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The universal machine

When you think of Alan Turing you might think of his work breaking the Enigma code in World War II. Or you might think of his work that helped build the foundations of computer science and mathematical logic. Or you might even think of his groundbreaking work in mathematical biology on morphogensis which helps explain animal patterns.


The universal machine poster detail.

One thing we hadn't thought of, until 2013 that is, was that he could be the emotional centerpoint of a musical. The universal machine is a musical about Alan Turing's life and work that was staged in London in 2013. As part of our series about putting maths on stage and screen, we revisit our 2013 interview with the writer and director David Byrne, actor Richard Delaney, who played Turing, and assistant director Natalie York, to find out how you turn such a story, and the maths in it, into a musical.

We are very grateful to Dominic Brennan, who wrote the music for The universal machine, for giving us permission to use the track Building The Bombe Part Two from the show.

For more information:

  • You can read the original article accompanying this podcast and a review of The universal machine;
  • You can find out more about the Enigma code and how it was cracked in Exploring the Enigma;
  • You can read about morphogenesis in How the leopard got its spots;
  • And there is more on Turing and his work in Alan Turing: ahead of his time and What computers can't do. These two articles also look at the halting problem which is related to the Entscheidungsproblem mentioned in the podcast.
  • You can listen to the podcast using the player above, and you can listen and subscribe to our podcast through Apple Podcasts, Spotify and through most other podcast providers via podbean.

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