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Slashback: Bots, Time Travel, Turing 340

Posted by timothy
from the good-travel-on-route-81 dept.
More on the Battlebots trademark dispute, proof that some of your are listening to Dr. Who on the Beeb, and a memorial -- finally -- for Alan Turing, in tonight's round of updates, corrections, and further info.

That eerie, eerie theme music will get in your head all day. sideshow-voxx writes: "The BBC has announced that there will be more installments of the Audio Adventure Dr Who - Death Comes to Time available on the web in the New Year."

This is cool news (the accompanying art is a nice touch with this Dr. Who presentation), but it would be nice if they would put the episodes into more audio formats as well.

Things always seem to get more complicated. Eric Molitor, ("Linux hacker and Builder of Violator - Linux powered BattleBot that competed in May") wrote about the BattleBots vs. Battlebots story of the other day, saying:

"As a BattleBot competitor I was horrified when I noticed your article but here are some corrections... BattleBots INC != BattleBots the show.

BattleBots INC is suing and not the TV show. (Comedy Central tapes the tournaments and airs portions of the finals on a TV show. But thats just like showing NFL games mostly. The TV company just pays a licensing fee to broadcast the event.)

Do a little research and the guy registered his domain at least a year after the first BattleBots competition in Long Beach. (Early 1998) In fact the battlebots.org domain was registered after BattleBots.com, and after BattleBots applied for their TM.

So this kid (running a script kiddie hosting service no less) registers a domain after somebody applies for the TM and then asks for $5K to give it up. Sounds like cyber-squatting to me. Also take a look at the dates on the website for the replies, etc. Things don't look right ....

Still BattleBots is dumb not to have registered the .org domain.

For a little history on BattleBots and the law suits, etc. that RobotWars got into that nearly destroyed this sport take a look at http://www.robotcombat.com/history.html.

Greg and Tray gave up a lot and everybody got together to dodge RobotWars/Profile records lawsuits to prevent the sport from happening. I'd hate to see them unfairly get a bad name."

Thanks, Eric.

Something to see in England. slathering wrote with news that the Alan Turing memorial written about in this Slashdot story has finally materialized. He writes: "I read about this in this months IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (who doesn't have a website). But I found the website for the memorial itself. Apparently funding was found for the Alan Turing Memorial since it was unveiled June 23, 2001 in Manchester, England. It was funded without any donations from the computing industry."

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Slashback: Bots, Time Travel, Turing

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  • Turing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by notext (461158)
    I had no idea he was so young.

    Makes you wonder what would have come had he lived twice as long and had the more powerful technology to play with.
    • Makes you wonder what would have come had he lived twice as long and had the more powerful technology to play with.

      The tragedy is compounded by the fact he was essentially persecuted and murdered for being a homosexual. It isn't like he burned out (e.g. Mozart) or brought about his own death through an inability to deal with reality (e.g. any of several dozen great musicians in the past half century). It also wasn't through a tragic accident. It was a deliberate act against a true war hero for being a member of a certain group.
      • It isn't like he burned out (e.g. Mozart)

        Mozart died only a short while after the first performance of the magic flute and was composing his requiem right up to his death. In fact his ability to compose was still so strong that a rival composer Salieri had actually commissioned the requiem, apparently with the intention of passing it off as his own.

        Mozart's financial difficulties were not quite as dire as his wife later made them out to be. He certainly did not die from poverty, he simply had difficulty meeting the expenses of living in the style expected at court. At the time of his death the English court had decided to open negotiations with him to bring him to London as court composer so his money problems would have been shortly solved.

    • Re:Turing (Score:1, Troll)

      by agentZ (210674)
      Makes you wonder what would have come had he lived twice as long and had the more powerful technology to play with.

      I don't know. Turing's most famous accomplishment, the Turing Machine, is really a thought experiment that has very little to do with sitting down at a computer and hacking away at it.
      • Turing and von Neumann created the basic theory behind all computers and programming languages in existence today. It is true that he didn't hack away at a keyboard; what he did was make it possible for you to hack away at a keyboard. The difference between Turing and your garden-variety hacker is that while Turing was an artist and a visionary, most hackers are tradespeople - both important positions, to be sure, but one exists at a much higher level than the other.
    • I had no idea he was so young.

      Makes you wonder what would have come had he lived twice as long and had the more powerful technology to play with.


      Aren't most 'original' contributions in science and math made by the young? It's a generalization, and you have people like Feynman who will break *any* mold, but ISTR hearing that many mathematicians consider themselves failures if they haven't changed the world by 35 or so... (well, the ones who were aiming that high anyway :)
  • Re: Alan Turing? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bodero (136806) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:10PM (#2253738)
    Who is Alan Turing? No no no, honestly, I don't know! Should I?

    You should. Alan Turing is considered by some to be the father of modern Artificial Intelligence. A troubled soul whose contributions to the world included The Turing Test (to measure whether a program is artificially intelligent or not) and cracking the German Enigma cypher code during the war.http://www.math.sfu.ca/histmath/Europe/20thCen turyAD/Turing.html [math.sfu.ca] for more info.

    • Re: Alan Turing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by anotherbadassmf (159050) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:32PM (#2253793)
      Actually, I don't think he did much for AI, except for the turing test, which is more of philosophical theory.

