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Nov

20

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While searching through the Bwog Archive, Staff Writer Henry Golub stumbled upon an intriguing LectureHop from the 1950s. The piece, republished below, does not represent the attitude, views, or practices of Mr. Golub.

so meta

Ye Olde Blog.

From the Archive:
On January 30, 1952, Staff Writer Richard Richardson schlepped his 1950s rear end over to the lecture “Smoking and Health: An Unexpected Connection.” He heard visiting scientist Dr. Igaught Bronchitis speak about the alleged dangers of smoking cigarettes.

The only thing I enjoy more than there being nine planets is being surrounded by smokers. I guess I just like the smell.

Not everyone, however, enjoys cigarette fumes as much as I do. Dr. Igaught Bronchitis, a researcher from the American Lung Laboratory, falls into that unfortunate category. The scientist has dedicated himself to identifying and eliminating the small pleasures in life. He visited Columbia last Tuesday to peddle his drivel about smoking.

More! After the jump.

Nov

18

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It is Trans Awareness Week from November 12-19!

As a part of Trans Awareness Week programming, the Columbia and Barnard trans support and advocacy group GendeRevolution hosted a panel and workshop with many trans femme people of color from the New York area. The guests answered questions about self-discovery, survival, and visibility all in the context of makeup as resistance. Bwogger Miyoki Walker covered the event.

In a room filled with laughter, curiosity, and welcoming spirits, dancer DeJayé, activist Krystal ‘LaBeija’ Conyers, and makeup artists Deja Smith, Slater Stanley, and Ada Blake were just as eager to teach as attendees were eager to learn.

The event started out with food courtesy of Dig Inn, introductions, and a Q&A session with all of the guests. To start, accomplished makeup artist Deja Smith detailed the path she took to where she is today. Smith started out as a dancer in Long Island, ultimately going on to receive a BFA in dance performance at the Southern Methodist University. After spending years playing with her mother’s eyeshadow and blush, Smith decided to venture out into the world of makeup on her own. At some point while working at a MAC counter, Smith made the difficult decision to transition. Today, Smith has gone on to work with notable figures from Laverne Cox to Kehinde Wiley to the cast from the FX show Pose. celebrating trans awareness week with more inspiring figures after the jump

Nov

7

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L to R: Severin Fowles, Jhane Myers, Lindsay Montgomery, and Gary Glassman.

Last Friday, Arts Editor and archaeology student Riva Weinstein attended the advance screening of Native America: New Worlds Rising at Barnard. This documentary about the Comanche nation in the colonial era also spotlighted the persistence of indigenous traditions in America today.

I spent thirty glorious days in New Mexico: excavating pottery, bathing in the Rio Grande, hiking through mountains under the hot southwestern sun. It was a privilege to do archaeology there. It was a greater privilege to be welcomed in by the Picuris Pueblo community, who were eager to share their knowledge. This collaboration was the product of decades of careful political work by my advisor, Prof. Severin Fowles, his ex-student Dr. Lindsay Montgomery, and their colleagues at SMU and U of Arizona. They understood that today, for the archaeologists of Native America, collaboration with tribes is not only a mutual benefit but a responsibility.

“We stand in a remarkable moment for new collaborations,” says Sev (as he prefers to be called) to the people assembled in Barnard’s Altschul hall. “There is a growing openness to valuing indigenous knowledge and epistemologies.”

We did our excavations in the small town of Dixon, and visited pueblos across northern New Mexico. But just north of Dixon lies the Rio Grande Gorge: a dramatic landscape of cliffs and deep valleys, covered in dry scrub brush, inhospitable for living but excellent for hiding. While on the trail of Pueblo and U.S. colonial histories, it was there in the Gorge that Sev found another, crucial piece of Native American history.

As the documentary’s title card fades out, it presents us with such a scene. The camera follows Sev as he hikes through the Gorge with Jhane Myers, a Comanche/Blackfeet artist heavily involved in the Comanche community. They pause and kneel beside a large boulder. Faint white lines form the shapes of horses and riders with flowing headdresses. This is some of the first physical evidence of the early Comanche, a powerful Plains tribe whose empire once extended from East Texas and Oklahoma to New Mexico and the Rockies.

