Alan Turing To Be The Face Of Fifty Quid

The Bank of England has announced that the new face of the £50 note is to be Alan Turing. This news follows a round of public nominations for a scientist to fill the space, and Turing was in the running with some stiff competition from the likes of Stephen Hawking and Ada, Countess Lovelace.

The fifty is not a note you’ll see very often even if you’re a Brit, it’s the one you’ll usually only come into contact with if you’ve bought a second-hand car, but the importance of this move goes beyond whether or not the note will be proffered at the bar for a foaming pint of mild ale. It’s not an honour that is handed out lightly, and it is particularly poignant in the case of Turing who despite his wartime codebreaking and genesis of the discipline of computer science was disgraced and pushed to suicide in the 1950s when he was discovered to be gay.

Will Hardware Pictured on the Bill Be as Famous as Turing Himself?

The bank has not yet set the engravers to work, but they have generated this mock-up that features alongside Turing himself a table from a Turing machine example superimposed on a picture of an early computer rack. We don’t think it’s EDSAC or Manchester Baby, it’s not a Bombe and it definitely shouldn’t be Colossus as he had little to do with it, but we are sure that among our readers will be someone who can provide a positive identification. We hope that whatever the final design may be, it does justice to Turing’s legacy.

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Project Egress: A Bracket And A Bell Crank For The Latches

Put yourself in [This Old Tony]’s shoes: you get an email out of the blue asking you to take part in making a replica of a 50-year-old spacecraft. Would you believe it? He didn’t, at least not at first, but in the end it proved to be true enough that he made these two assemblies for Project Egress in his own unique style.

If you haven’t heard of Project Egress, check out our coverage of the initial announcement. The idea is to build a replica of the crew hatch from the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, as part of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing next week. [Adam Savage] at Tested has enlisted 44 hackers and makers to help, spreading the work out among the group and letting everyone work in whatever materials and with whatever methods they feel like. [Old Tony], perhaps unsurprisingly, chose mainly Apollo-era dehydrated space-grade aluminum, machined using a combination of manual and CNC machining. We really like the finish he chose – a combination of sandblasting and manual distressing to give it a mission-worn look.

As for exactly what the parts themselves are, the best [Old Tony] could come up with to call them is a bracket and a bell crank. From the original hatch drawings, it looks like there were two bell cranks, which will transmit force around the hatch to the latches that [Fran Blanche], [Joel] and [Bob], and no doubt others have contributed to the build.

We’re eagerly anticipating the final assembly, to be executed by [Adam] live at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on July 18. Project Egress is as much a celebration of the maker movement as it is a commemoration of Apollo, and we’re pleased that people will get a chance to see the fruits of the labors of all these hackers in so public a forum.

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New Space Abort Systems Go Back To The Future

Throughout the history of America’s human spaceflight program, there’s been an alternating pattern in regards to abort systems. From Alan Shepard’s first flight in 1961 on, every Mercury capsule was equipped with a Launch Escape System (LES) tower that could pull the spacecraft away from a malfunctioning rocket. But by the first operational flight of the Gemini program in 1965, the LES tower had been deleted in favor of ejection seats. Just three years later, the LES tower returned for the first manned flight of the Apollo program.

Mercury LES Tower

With the Space Shuttle, things got more complicated. There was no safe way to separate the Orbiter from the rest of the stack, so when Columbia made its first test flight in 1981, NASA returned again to ejection seats, this time pulled from an SR-71 Blackbird. But once flight tests were complete, the ejector seats were removed; leaving Columbia and all subsequent Orbiters without any form of LES. At the time, NASA believed the Space Shuttle was so reliable that there was no need for an emergency escape system.

It took the loss of Challenger and her crew in 1986 to prove NASA had made a grave error in judgment, but by then, it was too late. Changes were made to the Shuttle in the wake of the accident investigation, but escape during powered flight was still impossible. While a LES would not have saved the crew of Columbia in 2003, another seven lives lost aboard the fundamentally flawed Orbiter played a large part in President George W. Bush’s decision to begin winding down the Shuttle program.

In the post-Shuttle era, NASA has made it clear that maintaining abort capability from liftoff to orbital insertion is a critical requirement. Their own Orion spacecraft has this ability, and they demand the same from commercial partners such as SpaceX and Boeing. But while all three vehicles are absolutely bristling with high-tech wizardry, their abort systems are not far removed from what we were using in the 1960’s.

Let’s take a look at the Launch Escape Systems for America’s next three capsules, and see where historical experience helped guide the design of these state-of-the-art spacecraft.

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Curbing Internet Addiction In A Threatening Manner

Those who have children of their own might argue that the youth of today are getting far too much internet time. [Nick] decided to put an emergency stop to it and made this ingenious internet kill switch to threaten teenagers with. Rather unassuming on the outside, the big red button instantly kills all network traffic as soon as you push it down, doing its label justice. Reset the toggle button, and the connection is restored, simple as that.

In order to achieve this, [Nick] fit inside the enclosure a Raspberry Pi Zero W, along with a battery and a wireless charging circuit for portability and completely wireless operation. The button is wired into the Pi’s GPIO and triggers a command to the router via SSH over WiFi, where a script listening to the signal tells it to drop the network interfaces talking to the outside world. It’s simple, it’s clean, and you can carry it around with you as a warning for those who dare disobey you. We love it.

Another use for big red buttons we’ve seen in the past is an AC power timer, but you can do just about anything with them if you turn one into an USB device. Check this one in action after the break.

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A Stacked Peltier Cloud Chamber Build

Subatomic particles are remarkably difficult to see, but they can be made visible with the right techniques. Building a cloud chamber with dry ice is a common way to achieve this, but coming by the material can be difficult. [The Thought Emporium] wanted a more accessible build, and went for a Peltier-based design instead (Youtube link, embedded below).

By stacking several Peltier coolers in a cascade, it’s possible to increase the temperature differential generated. In this design, the copper plate of the chamber is cooled down to -33 degrees Fahrenheit (-36.11 Celcius), more than cold enough for the experiment to work. Alcohol is added to the glass chamber, and when it reaches the cold plate, it creates a super-saturated vapor. When disturbed by charged particles zipping out of a radioactive source, the vapor condenses, leaving a visible trail.

Cloud chambers are a popular experiment to try at home. It’s a great science fair project, and one that can be easily constructed with old computer parts and a couple of cheap modules from eBay. Just be careful when experimenting with radioactive sources. Video after the break.

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