      More acurately he is the father of Computing Science and he developed the "turing machine" -- basically the simplest model of a machine necessary to compute anything that is computable. He also determined what is computable by a machine and what is not computable, e.g.the halting problem [v-wave.com]

      • > Actually, I don't think he did much for AI, except for the turing test, which is more of philosophical theory.

        I just attended a lecture this afternoon by John Searle, where he devoted some time to talking about Turing. I got the impression that by developing the Turing Machine, Test, etc., Turing created the foundation for present-day functionalism in cog-sci. From what I understand, it sounds like the wet-dream cog-sci project is to simulate the "software" our brain runs on conventional hardware. And this AI project only makes sense insofar as the theory that humans themselves are essentially a sort of universal turing machine holds.

        But I could be totally misunderstanding Searle =)

        • Oooh, really? How was it? I'm something of a fan of Searle after a mind/brain/AI philosophy course I took. What was the lecture on, if you don't mind?

      • Basically its using a 3d imaginary world, much like what you see in quake, but with real world laws... Kinda like your imagination... Objects in the world as you can guess are real objects in reality.

        With the ability to have a 3d imagination, rules of what can be done and what can't, and basic language understanding which corresponds with its 3d mind... Then you have AI... Picture Zork, but when it says,"I don't understand the word X", for it to ask you, or use the context to guess the word.

        I'm talking with some robotics professors at CMU and they really like what I have to say. Once I finish my talks there I'm probably going to get in touch with the guys from CYC and tell them maybe they want to add a 3d imagination so context can be formed.
      • Not only AI (Score:2, Informative)

        by tree_frog (113005)
        Alan Turing also wrote a paper called "The chemical basis of morphogenesis" which is one of the key papers in explaining how morphogenesis can produce differnt types of cells and hence organisms with differntiated parts (arms, legs, tentacles), or patterned coats (zebra stripes, cow splodges, cheetah spots) etc, on the basis of sets of chemical reactions.

        A genius spanning several fields....

        Regards

        Treefrog.
    • Alan Turing is considered by some to be the father of modern Artificial Intelligence.

      He's much more than that. He's as much the father of the modern digital computer as von Neumann. His mathematical theories laid the foundation for what's essentially all of computer science. The btinternet.com link above mentions the Universal Turing Machine, which models what is and is not computable by a machine. And as far as we know, there is nothing that can be computed that cannot be computed by the Universal Turing Machine.

      The idea that the Universal Turing Machine models all that is computable by any machine is known as "Church's Thesis," and it is this thesis which represents one of the foundations of modern AI research.

      But pretty much all of modern computability and complexity theory got its start with Turing.

    • Alan Turing didn't crack the Enigma cipher. He refined the method pioneered by Marian Rejewski [impan.gov.pl]. Later when the Germans corrected the weakness that Rejewski's method exploited, he was able to once again extend the method to reduce the brute force cracking time.
      • Darn! You beat me to the correction!

        Yes, the first one to actually break the Enigma was Rejewski, a Polish mathematician. (Source: "Seizing The Engima".)

        Turing was one of many who worked at Bletchley Park and contributed to the Allied war effort through signal intelligence. He is worthy of our respect for numerous things, however, single handedly breaking the German encryption is not one of them...
    • As far as his involvement with the British GCHQ, little more other than his role in cracking Enigma is known for his involvement in crpyto. Rumor has it that an asymmetric crypto algorithm similar to RSA was developed late during WWII, yet was too complex for the times in order to actually be used. IIRC, the book The Code Book by Simon Singh says Turing was involved in it's development. Can anyone confirm this?
    • I took the Turing test and failed it. Does that mean I'm not intelligent, or just that I'm not artificially so?
  • Battlebots.org (Score:2, Interesting)

    by krugdm (322700)
    Well, this surely sheds a little more light on the Battlebots situation. The NFL analogy is a good one. CBS and Fox have no rights to the NFL name. They only pay $100's of millions for the right to broadcast the games. So it's not Comedy Central that is not suing the kid, but the owner of the Battlebots properties. Who registered his trademark long before the battlebots.org name was registered. I think the kid would be better off taking his $70 for the domain transfer and cutting his losses now...
  • by Bodero (136806) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:15PM (#2253757)
    Is it like the rock band the Who or like Mr McGoo?

    Doctor Who was a popular television show that ran in Belgium between 1972-1974. In it's day it was one of the most popular shows in Belgium and it starred Larry Lamb and John Craven (who went on to star in Hollywood movies such as Terminator and Total Recall).
    No episodes exist of this classic TV show, but we can relive the episodes thanks to Steve Roberts who has reconstructed them from Crayon drawings and dialogue from episodes of Eldorado. The show was axed in 1974 after allegations that it was just a big hoax designed to extract money from the Belgium TV service. These allegations were denied by the production company, Grabitandrun.

    There is another Doctor Who series as well, but by all accounts it was some obscure rubbish that is long since dead.

  • Doctor Who (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dorward (129628)

    Well it certainly seems that Doctor Who is still popular. Not only is it being published on the web but the BBC releases an old episode on DVD every 3 months, has fequent VHS releases, comes up with two new novels every month and has licensed Big Finish [doctorwho.co.uk] to produce audio plays on CD in to the second half of this decade.