Read more about rock art after the jump!

Oct

20

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we lov optimism

Last night, Columbia Astronomy Outreach held their bi-monthly lecture and stargazing series. This week’s guest was Jana Grcevich, who received her Ph.D. in Astronomy from Columbia and now works as a freelance Data Scientist and author. Hear what Bwogger Mary Clare Greenlees thought about the Vacation Guide to the Solar System.

After a Friday filled with class, work, and a club, my relaxing night was to include an astronomy lecture. This was the second Astronomy Outreach lecture I had gone to and I felt like a seasoned pro. I entered Pupin at 6:50 pm and followed the printed signs pointing to where the lecture was. After walking down a flight of stairs I was handed a survey from a graduate student, asking different questions such as age, occupation, if this is your first time, and if you learned anything. This time I got to circle ‘no’ when it asked if this was my first time. I was surprised to see so many familiar faces from the previous Astronomy Outreach event. Regulars, who come to the Astronomy Outreach events to learn more about the wonders of space, just as I have.

Dr. Grcevich began her talk with a slide announcing “Top 10 Things to do on your Space Vacation before as you die.” A great start to the lecture, no doubt. The slide drew a laugh from the audience as she explained that most places in the solar system are unsuited and dangerous to human life. Throughout the presentation, Dr. Grcevich sprinkled humorous anecdotes and facts to enhance her visual storytelling. She chose to focus on 10 different sites featured in her book with co-author Olivia Koski, Vacation Guide to the Solar System.

Number 10 on the list was visiting the skies of Venus. For a hands-on experience, Dr. Grcevich recommends floating in a bubble in the atmosphere while seeing the beautiful sites of this alien world. Venus’ atmosphere has a similar pressure and temperature to Earth’s, meaning that a vacationer would only need a bubble of air and they would be set to go. A word of warning, however, be careful not fly to close to the ground, as temperatures on the surface are around 864 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also the reason that no lander on Venus has lasted longer than 45 minutes. Imagine what it would do to a human.

Venus not floating your boat? Don’t worry, there are more destinations after the jump.

Oct

2

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Black holes are the astrophysics equivalent of spooky season

Fun question for all you scientists out there: is it possible for the skills and strategies used in astrophysics to translate into biology? Yesterday, Bwog Science Editor Alex Tang attended the Department of Biological Sciences seminar given by Columbia Physics Professor Szabolcs Marka (yes, you read that right – physics). Here, he discusses the insights that Professor Marka shared from his multidisciplinary research experiences. The talk was titled “On the Beauty and Impact of Astrophysics: From Gravitational Waves to Biology.”

Professor Marka calls himself someone who practices “Renaissance Science.” In an allusion to the “Renaissance Man,” Marka is referring to his passion in all aspects of scientific research, starting from the inception of an idea, followed by the theoretical aspects and finally the experimental aspects. Also relevant is his interest in a variety of incredibly different fields in science. While Marka is a physicist by title, his research interests have spanned topics as diverse as gravitational waves and insect physiology. Seminar host Dr. John Hunt made the joke that in order to give this seminar, Dr. Marka had to make the arduous, exceedingly difficult journey from Pupin to Fairchild – a rare journey if you think about it.

In his seminar, Dr. Marka began by giving the biologists in the room a quick primer on gravitational waves. Whenever two massive, dense objects (ie black holes and neutron stars) collide in astrophysics, they create black holes. Black holes are the densest entities known in astrophysics, with a gravitational pull so heavy that not even light can escape. The density of a black hole is equivalent to 60 times the mass of the solar system roughly occupying the size of Long Island. The collision of two dense objects creates a ripple in spacetime, which is propagated outwards. Think about throwing a pebble into a lake. The impact of the pebble with the lake represents the collision of the two dense astronomical objects, and the ripples you see in the water represent the gravitational waves that are equidistantly propagated outwards from the collision.

