitchen. According to Andrew Hodges, Alan was especially pleased in learning how to make a sponge cake.

But which sponge cake?

There are two types of sponge cake in the UK. One is made by the foam method and one was made by the batter method. UK sponge cakes made by the batter method are what are called pound cakes in the US. UK sponge cakes made by the foam method are more like Angel Food cakes in the US. I am grateful for Wikipedia   (“Sponge Cake”) for this information.

It seems likely that Alan Turing made his cake using the foam method. This kind of cake requires very little in the way of oil or butter. Since the UK was still rationing butter until May of 1954, Alan could only have made the batter kind of cake during the last month of his life.

Yet there are some indications that he also really loved the Victorian Sponge Cake, which is layered with strawberries and cream. Alan was most keen about how artificial intelligence might enjoy strawberries and cream.

In light of this, I will supply recipes for both kinds of cake as well as a special sponge cake made during severe rationing — that yes, includes carrots. And so we have come full circle.

Baking in Britain is different from baking in the US in several respects. Many ovens (and stovetops) are gas and you set the oven not to a numerical temperature but to a gas mark, although that term was not used until 1958. Also, your ingredients are often measured by mass (grams) rather than by volume.

1. Foam Cake

This recipe is courtesy of  http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/3847/angel-food-cake.aspx

10 egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

250 g (9 oz) caster sugar

125 g (4½ oz) plain white flour, sifted

Method

Prep:1hr 55min  ›  Cook:45min  ›  Ready in: 2hr 40min

Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Sprinkle the cream of tartar and the vanilla and almond extracts over them and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff but not dry.

Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously: the mixture should be shiny and form soft peaks.

Fold the flour in with a metal spoon, blending it thoroughly without breaking down the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into an ungreased 23 cm (9 in) ring-shaped cake tin; if you do not have one, use a round cake tin and put an empty can upside-down in the centre to make the hole. Bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and feels dry.

To cool the cake, leave it in the tin and turn it upside-down, supporting the centre column of the cake tin, or the empty can, on a jar so that the cake is not resting on anything and can ‘stretch’ downwards. Leave it to cool for at least 1 hour 30 minutes.

To take the cake out of the tin, run a knife around its outside and turn it upside-down onto a plate. Serve the cake with either of the preserves listed in the description, or with ginger-lemon sauce (see Honeydew Melon with Ginger-Lemon Sauce on this website)

2. Victoria Sponge Cake

This cake traditionally requires both carefully weighing the eggs and being very strict about temperature and cooking time. Recipe is courtesy of http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3201674/strawberry-sponge-cake.

225g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

3 large eggs

225g self-raising flour

100ml single cream

135g strawberries, mashed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Double cream and strawberry jam (optional filling)

Preheat the oven to 180C/electric. Grease two 20 cm cake tins and line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk the butter and sugar together until combined. Then, add the eggs one at a time and mix. Then, add all the single cream and mix once again.

With a wooden spoon fold in the flour a third at a time until the mixture is smooth.

In a separate bowl place the mashed strawberries and vanilla extract and mix gently with a small metal spoon. Add the strawberry mixture to the smooth cake mixture and combine.

Pour the mixture into the cake tins and bake on a middle shelf for 20 minutes.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 30 minutes before removing. After cooled, spread as much jam as desired on one of the two sponges. Then whip some double cream and place on top of the jam. Take the other sponge and sandwich both sponges together. Serve!

3,  Ration Time Sponge Cake AKA Victory Sponge Cake

This recipe is courtesy of http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/world-war-two-in-western-europe/britains-home-front-in-world-war-two/world-war-two-dessert-recipes/

1 large raw potato, grated

2 medium raw carrots

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon self-raising flour

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla or lemon essence

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons jam

“Mix together the grated potato and carrots, breadcrumbs, flour, sugar and flavouring. Thoroughly stir in the baking powder. Put the jam in a heated basin and spread it around to cover the inside of the basin. Cool. Put in the pudding mixture, tie on a cover of margarine paper, and steam for 2 hours.”

There you have it. Three different ways to make a UK sponge cake! Why not have a special sponge cake party of your own and compare them?  Alan will surely be smiling down on you from heaven with his cat Timothy, his teddy bear Porgy and of course, his own true love, Harvey.

Photograph by Phil Parker from UK

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READ MORE ABOUT ALAN

Mathematical Knitting with Alan

How Did Alan Turing Break the Enigma?

In the Navy

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