    It's a wonder that with all this interest nobody is filming new episodes for TV.

    • I was thinking the same thing, but i really dont know how it would go on TV these days. Part of the attraction for the show was that the sets were so crap, they had to make up for it with a good story. These days, i fear, it would be the reverse!
    • Well, they did make some attempt at it. Fox picked up the license in the states to do a new series. Paul McGann [imdb.com] was picked to be the successor to Sylvester McCoy [imdb.com]. They did a pilot episode... McGann was fairly impressive as the Doctor, though the rest of the show wasn't too hot. (Eric Roberts [imdb.com] was the bad guy, I think he was the Master. He... was... AWFUL. Does anyone actually thing Eric Roberts is scary, other than in the good-lord-he's-terrible department?) I was, however, hoping they'd go on to do some more - I think McGann would have been excellent. Apparently the response was terrible. Dr. Who fans slagged it as being commercial and American and non-fans couldn't have cared less. So... they cut their losses. They kept McGann on contract should something spectacular happen to make them reconsider, but as of now, it's dead. Anyone have a copy of it?

  • by perdida (251676) <thethreatproject ... .com minus punct> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:18PM (#2253764) Homepage Journal
    there are many artificial systems designed to interact with humans even now that fool humans.

    One has to set different standards for different kinds of cognition, communication and interaction. An IRC user can sound like a computer if he or she is from another country and has a limited grasp of the language in which you and s/he are conversing, for instance.

    A human can compete with a chess playing computer and his or her experience with computers may have been limited, so without further input that chess playing human may mistake this computer for another live person.

    I think that artificial intelligence wpould be best measured with an understanding of emotion and ethics, so psychological and ethical examinations, such as those administered in Blade Runner.

    • Sure, computers can fool humans for certain tasks, and maybe certain domains of conversation. However, to past the Turing test a computer must be able to fool a human interrogator on questions of ALL topics.

      That, is not easy...
      • Also, being able to pass the turing test in complete detail is of dubious value.

        If a computer is to act like a human, it must be fallible, have limited knowledge, and operate at a human's speed (or at least answer as if it were operating at such a speed).

        So what you've done is destroy all the features of a computer that make it superior to a human (including speed and flawless recovery of data).

        A more useful AI would be clearly a computer, as it's primary function would be to assist a human in doing the tasks a human is not equipped to do well.

        Doug
    • I think that artificial intelligence wpould be best measured with an understanding of emotion and ethics, so psychological and ethical examinations, such as those administered in Blade Runner.

      Um, fine. If you think those questions are important, then include them in your Turing Test. You're just making the test stronger, not weaker.

    • For one:

      I think that artificial intelligence wpould be best measured with an understanding of emotion and ethics, so psychological and ethical examinations, such as those administered in Blade Runner.

      What do you think a Turing test is? In Blade Runner, they were not looking to see if someone had a proper sense of ethics... they were seeing if someone had *any* sense of ethics. Also, the idea of a human playing against a computer in chess and thinking it is another human is utterly silly (at this point) when you are talking outside the chess-game. Sure, the person might think they know the playing style of the computer, and therefore assign a human identity to it, but the instant a conversation comes up about stuff like "What'd you do yesterday" and "Why don't you live with your parents anymore" the cat would be out of the bag faster than you can blink.

      For two (or something like that):

      The whole point of the Turing test is that if a computer can fool a trained human in a double blind test reliably... it doesn't matter if they are naturally or artificially intelligent. Think about that. If you can't tell if it is human or not... does it matter whether it is actually human? Shouldn't you treat it as if it were human? This is a pragmatic approach (formal pragmatics, not pragmatics which is that same as "practicality"), but no less valid for that. If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, walks like a duck...
    • "there are many artificial systems designed to interact with humans even now that fool humans."

      The point of the Loebner test (that yearly, gimmicky, Turing-inspired spectacle that purports to be engaging in a Turing test) is to fool humans. A number of people in the AI field consider the Loebner test a joke. It has as much to do with true AI, as Battlebots has to do with hard-core robotics. That isn't to say it's not fun, and that isn't to say some interesting ideas don't come out of it, but for the most part, it's the AI-equivilant of over-glorified RC cars, rather than the AI-equivilant of Mars rovers.

      The point of the Turing test, on the other hand, is almost more of just a definition of intelligence. It's trying to describe a machine being capable of engaging in the type of dialogue that a human can engage in (which involves being able to learn new concepts, discuss philosophical issues, and so forth). It isn't trying to describe a machine that uses a few pre-programmed catch phrases and algorithms (such as Eliza's ever popular "swap first and second person and rephrase it as a question") to make people think it's aware.

  • I don't see an eternal flame in the Turing Memorial. Of course, it should have have an infinite tape [ams.org]
    • It would be neat to have a running Universal Turing Machine running with a couple of Moebius tapes at the memorial, per secula seculorum.

      Actually, it would be neat to have it running with a single Moebius tape, and just see what happens.

      Feed the output to the web, or something.
  • Dr Who Remix (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The new Dr Who music is done by a duo called Orbital [loopz.co.uk], yeah, old skool.