Gravitational waves (created by massive collisions) were actually predicted by Einstein about a century ago. However, they have been incredibly hard to prove. Once these gravitational waves reach Earth, they are insanely tiny. The effect that a gravitational wave has in pushing or pulling an object on Earth compared to the object’s mass is equivalent to the proportion of a millionth of a cent in the US national debt (17.7 trillion dollars).

In 2015, LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) sensed a blip in spacetime, proving the existence of gravitational waves for the first time. LIGO is an incredibly sensitive instrument that can monitor discrepancies in spacetime differences via tiny changes in the patterns of intersecting light. Read more here from a LectureHop we did two years ago if you’re interested in learning more. The sensing of gravitational waves has remained the most sensitive measurement done by mankind.

Click here to see how all of the above relates to biology

Sep

26

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Dr. Thomas Kailath, Tuesday’s Armstrong Memorial Lecture speaker (and dapper dresser)

Yesterday, we sent new Bwog writer and first-year SEAS student Michael Beltz to the Armstrong Memorial Lecture hosted by Columbia’s Department of Electrical Engineering. Thomas Kailath, the speaker, is a professor, electrical engineer, information theorist, emeritus at Stanford, and experienced entrepreneur. In his talk, “The Process of Making Breakthroughs in Engineering,” he shares his advice on making groundbreaking discoveries and being successful.

Awarded the National Medal of Science and recognized by former President Barack Obama for his “transformative contributions to the fields of information and system science,” Thomas Kailath is one of the greats in the electrical engineering world. Kailath is also widely recognized as a great teacher and an inspiring lecturer. His talk on Tuesday focused on his own experiences and the collected experiences in his field, from which he drew pieces of advice that apply to all aspiring engineers.

Kailath came to America from India in 1957. This change, he said, was the biggest opportunity in his life. Having achieved excellence during his undergraduate days, Kailath’s move to America gave him the opportunity to become the first Indian-born PhD in Electrical Engineering at MIT. Over the next few decades, through pure grit, hard work, and admittedly a certain degree of luck, Kailath became a legend in his field. He revolutionized communications technologies by contributing to information theory, filtering theory, linear systems and control, signal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, probability and statistics, linear algebra, matrix and operator theory. He told some anecdotes about his time doing research, but most of the information went over my head, since I don’t have a master’s degree.

What I did get, however, was a glimpse of his life, and of a successful engineering career. Kailath emphasized that his path was chaotic and unplanned. He constantly took new projects that he was initially unfamiliar with. He made the conscious decisions to move from the theoretical to the applied, and from the academic to the entrepreneurial, following the money and the opportunities present at the time, whether they were in math, signal processing, or manufacturing. Kailath’s philosophy was that he could always be learning something new, no matter the stage in his career, even if it was in a completely different field.

Click here for Kailath’s advice

Sep

22

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we love space!

Astronomer and Linguist Mihir Kulkarni, a graduate student at Columbia University, spoke in Pupin Hall for the first big event hosted by Columbia Astronomy Outreach this academic year called “Clocks of the Universe.” The night consisted of a lecture, a 3D virtualization, and stargazing, which was unfortunately canceled due to weather. New Bwoggers Michael Beltz and Mary Clare Greenlees covered the event.

When walking into Pupin Friday night, there were signs directing us to the fourth floor, where we were told the lecture part of the program was going to be held. We were greeted by a graduate student, handing us a small survey to provide data for the Astronomy Outreach Program. Questions varying from how old you are, your occupation, and whether you learned anything from the lecture. We sat in the fifth row, in the middle for a perfect viewing experience. The audience is what shocked the most, there were young children there, groups of university students, and older adults. One of us is a potential Astrophysics major, while the other is potentially majoring in Civil Engineering. Having both come from STEM backgrounds, we thought that the event would be a lot of fun and teach us something new. The event began with a 45-minute lecture by Kulkarni about time. This lecture, which he called“Clocks of the Universe,” focused on how our concept of time has changed throughout history and how we can create a timescale by looking at the sky. We have 3 astronomical tellers of time: the day, the month, and the year. The day is represented by the time it takes for the earth to fully rotate: about 24 hours. The month is represented by the time it takes the moon to complete a lunar orbit around the earth. The year is commonly defined as about 365 days, represented by the time it takes the earth to orbit the sun.
Want to know more about what amazing time facts we learned?

