Sunday 22 January 2012

WinSitP: Simon Singh on Alan Turing and the Cracking of the Enigma Code

Winchester Skeptics in the pub has now been up and running for two years.

We have had two years of fantastic talks and as more and more people have heard about us, it has become increasingly hard to accommodate everyone in the biggest available pub we could find in Winchester. Following our hugely successful sell-out Christmas Special at the Intech Planetarium we will therefore be moving to an exciting new venue.

The Winchester Discover Centre is the perfect new home for Winchester Skeptics in the Pub. WInchester Skeptics in the Discovery Centre is however a little unwieldy, so we'll probably just stick to Winchester Skeptics in the Pub, or even just Winchester Skeptics.

The success of Winchester Skeptics in the pub can be traced back to our very first (and packed) meeting in January 2010. Our inaugural speaker on that occasion, despite still going through a somewhat misconceived libel trial at the time, was of course Simon Singh. We are therefore delighted to welcome Simon back as the inaugural speaker at our shiny new venue in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth to give an enthralling talk on Alan Turing and the cracking of the Enigma Code.

Simon will also be brining an original working Enigma machine to demonstrate how the cunning little buggers work.

You can take a 360 degree virtual tour of our new venue here.

Do come along next Thursday and fill your brains.

Saturday 14 January 2012

How to replace the School ICT Curriculum

I haven't coded for a long time. A long time.

Although I made a living in the early 80's writing management information systems in AppleSoft BASIC, and after my software engineering degree I worked for a while as rather mediocre Ada programmer on military information systems, I was never one of the worlds most accomplished computer programmers.

I was however fortunate enough to be born at the right time to receive a proper education in computer studies. Although my rather BASIC understanding of how to construct loops, branches and subroutines and how to manipulate strings and define multi dimensional arrays seems somewhat detached from my current daily working activities, it nonetheless provides me with a much greater insight and appreciation of the inner workings of the more complex applications I now use.

In much the same way as my admiration of English and literature in later life, has subsequently made me aware of my loss in not receiving a classical education, perhaps future IT consultants will, on realisation, mourn their loss at never having had the opportunity to load the accumulator or pop the stack when dabbling in ancient assembly languages.

The recent government announcements to scrap the current IT curriculums that merely instruct our children on how to use computers to become efficient office lackeys, in favour of a return to more creative and development based IT education is therefore most welcome on my part.

However, there is another method from the early 80's that we could also redeploy to achieve these laudable aims in adolescent IT literacy. By reinstalling ZX Spectrums, Acorn Electron's, Oric 1's and even the occasional Dragon 32 in WH Smiths, the youth will once again be unwittingly self-instructed in the art of writing short, memory efficient programs that display amusing profanities and the sexual preferences of their friends on the TV monitors before the store manager realises what they've done, or have indeed calculated how to terminate their witty little programs.

Thursday 12 January 2012

I Am A Centrefold

I’ve been offered a most excellent gig by those lovely people at The Skeptic Magazine.

A while ago I cobbled together an Alt-Med flowchart to enable the budding Alt Med junkie to select an appropriate pointless therapy.

A new and improved version of this diagram now nestles proudly in the centre of the latest issue of the Skeptic magazine, where you can rip it out and stick it on your wall, if your so inclined.

You can purchase the magazine here. However I will be producing regular centrefolds for future editions of the magazine so why not subscribe?