    I'm sure many of you are already familiar with them... but I'm not sure if electronic, house etc are that big in the US despite the fact the Roland 303 first hit the streets of Detroit and SF.
  • Prejudice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by os2fan (254461) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:35PM (#2253800) Homepage
    Homosexuality and gender identity are conditions of birth, and affect something like 11% of the population, to some degree.

    In the main, you can not change it. The smart ones survive it, the dumb ones commit suicide. That's the reality. A little love and understanding, and a little openness makes life more bearable.

    Alan Turning was a brilliant mathematician, he was also a homosexual. Having a gender issue does not prevent you from making a serious contribution to society. On the other hand, the very same thing, like any other defect, gives one ample scope to master other skills to a much more worthy level.

    And it's sad, that we take away from these great people the fruits of their work, and at the same time, make their life more miserable for what they are. Even if this makes them what they are.

    Learn to love and cherish variety. It's what make the world go around.

    • Learn to love and cherish variety. It's what make the world go around.

      Now I'm all for variety -- but it seems that the world has been spinning on its axis perfectly well with generation after untold generation of hate, murder and other nasty behaviour.
    • Another good example of "having a gender issue does not prevent you from making a serious contribution to society" is lynn conway. They dug her out of the woodwork a few years back, before then, the early history on things such as VLSI was unknown. It was finally tracked down to her work before she transitioned from male to female. She managed to stay off of people's scopes for quite a while, afraid (quite fairly) of how our society treats transsexuals.

      -= rei =-

      P.S. - about Turing and the apple: the best theory I've read states that it was a well planned out suicide. After having been on hormones for a year, he had sunk into a strong depression, and steadily became more suicidal. However, he didn't want his mother thinking that he had killed himself. She had frequently warned him to wash his hands after handling dangerous chemicals. While there was far too much on the apple to be accidental, it was a method of death to which his mother insisted that he died accidentally, even though it was ruled a suicide.
  • by Robber Baron (112304) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:41PM (#2253818) Homepage
    Linux hacker and Builder of Violator - Linux powered BattleBot that competed in May

    Somebody needs to build an NT powered battlebot, then we can have a serious NT vs Linux battle. (Of course the bastard will probably bluescreen as soon as the competition heats up...)
    • Just make sure that it's not running an unpatched IIS... or Outlook.

      But if the Linux battlebot infected the NT battlebot with a virus, could it be banned for using 'biological' weapons?

      :)
    • Somebody needs to build an NT powered battlebot, then we can have a serious NT vs Linux battle. (Of course the bastard will probably bluescreen as soon as the competition heats up...

      And it would have to be NT - if you used XP, everytime you changed the chain on the low-mounted chain saw, you'd have to call Microsoft for a new activation code. Think of all the activation reminders during an actual battle!

  • by 4n0nym0u53 C0w4rd (463592) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:44PM (#2253835) Homepage
    Bletcheley Park [bletchleypark.org.uk], where Alan Turing and others defeated the German Enigma (as well as other codes) during WW2 is also in some financial trouble. If you find yourself in England, it's worth a trip. Until then, they could use your support [bletchleypark.org.uk] (or you can buy stuff [bletchleypark.org.uk] from them).

    Having visited Bletcheley Park for the first time last year, I highly recommend the trip. If you have any interest in WW2, code breaking, or the history of computing, it is a great place to visit. You can really feel the history as you walk past the huts where Turing and others worked. If you've read Cryptonomicon or The Code Book, it's even cooler.
    • On a related note, Tom Stoppard wrote a movie called "Enigma" about Bletcheley park. It was produced by the odd pairing of Mick Jagger and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels.

      I saw the movie at Sundance last year (both Lorne & Mick as well as the director Michael Apted were there and answered questions afterwards) and while it wasn't a GREAT film by any means, I think it would definately be interesting to the slashdot crowd-- Kate Winslet was pretty awesome (she's good in everything though) and it had a cool "cloak and dagger" feel to it.

      I'm not sure if the movie's out yet. I also can't remember Alan Turing being mentioned specifically, though there are lots of scenes of guys brainstorming trying to crack the code, plenty of BBC-esque twists and turns, and the film does a great job of explaining how the enigma machine actually operates. Just getting to see it how it was actually used in close-up is pretty cool.

      I believe Mick Jagger actually had one of the few surviving enigmas which they used for the film. I also think Jagger has a cameo as an english general or something for about a 10th of a second, but it was so fast I coulda been wrong.

      During the Q&A the actors said they got to meet many of the surviving members of the Bletcheley Park team, and some scientists tried to explain to them what they were saying in the film. They didn't understand it apparently, but had a lot of respect for those guys..

      The best laugh was when during a somewhat technical discussion about the enigma machine and the various sea battle sequences, someone asked how historically accurate the film was and Lorne Michaels replied, "Well, the film was mostly accurate-- although in the actual war, the Germans lost."

      W

    • Neal Stephenson is an admirer of Turing. He's mentioned in "The Diamond Age" and is actually a character in Cryptonomicon, which is a great read.
  • I'm grasping at a good description here, but the Turing memorial seems very... appropriate. Very dignified.
  • Irony of the Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sebastopol (189276) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @08:50PM (#2253851) Homepage
    The irony of Turing holding the apple is quite a powerful message, as stated at the end of the article. Symbol of Newton, and yet he deliberately took his life with one (news to me).