Apr

18

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I’ll be honest: This aesthetically pleasing poster was part of the reason I decided to attend this lecture.

This Tuesday, staff writer (and honey bee fanatic) Jake Tibbetts had a bee-rrific time traveling to the other side of Broadway to listen to Dr. Jonathan Snow, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Barnard College, deliver a lecture about his research on the ways that honey bees respond to stress on the cellular level and about his attempts to connect cell biology to topics related to sustainability. In this piece, Tibbetts writes about his experience sitting in on a science lecture that even a humanities geek like himself could understand, learn from, and appreciate.

As a sociology and political science student, I don’t often find myself attending STEM lectures after classes wrap up for the day, regardless of how many opportunities there are here in Morningside Heights to learn more about the most pressing scientific issues of our time. As a die-hard fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s 2007 computer animated comedy film Bee Movie, however, I do take special notice when events centered around everyone’s favorite pollinators take place.

When I found out that Dr. Jonathan Snow, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Barnard College and a man who is perhaps just as passionate about bees as I am, would be delivering a lecture on Tuesday evening titled “What Does Cell Biology Have to Do with Saving Pollinators?”, I knew that, despite knowing very little about cell biology (or, to be honest, the process of pollination itself), I would need to stop by—and I’m quite glad that I did.

This talk, the third in the Barnard Noyce Teacher Scholars Program’s Current Issues in STEM Education colloquium series, was held in a large classroom on the fifth floor of the Diana Center and began at 6:30 pm. After Professor Snow, who has taught at Barnard since 2012, was introduced by someone from the Scholars Program, he dived right into his talk, aided by a slideshow presentation. He began by letting the audience know that his talk would be divided into three parts. First, he would discuss cell biology as a whole, its relationship to biomedical research, and his initial research. Then, he would discuss the reasons that he decided to begin studying bees. Finally, he would explore the question posed by the title of the talk: what, exactly, is the connection between cell biology and the protection of honey bees?

beez after the jump

Feb

17

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The ruins of the Ummayyad Mosque in Aleppo

Bwogger Cara Hudson-Erdman got intellectual this Friday and attended a lecture at the Italian Academy. This discussion focused global intervention in the protection of cultural monuments in war zones and the role of sovereignty versus international responsibility. Through a wave of witty academic banter, posh British accents, and overuse of the word “colleague,” the key question of the event was: is there an international responsibility to protect cultural heritage sites when states fail to do so?

At Columbia, we students find ourselves inundated with references to antiquity just by walking into the library,  and we often forget that sites of their origin are under threat of destruction. At the Italian Academy, the International Observatory for Cultural Heritage Lecture addressed this topic, titled Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: Protecting the Past for the Future. The keynote speaker was James Cuno, the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, who is a major proponent of the idea of a universal cultural heritage and an advocate international intervention to protect cultural sites at risk of destruction. In particular, Cuno spoke about the situation in Syria, where in the midst of a civil war ISIS has destroyed sites such as the Ummayyad Mosque in Aleppo. Cuno emphasized that this destruction should be considered cultural cleansing as well as an indicator of genocide.

In the face of a failing state, Syria, a country whose map resembles a “jigsaw puzzle,” Cuno argued that there is a moral responsibility for other powers to intervene to protect these valuable historic sites. His reasoning stems from his idea that artistic and cultural monuments belong to a shared, international heritage that transcends national borders and states. The moderator, Columbia’s Professor David Freedberg, identified Cuno as “untrendy” for propagating such beliefs, characterizing them as values of the Enlightenment, and the same ones that bolster encyclopedic museums such as the British Museum. Cuno was also joined by a panel of art history and political science experts including Vishakha Desai, former president of the Asia Society, Thomas Weiss, professor of political science at CUNY and an expert in state sovereignty, Edward Luck, a SIPA professor and former advisor to Ban-Ki Moon, and Mariët Westermann from the Mellon Foundation.

