The Enigma is Child’s Play! (Plus: Sayonara Ray Bradbury)

“A Great science fiction detective story”
Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

NOW AVAILABLE for instant download! Click to find out more.

Days to Centenary: 17

And we’re back!

A combination of bad things (a disastrous hard drive crash) and good things (meeting the publication deadline for Luck & Death despite the hard drive crash) conspired to take up every available moment for the last month, but just in time for the final countdown The Turing Centenary is back to help usher in the next century of Turing-enabled living.

And what better way to return than to take a deadly serious endeavor — the breaking of the Enigma code during World War II, a critical element in the Allied victory — and having some fun with it?

The good folks at Geek-o-System have just posted a DIY project that is sure to warm the heart of any Turing-o-phile with idle hands. It includes everything you need to build your own Enigma machine using common household items and a downloadable PDF.

Segment of Enigma PDF

A segment of the downloadable Enigma PDF

Download and print the PDF (in colour), follow the instructionsto wrap the printout around a cylindrical can and tape it in place, and voilà! You can now reproduce the encryption techniques that Hitler thought would prove unbreakable — a viewpoint with which Alan Turing pointedly, and successfully disagreed.

The fully assembled Paper Enigma

The fully assembled Paper Enigma

In a similar vein, the good people at Instructibles, who specialize in DIY projects, have revealed the secret to transforming a child’s toy into an Enigma in 6 easy steps using an Arduino (an open-source electronics prototyping platform).

Using a child's toy to mimic the Enigma

Using a child’s toy to mimic the Enigma

And now, as the Pythons would say, for something completely different.

It’s my experience that the world of Turing-o-Philes consists of a variety of constituencies, among them scientists and science geeks, science fiction fans, history buffs, and members of the LGBT communities. Obviously these aren’t entirely distinct groups — they overlap in a Turing-Venn Diagram.

For the science fiction fans amongst you — and as a reader and writer of science fiction I count myself among you — today is notable for the news that Ray Bradbury, an author many of us grew up on, has died at the age of 91.

I could weep and mope, but frankly I suspect that would be doing the great dude a disservice. For all the foreboding that sometimes cropped up in his work, he was a guy who loved life. After all, this was a guy who once wrote:

In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.

So at this moment I prefer to be happy. I prefer to be thankful that he was around than to regret losing him.

In that spirit, here are a couple of videos.

First, here is Rachel Bloom’s crudely-irreverent-but-amusing novelty song “Fuck me, Ray Bradbury.” Is she really a Bradbury fan or is she just pandering to the Big Bang Theory demographic? I have no idea, but it’s an amusing song either way.

Next, to remind us just how long Bradbury’s career was, here’s a retrospective about Bradbury’s work. A retrospective from 1963. Yes, even then he had done enough to merit a filmic summing up. (And get ready for some great retro visions of what writing, books, and book stores used to be like!)

Finally, let’s let the man speak for himself. Don’t let the slow pace of the intro put you off — this interview is well worth watching. This is Ray Bradbury on the show Day at Night, among other things defending the importance of fantasy.

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