    Imagine helping save Europe from the Nazi's and then being prodded and forced by politicians and doctors to take libido-surpressing drugs: people who's very asses you helped save, all because they're fucking prudes.

    Fuckers.

    Makes me recite the anticlericalist mantra: intolerance of the intolerant. In the words of Consolidated (from Play More Music), "Yes, we're hypocrites, but for the left."

    • I saw the play 14 years ago, but the Turing character was so vivid that it seems like last week. His pre-suicide monologue compared his own fatal apple to Snow White's. The computer section of the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology may still have a video clip of the "Can machines think?" monologue. Since the same actor led the fundraising for the statue, I wonder which came first: playing the role, or caring about Turing.
    • by Rei (128717)
      Not just libido-suppressing drugs... *estrogens* (back then, probably Premarin - a concentrate of equine estrogens made from the urine of pregnant horses... I believe it was the only estrogen on the market back then). There's a big difference. A male could get a bilateral orchiectomy or take a lot of androcur or spironolactone, and have a lower testosterone level than most women. Taking estrogens actually will not reduce a male's libido as much as androgen blockers that were known in his time. There's some counterindication between testosterone and the major estrogens, but in reality, the biggest effect of a male taking estrogens is *feminization*, not *devirilization*. I.e., skin, fat, and muscle changes, breast/nipple development, et al.

      -= rei =-
    • The irony of Turing holding the apple is quite a powerful message, as stated at the end of the article. Symbol of Newton, and yet he deliberately took his life with one (news to me).

      Actually, he took his life with cyanide. The apple is a symbol of that (apple seeds contain a very minute amount of cyanide).
  • Some payback... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Black Art (3335) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:01PM (#2253882)
    I have read some of Turing's papers. The man was *far* ahead of his time. He was a major factor in breaking Enigma. His work was the basis for computing as we know it today.

    If it was not for Turning, many of us would be speaking German. (And I have a bad enough time spelling as it is...)

    And as payback he was hounded to the point where he commited suicide because the narrow-minded twits who were/are in charge of Britian thought that being a homosexual was a "security risk". (The only people who were overly concerned about it were the ones in the Government. You can't be blackmailed if no one cares.)

    As Frank Zappa said "Drool Britiania".

    And even more shameful is that NO ONE in the computer industry is willing to honor the man in a way where their name will be seen. Are they that concerned about the blue-noses and busy bodies? Must be. Not like they don't owe him for Computer Science as we know it today...

    But they are not alone in the blame game. The ACM and IEEE should have been involved as well.

    Too damn much attention is given to preasure groups now-a-days.
    • by fm6 (162816)
      And as payback he was hounded to the point where he commited suicide...
      From what I've read, the "suicide" story is a little suspicious. If you go by the account in Hodges's well-researched biography [turing.org.uk], it appears that Turing had a lot less legal grief than most gays do. Perhaps it was his government connections. He was only arrested after he reported himself (he had been victimized by a burglary ring that specialized in gays; it never occured to him that it was a bad idea to mention his own sexual activies in the police report). This led to a nasty period when he was forced to submit to all kinds of crude treatments to "cure" his homosexuality. But this ended some time before his death, and he was actually in quite a stable place when he died.

      Since I don't live in a country that's covered by the Official Secrets Act [bbc.co.uk], I can say what should be pretty obvious: some brain-damaged James Bond type decided that having an openly gay scientist with a head full of Ultra-grade secrets just wouldn't do.

      I have to throw in my favorite Turing story. During WW II, he was sent to the U.S. on a secret mission. He was told, "Don't take any documents with you." Of course, that meant technical documents, but he took it quite literally, and showed up in New York with no passport or personal ID of any kind. Must have been interesting.

      I don't think the Turing rates sole credit for the Ultra Secret, or that the Ultra Secret was crucial to winning the war. But Turing certainly helped save thousands of lives.

      Another Slashdot post calls him the "Father of Computer Science". That's going a bit far, but CompSci does owe him a lot. And he probably rates as the first computer geek.

      • Re:Suicide? (Score:3, Informative)


        Another Slashdot post calls him the "Father of Computer Science". That's going a bit far, but CompSci does owe him a lot. And he probably rates as the first computer geek.

        Turing is, if not the father of computer science, then at least one of them, and while he might have been a geek, it is his theoretical work that he is most remembered for.

        His "halting problem" is as important a result as Gödel's incompletenes theorem and Russel's paradox. It puts a hard limit on the theoretical capabilities of computers that impacts most branches of computer science, e.g. any optimizing compiler is affected since the enabling analyses are necessarily limited.
        The turing machine itself, as a model of computation, has become the standard measure in complexity theory.
        The most prestigious award in computer science is the Turing Award (like for mathematics, there is no Nobel price :).

        Turing gave us one of the foundations of modern computer science, and I'm sure his name will be remembered long after everybody have forgotten who Bill Gates was... so I don't think it is wrong
        to call him a father of computer science.

        /RS - theoretical computer scientist
        • Hey, if you're saying that everybody who uses a computer has a debt to old AT, you'll get no argument from me. I was simply quibbling with the usual Broad-Shouldered Hero model of history. (Particularly inappropriate in this case.) A lot of people contributed the genesis of the modern computer, and AT would probably be the last to want to grab all the credit.

