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Bank of England to honor Alan Turing on £50 note

"It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society."

Bank of England
  • The late British mathematician and theoretical computer scientist Alan Turing will appear on Britain's 50-pound note starting in 2021.
  • Turing is best known for helping to crack the Nazis' Enigma machine, a feat that's estimated to have cut World War II short by two years.
  • The British government, which chemically castrated Turing in 1952 for "homosexual acts," officially apologized to Turing in 2009.


The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing — the late British codebreaker who helped end World War II — will be the new face of the 50-pound note starting in 2021.

"Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," said Bank of England governor Mark Carney. "As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing's contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand."

As a mathematician, logician and early computer scientist, Turing helped crack the Nazis' Enigma machine while working at Britain's Bletchley Park as part of the Ultra intelligence outfit. The breakthrough is estimated to have cut the war short by two years. Turing is also often called the Father of Artificial Intelligence, and his Turing machine can be considered an early example of a general-purpose computer.

"His genius lay in a unique ability to link the philosophical and the abstract with the practical and the concrete," Carney said. "All around us his legacy continues to build."

But despite his contributions to society, British authorities, in 1952, prosecuted Turing, who was gay, for homosexual acts under a Victorian-era law commonly known as the Labouchere Amendment. Turing was forced to choose between prison or chemical castration by the injection of female hormones. He chose the latter. Two years later, Turing killed himself at the age of 41 by consuming cyanide.

"It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society, but perhaps the most poignant example is that his work is estimated to have shortened the war by four years and saved up to 21 million lives," John Leech, a former Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, told The Guardian. "And yet the way he was treated afterwards remains a national embarrassment and an example of society at its absolute worst."

In 2009, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a national apology to Turing.

"Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted, as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly," Brown said. "Over the years, millions more lived in fear in conviction. I am proud that those days are gone and that in the past 12 years this Government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality, and long overdue."

In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II officially pardoned Alan Turing, marking the nation's fourth royal pardon granted since World War II.

Turing wasn't the only British scientist considered for the 50-pound note. Among the shortlist of candidates, as The Guardian reports, were Mary Anning, Paul Dirac, Rosalind Franklin, William Herschel and Caroline Herschel, Dorothy Hodgkin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, James Clerk Maxwell, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Ernest Rutherford, and Frederick Sanger.

Campaigners and some British lawmakers had signed a 150,000-strong petition to honor a scientist of color on the 50-pound note, warning that selecting a white scientist risks sending a "damaging message that ethnic minorities are invisible." However, Carney said the Bank intended to celebrate "all aspects of diversity."

"We want to represent as best as possible all aspects of diversity within the country, from race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, disability and beyond," Carney told The Guardian. "What we have today is a celebration of one of the greatest mathematicians and scientists in the United Kingdom and not just this country's history but world history."

In the U.K., cashless transactions are becoming increasingly common, though Carney noted that paper notes will still be around "for a very long period of time." It's also worth noting that, while Turing might've appreciated being honored on fiat currency, his contributions undoubtedly helped pave the way for cryptocurrency.

Is the universe a graveyard? This theory suggests humanity may be alone.

Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?

According to the Great Filter theory, Earth might be one of the only planets with intelligent life. And that's a good thing (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA]).
Surprising Science

Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.

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The key to better quality education? Make students feel valued.

Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.

Future of Learning
  • Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
  • One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
  • "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
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Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

A truck pulls out of a large Walmart regional distribution center on June 6, 2019 in Washington, Utah.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
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Personal Growth

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

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