Read more after the jump

Jan

27

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Sen. 1: What’s Cicero talking about? Sen. 2: Not sure, he hasn’t gotten to the verb yet.

Yesterday afternoon in Hamilton 503, the Classics Department kicked off its semester of Classics Colloquia in style. If you missed this one, fear not: the next colloquium is next Friday, February 2nd, at 4:10 pm in the same place; Nicholas Rynearson will be giving a talk on Socrates in Plato’s dialogues. Bwogger, noted nerd, and potential Classics major Levi Cohen attended this one, however, and discusses it below. Even if the subject matter was, to borrow from Livy, nimia obscuras — “excessively obscure” — it was still a great time.

After a brief nap following my Friday-morning Greek class, I bravely entered Hamilton Hall one last time before the weekend to attend the first of six talks being given this semester by Classics professors from Columbia—and its peer institutions—on a variety of topics. The turnout was solid, with a nice mix of undergrads, postbaccalaureates, grad students, and professors eagerly taking notes throughout the talk.

Our speaker was Hannah Čulík-Baird, a Professor of Classics at Boston University (@opietasanimi on Twitter); the talk was entitled “Vetustas pauca non deprauat, multa tollit — loss and recovery of knowledge in the late Republic.”

For those readers without any Latin, the quotation in the title is from the author Varro, and translates to: “There is little that time does not distort, much it obliterates completely.” It was a fitting header, then, for this talk, which examined a variety of sources so as to develop a picture of how Romans engaged with the concept of their own past.

Hear A LOT about what Cicero has to say after the jump

Apr

20

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Mitchell S. Jackson contemplates.

The last lecture of a series focusing on voice, Mitchell S. Jackson, someone who “nerds out” over prose and can’t have tea without honey, talked about finding an eloquent voice in creative writing. Bwogger Gloriana Lopez attended the event. 

As I entered Dodge 501, someone gave me a 19-page packet. After considering taking some wine, I wondered if I could actually get away with covering this event by just reading these pages. I would be proven wrong in the following hour.

Mitchell S. Jackson began his lecture by reading a paragraph from a handout that was provided to the audience. He talked about how the eloquence of a writer comes from their philosophies. Using the words of different authors’ opinion on voice, he gave the following advice on finding one’s voice:

What is his advice?

Apr

13

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Professor Adina Ciugureanu

Yesterday, Professor Adina Ciugureanu from Ovidius University in Constanta, Romania, gave a talk on the legacy of the Roman poet Ovid in the Black Sea. Bwog’s resident Classics majors, Youngweon and Finn, attended the talk and learned some things about Ovid.

The majority of the scholarship on Ovid, as Professor Gareth Williams commented, is centered around Western Europe and America, and his time in Rome; his time in exile in the Greek city of Tomis, present-day Constanta, Romania, doesn’t get as much attention. In this talk, Professor Ciugureanu gave an interesting perspective on Ovid in talking about his influence on the region that he was exiled to, as well as the influence that his exile in itself had on literature and philosophy.

Professor Ciugureanu started the lecture with a brief introduction on Ovid and his life; Ovid, known as Ovidius to Romans, was a poet who lived under the reign of Augustus. He was born to a well-to-do Roman family, and received an elite education in Rome. He traveled to Greece and Sicily as part of his education, as was customary during the time for the children of the Roman elite, and took a job in the public sector afterwards. However, to the disappointment of his father, he discovered that he didn’t like that very much, and instead dedicated his life to writing poetry. His first serious work was the Amores, which is a series of erotic poems about himself and Corina, his imaginary love interest. He then went on to write Epistolae Heroidium (or Heroides, as students of LitHum may know it), a series of imaginary letters from mythological heroines to their lovers; Medicamina Faciei (“The Art of Beauty”), a book about cosmetics; Ars Amatoria (“The Art of Love”), sex advice for Roman lovers; and the Metamorphoses, an extensive collection of mythological stories, all of which involve a kind of metamorphosis, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the chaos after Caesar’s death and the Augustan peace that followed.