          And when I called him the first computer geek, I was claiming him as founder of a club to which I belong. I say this not just because of his many personal quirks, but because he was one of the first to recognize the importance of software. He had some interesting disagreements with von Neumann (another FoCS pretender) on this subject. Von Neumann thought that when you'd figured out the hardware, you had your system. Turing had the insight to see that this was just the beginning.

    • If it was not for Turning, many of us would be speaking German. (And I have a bad enough time spelling as it is...)

      Actually, assuming you're young enough that the 'many of us speaking German' would have applied while you were growing up, you could probably spell much better in German. Nearly all words are spelled phonetically in German, even a lot of words borrowed from other languages are respelled for German. And most of the words that break the rules for spelling follow a different set of rules (which a very few break). Compare to English where spelling rules are more of suggestions, especially with words borrowed from other languages.
    • If it was not for Turning, many of us would be speaking German. (And I have a bad enough time spelling as it is...)

      Actually, German spelling is much easier than English.
    • Which is funny because most of the people in the government went to public schools. And as we all now, public schools turn out homosexuals a dime a dozen.
    • Actually, funny story, from my roomate Rachel who, when she was Phillip back in the army, worked in intelligence with a bunch of odd characters. She mentioned that the justification for denying security clearence to gays was that they could be blackmailed with "being outed". Yet, for a person to be out enough to answer "yes" to such a question on a security application, that's obviously not going to apply. In reality, there *was* a reason that gays were more likely to work for foreign operatives: because their own country had rejected them. When you're constantly teased, ridiculed, and discriminated against by your own people, you don't have as much motivation to be loyal to them.

      She worked with someone who was *very* openly gay. At one point, some officers who didn't like him decided they were going to get rid of him. He was put on trail, where they accused him of lying on his application for security clearence. He responded that, no, he didn't lie - he answered that, yes, he was gay. They checked, and sure enough, he had answered "yes", and had been approved anyways for unknown reasons. They just assumed that, if he had clearence, he had answered "no", and didn't even bother to check before bringing him to trial ;)

      -= rei =-
    • Re:Some payback... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pseudonym (62607)
      And even more shameful is that NO ONE in the computer industry is willing to honor the man in a way where their name will be seen.

      You're kidding, right? The greatest award which a Computer Scientist can receive (since there isn't a Nobel Prize for computer science) is the A.M. Turing Award. Take a look at the list of past winners [acm.org] and you'll see all the great names (since the 60s, anyway).

  • Don't forget the Books. And it still airs on a few enlightened PBS stations.
  • by psych031337 (449156) <psych0@wtn e t .de> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:08PM (#2253898)
    The real proof that computers have reached human levels of "intelligence" would be a machine that will blame a mistake onto another, hierarchically lower machine.
  • by Salsaman (141471) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:15PM (#2253916) Homepage
    Just follow the link here [bbc.co.uk].


    (Text padding to get past the filter.)

  • by gjohnson (1557)
    A crash derby with RC vehicles hardly constitutes a sport.
  • just checked battlebots.org [battlebots.org] and noticed that the owner capitulated to battlebots Inc (sold them the domain for $70). Who knows who was in the right; i don't. just thought it worth mentioning that it's quite over. for now.
  • Audio formats (Score:4, Informative)

    by Scooby Snacks (516469) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @10:45PM (#2254148)
    This is cool news (the accompanying art is a nice touch with this Dr. Who presentation), but it would be nice if they would put the episodes into more audio formats as well.
    If you don't like RealAudio (and who does?), you might want to check out vsound [zip.com.au]. If you're wondering what it is, here are a couple words from the web page:
    "VSound is a sort of like a `virtual audio loopback cable'. That is, it allows you to record the output audio stream of a program (similar to connecting a loopback cable to the line in and line out jacks on the sound card, and recording the sound from the line in jack, but without the DA/AD conversion losses). One possible use for this application is as part of a RealAudio to wav file converter."
    It's pretty neat -- it uses the LD_PRELOAD trick to override certain library functions, allowing you to save the sound from an application like RealPlayer. I've used it myself before, and it works, and works well.

    If you have a Debian system, here's all you need to do:

    root@localhost:~# apt-get install vsound

    If you're on another system, you'll need to download the a href="http://www.zip.com.au/~erikd/vsound/vsound-0 .5.tar.gz">source and also make sure that you have sox [spies.com] installed. (vsound uses sox to convert the raw .au into wav format, which you can then compress however you'd like.)

  • by joneshenry (9497) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @10:59PM (#2254185)
    Did Enigma play a decisive role in stopping Germany in World War II? Curiously as time has gone by and veils of secrecy are lifted, I wonder if the role is being overemphasized to justify the hidden large budgets of today's intelligence agencies.

    In truth Germany was beaten after it failed to capture Moscow [wiesenthal.com] in fall 1941. The Germans were completely unprepared for a winter campaign, not even having adequate clothing for their soldiers let alone other supplies. After the failure to take Moscow, Hitler dismissed many of his top generals including the father of German armor Heinz Guderian [euronet.nl]. Perhaps his decision to order the army to stand fast in the face of a strong Soviet counterattack that winter saved the front from total collapse, but otherwise, Hitler in command was an endless series of catastrophes such as Stalingrad and Kursk.

