The Cosmic Shed

The Imitation Game

December 12, 2014

In the 'difficult' second episode of The Cosmic Shed, Andrew, Laura and Ben talk about The Imitation Game and hear from Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars as Alan Turing in the film.

Andrew interviewed Benedict about preparing for the role, why he loves playing scientists, and the importance of creating a fascination for science through films. 

He also mentions Sherlock, and a few scientific stories he'd like to see in the cinemas. Andrew then challenges Laura and Ben to pitch ideas for films based on scientists, and suggests that the story of Watson and Crick may be quite a hard sell for Hollywood.

Other topics of conversation include the role Alan Turing played in the development of computing, other dramatisations of his life, and the shameful way he was punished by the state for his sexuality. Andrew and Laura talk about how The Imitation Game offers positive messages not just in science communication, but also in challenging homophobia and other forms of prejudice.

We also ramble on about the Turing Test, the Lovelace Exam, and other ways of measuring artificial intelligence, and ask if humans are merely machines and whether this really matters. Ben talks about the Hero's Journey and wonders how much responsibility film-makers and other storytellers should have when creating stories based on historical events. He also says 'stuff' a lot, and for some reason makes several references to Julie & Julia. When asked about his apparent obsession with Amy Adams, he replied 'Shhh. I'm watching Enchanted.'

Spoiler warning

This episode contains spoilers for The Imitation Game, so if you haven't seen the film, you might want to watch it before listening to the show, and before it (the film) wins lots of Oscars.

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Show notes

The shed sits in a garden somewhere in Bristol. We recorded this episode on an evening in December, so were getting a little chilly towards the end of the episode.

Radiolab have produced two great episodes based around Alan Turing and his work: The Turing Problem and Talking to Machines.

The Mary Sue has a couple of nice pieces on Ada Lovelace: one on the Lovelace Exam, and one celebrating her life and work for Ada Lovelace Day.

Ben also talks about a web comic called The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

Alan Turing: The Enigma is a website maintained by Turing's biographer Andrew Hodges, and includes a potted history of Turing's life and work.

Laura and Ben pitch Andrew film/miniseries ideas based on Sir Douglas Mawson, and The Harvard Computers.

At the time of recording, the TV version of Breaking the Code, Station X, and Horizon: The Strange Life and Death of Dr Turing were all available on at least one popular video streaming platform...

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