What happened next in Ovid’s life?

Feb

1

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The scene before it all filled up

The scene before it all filled up

Bwogger, prospective SusDev major, and proud Wien resident Nadra Rahman ventured into IAB on Tuesday night to attend a panel titled “Challenges and Opportunities of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.” The panel, consisting of three top-level UN employees, was part of the series of events celebrating SIPA’s 70th anniversary.

Since September 2015, the UN has been coordinating a massive, concerted effort to publicize and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a set of targets and indicators for global development that address physical well-being, resource use, economic security, gender equality, climate action, and conflict resolution, among other aspects of development. Every member country is meant to play a part in achieving these goals by 2030, but the UN faces a dilemma: it doesn’t have the power to enforce compliance. And so, “accountability” became the word of the night as Cristina Gallach (Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information), Tegegnework Gettu (Associate Administrator, UN Development Programme), and Navid Hanif (Director of the Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) discussed the challenges and opportunities of the SDGs.

(All, by the way, are SIPA alumni.)

It’s a rocky road ahead, but keep your spirits up

Jan

31

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Yasmine Ergas discusses struggles of establishing women's rights in Tunisia with Yadh Ben Achour.

Yasmine Ergas discusses struggles of establishing women’s rights in Tunisia with Yadh Ben Achour.

Columbia hosted a lecture featuring Yadh Ben Achour, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee that focused on women’s rights in Tunisia and the making of a new constitution that ensures equality under law. Gender equality is only the beginning for Tunisia and other countries that are taking steps towards social modernization.

In the aftermath of the revolution, Tunisia adopted a new constitution that enshrined equality between men and women in law. Guest speaker Yadh Ben Achour was a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, which was the lead author of the recent Tunisian constitution. He spoke at the law school yesterday about the struggles of gender justice reform in Tunisia. Before Prof. Ben Achour started his short lecture, professor Yasmine Ergas, lecturer at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) gave him an introduction.

Yadh Ben Achour is one of the world’s most prominent human rights lawyers, humanist and advocate for women’s rights and human rights in Tunisia and around the globe. He was involved in the resistance against Ben Ali and resigned from his role in the constitutional council in 1992 due to Ben Ali’s attempt to control the constitutional process. He is the former president of the High Authority of the Tunisian Revolution and a professor at the University of Catharge. His most recent work includes the publication of Tunisia: a Revolution in an Islamic Country.

More on women’s rights in Tunisia after the jump

Nov

3

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The Enigma Machine Cracker is an Enigma itself.

Alan Turing is a famous British computer scientist, known for developing many prototypes for computers and for cracking the Nazi Enigma Machine. Last night, Bwogger Elana Rebitzer attended a lecture given by his nephew (and biographer) Sir Dermot Turing. 

Until last night, whenever I heard the name Alan Turing, I had a vague idea that he had something to do with computers, but that was about all I knew. Nonetheless, this lecture by his nephew and biographer, Sir Dermot Turing, was a fascinating introduction to his life.

As I learned last night, Alan was a brilliant mathematician. During his time as a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Cambridge in England, he came up with the idea for a programmable computing machine. For those of us who had no concept of how big of a deal that was, Dermot compared this to the idea of creating one kitchen appliance that could serve as a tea kettle, dishwasher, and frying pan all at once.

Years later, during World War II, Alan played a pivotal role in cracking the german codes stored in the Enigma Machine by building a device to test all of the different possible ways in which an Enigma Machine could be set up. That breakthrough was essential for the Allies throughout the rest of the war.

After the Enigma breakthrough, Turing continued to create blueprints for computers. At this point, the lecture got pretty technical, and I had a hard time following exactly what Dermot was saying about the rest of Turing’s technical work.

Technical fun after the jump

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