    The argument I suppose is that had Great Britain been strangled by the German U-boats than the Soviet Union would not have been supplied by Lend Lease. Lend Lease provided all sorts of supplies including I believe basically the entire truck force that gave the Red Army mobility in the counterattack. However, the facts are that by December 1941 the Germans were already in retreat, they were going to lose stupendous numbers of men in the winter because of unpreparedness, the Soviets had a tank the T-34 coming into mass production better than any tank the Germans could ever produce in mass quantities, and Hitler was in personal command. Even with no Great Britain, Germany after 1941 needed to learn how to fight a defensive war to force a stalemate, precisely the type of strategy Hitler would never have authorized. And in addition, the Germans would not have been able to complete an atomic bomb for many years. Sure they would have had V2s but the Soviets had the more battlefield effective Katyusha [swebase.com]. (Okay mass deployment was helped by those Lense Lease trucks.) Soviet technology was sufficient to counter Germany's, with the possible exception of rocket-powered fighters, a technology that Hitler delayed until it was too late due to his obsession with rocket bombers.

    It is possible that a hundred years from now the real intelligence agency story of World War II will be how Joseph Stalin in his paranoid purges destroyed the finest network of spies ever assembled. Think of this, a time when Communism still had sway as an effective religion to produce loyal agents in any country. The United States for the past few decades has been continuously learning that one can't buy that type of loyal fanatic agent abroad, which is why the US is so dependent on high tech and American citizen agents, a combination totally incapable of predicting anything in hostile areas. Even though Stalin tried to order all his foreign agents back to the Soviet Union to be executed, there was still enough of a remnant such as the Red Orchestra [wiesenthal.com] to give Stalin a precise warning of when the Germans would attack. But Stalin had screwed things up so badly that the Soviets were caught totally unprepared. The initial catastrophe of the first few months when Soviet forces were repeatedly surrounded and annihilated was the only reason the Germans got as far as they did. Had Stalin followed through using the human intelligence network he had at his disposal, Germany would have been beaten years sooner, and perhaps all of continental Europe is occupied by the Red Army.

    • by James_G (71902) <.gro.procagemlabolg. .ta. .semaj.> on Wednesday September 05, 2001 @12:56AM (#2254454)
      I think it would be incorrect to attribute the victory of the Allies to any one single event. There were many, many technical innovations and associated events that helped. To name but a few:

      • The invention of radar.
      • The counter-acting of German radar (Basically an early version of chaff, shredded tinfoil dropped in huge bales from the bombers).
      • Along the same vein, the use by the Allies of the German's own radar system to pinpoint targets along the coast of mainland Europe.
      • The discovery by polish soldiers of a crashed V2 rocket, of which they took lots of details and sent them to the Allies.
      • The cracking of Enigma, which was enourmous, and ultimately led to misinformation being sent back and fooling Hitler into believing the invading force was coming ashore in the wrong place.
      • Etc. etc. etc..

      There are far, far, far too many things to list here, I've mentioned just a scant few. No one single event is directly responsible.

      If you want to read a good book about the technical innovations behind WWII, I'd recommend "Secret Weapons of World War II" [amazon.com]. An excellent read, with a great deal of detail on the hundreds of small independant events (Maybe even coincidences) that shifted the balance ever so slightly in favour of the allies.

      • Thanks for the reply. I just have to disagree with all the points. :-)

        Overemphasis on new technology actually lengthened the war against Japan by 18 months. Read this [worldwarii.com] for one of many accounts of how the United States' dogged insistence on the efficacy of the magnetic detonation torpedo rendered the US submarine fleet impotent for 18 months, whereas after downgrading to earlier technology of contact detonation (and other fixes) the submarine fleet succeeded in sinking more than half of Japanese shipping, in effect imposing a total naval blockage. Note how scientific theory was perverted to reject empirical evidence from the submarine crews.

        US intelligence had plenty of chances [acusd.edu] to have successfully warned the country of imminent Japanese attack. What saved the US was that the Japanese were so far below the US level of industrial capability and resources that even a perfect plan might not have been sufficient. The only Japanese hope was to have destroyed the oil storage tanks at Pearl Harbor in a follow-up attack. Ironically the Japanese own rigidity in their military thinking possibly influenced the commander of the fleet from pressing home the advantage, a pattern repeated when they failed at Leyte Gulf to seize the opening to attack the landing fleet.

        All the futuristic technology and information isn't going to help if the leadership at the top is incapable or unwilling to determine what is of the most importance. Fortunately for the winning side in World War II the opposition had far less industrial capability and resources. And what won the war was more from the bottom-up as entire populations united and bottlenecks were solved in practical ways. As the war progressed it became easier for men of merit to get their jobs done. In such improved environments a million small improvements could work their way into the war effort, so yes there was some technical progress. But remember the Germans had V2 rockets and jet fighters and they still lost.

        It seems to me the modern American large corporation is not facing a lack of technology problem, it's facing organization problems. The people at the top who are supposed to be setting direction for the company cannot or will not accurately access the reams of information at their disposal. In story after story I read about World War II, the solution to a problem turns out to be putting the competent man in charge and letting him use his expertise. Preconceptions, ideology, and prejudice driving policy are the enemy.

