EXHIBITS: The Turing Files

Science  05 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5578, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5578.19c

Alan Turing was a math wizard who laid the groundwork for the computer and helped break the German Enigma code during World War II. At the Turing Digital Archive, you'll find a trove of mostly unpublished papers and personal photographs squirreled away by King's College, Cambridge, where Turing was an undergraduate and fellow. Along with math and computers, Turing's many other interests are on display, ranging from morphogenesis—how a developing organism takes shape—to long-distance running.

One of Turing's most famous contributions was a procedure to determine if a computer was intelligent. To pass the Turing Test, a machine would have to provide convincingly human answers to a series of questions. This site from the University of California, San Diego, includes Turing's original 1950 paper and recent critiques and endorsements. No computer has met the standard, but you can chat with some of the programs that have come closest, such as Brian, set up to respond like an 18-year-old college student.

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