        • The Mark VII torpedo scandal is a well known one. Less known is that the Germans suffered almost the exact same issue for over a year with signifigant impact to their U-boat operations.

          There is a good reason why navies were pushing magnetic detonation: contact detonation sucks. Modern (as in post 1905) warships and some merchant vessels are sectioned off into watertight bulkheads to improve survivability in the event of a hull breach. Most ships can suffer a breach of 30-50% of its watertight compartments before sinking!

          A contact-detonated torpedo often only blows a hole in one or two compartments. Thus, you need to fire four or more torpedoes which are in very limited supply (about 18 per boat, with a 20minute reload time)

          Magnetic detonators explode directly beneath the hull of a ship, breaking the keel of the target and causing massive flooding. When magnetic detonators were perfected, most any non-capital ship could be sunk with a single torpedo hit.

    • I would (and have) argued that Germany was defeated the second they invaded the USSR, some 6 months before that.

      Their army was really only equipped for short, blitzkrieg-style wars - lots of fast tanks but nothing too heavy, lots of small and medium bombers but no really big ones, that sort of thing. This worked beautifully against Poland (smallish, pretty flat and the far side was sealed in by an ally) and France (not too massive and so despondent they basically sat by and watched the troops invade) but couldn't work against Russia.

      Russia is massive, has very hard winters, and had demonstrated a willingness to pursue a scorched earth policy before when repelling Napoleon. OK, maybe their military wasn't massively strong in 1941 (though better than Hitler believed) but it didn't have to be. They could run back to the Urals - a heck of a distance - with no great difficulty, clearing the land of useful military and industrial resources as they went. The population then do partisan attacks in the conquered territory so that couldn't be left alone, the front grows to ridiculous lenghts - and winter will ultimately set in. At which point German troops were totally unprepared and unequipped so their tanks and guns were failing and their soup was freezing between the bowl and their mouth. Seriously. While the Russian troops lay in the snow all day then attacked. While the Russians threw convicts they regarded as expendable at the German lines first to wear out the troops, and while they seriously depleted their own population because they could and losing was unthinkable.

      Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad all hindered Germany very substantially, but they couldn't have managed an invasion even without them. They had too much land to conquer, too much front to police, supply lines so long they had to build their own railways as they went then treat the railway cars as one-way disposable because they couldn't afford the time to unload and send them back. The army was trying to control most of Europe so was already overstretched, and was ill-designed for this campaign.

      Moscow didn't help - and neither did the delay at the start which meant they weren't as far in when an early winter hit - but the Russian campaign was never one that could be won. It was short-sighted vanity all along, and the more you look at it the less the sums add up.
  • by sparcv9 (253182) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @11:52PM (#2254301)
    Still BattleBots is dumb not to have registered the .org domain.
    Why? Are they a non-profit organization now? People always seem to forget the original intents of the com/net/org TLDs. At least there are still restrictions on edu/gov/mil. Even a lot of the gTLDs have restrictions on their categorical subdomains, like co.uk.
    • I agree. They should not be allowed to have the domain on the basis they are a for-profit commercial organization. Never mind anything else. It's one thing if, like Slashdot, you had the domain before you were a for-profit organization, but for a commercial entity to actively seek to acquire a .org domain is simply ludicruous.
    • Strictly speaking, the original intent for the .org was pretty much "other" To quote from RFC 1032 [ohio-state.edu]:
      "ORG" exists as a parent to subdomains that do not clearly fall within the other top-level domains. This may include technical-support groups, professional societies, or similar organizations.

      Although this implies other than corporate, government, educational institution, military, or network op's, the more specific idea of .org being NPO came a bit later.
  • It seems to me that one major precondition for squatting to have occurred, is for the "legitimate" owner of the word to somehow be denied use of that word. But in this case, the Battlebots trademark owner seems to already have battlebots.com, no? So how could this possibly be squatting? The trademark owner already has the appropriate domain.

    If they mysteriously and inscrutibly want to buy up other domains that happen to mention Battlebots without actually infringing on their trademark, then maybe they should be prepared to pay whatever the current holders' whimsical price happens to be. When a commercial entity already has their name withih .com, getting the same name within other TLDs is a luxury, not a necessity or a serious attempt to defend trademark.

  • by quecojones (108609) <quecojones@@@quecojones...net> on Wednesday September 05, 2001 @01:01AM (#2254473) Homepage

    The IEEE Annals of the History of Computing site [computer.org] is at http://www.computer.org/annals [computer.org].

  • Battle Bots (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {dnaltropnidad}> on Wednesday September 05, 2001 @12:51PM (#2255949) Homepage Journal
    What is the obsession with having all the domain names? Its getting realy annoying, so some kid has got the .org? as long as he doesn't rty to convince people he's part of the battlebots that ComedyCentral airs, let it go.

    anybody who is looking for battlebots can find it.

    Perhap I should get a class action suit against battlebots. I have yet to see a bot(automated device). I see lots of RC cars with saws and hammers smashing into each other, but no bots.

    In fact they wouldn't allow me to enter an actual bot into there contest. Sad really.

A slow pup is a lazy dog. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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