Posted in books, films & DVD, locomotives, steam locomotives, Trains

Lomotive Literature

Classic British Steam – The Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Lately I have been reading This stunning regional guide to Britain’s railways, which includes 6 DVD’s and an illustrated Hardback book and details the complete story of steam, both past and present across England, Scotland and Wales. It features The North East, The North West, the South West, London and the South East, Wales and Scotland. It also includes footage of preserved steam from the Settle and Carlisle line, the West Somerset Railway, The Severn Valley Railway, Paignton, Bodmin and Dawlish as well as archive footage from the 1960’s.

Great Central Railway – Past Present and Future. This is Published by Railway and Heritage Railway Magazines and is the complete story of the Great Central Railway from it’s beginnings as a pre- grouping company in Victorian times, to joining the London Midland and Southern railway in 1923, till the end of Steam in 1968 and subsequently becoming a popular heritage line around Loughborough. It also features the Buckingham Railway Centre at Quainton, the Elsecar Heritage Railway and the much lamented trans-Pennines Woodland Route and Grimsby and Immingham Tramway.

Trains – The Story of the Railway Revolution by Dorling Kindersly. This book features over 350 Locomotives from steam’s earliest days in the 1800’s, when pioneers like Richard Trevithick and George Stephenson experimented with steam and developed the first passenger carrying Railway – The Stockton and Darlington, from the Rainhill Trials and led the world in Steam Train design, before exporting their invention worldwide and rapidly expanding the railways influence worldwide, inEurope, Asia and America, inspiring many world pioneers to experiment and develop railways further, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who came up with many innovations to improve all aspects of train travel, making it a faster, safer and more efficient method of Mass Transport and some even began using it underground.

The book also looks at some of the incredible feats of engineering undertaken during this age including trans continental railways, stretching thousands of miles, tunnels, bridges, cuttings and viaducts which were constructed to enable trains to run more directly as well as the infrastructure that grew up around locomotives, like the grandiose architecture used at stations, hotels, signal boxes and engine sheds. The glamourous side of passenger train travel during the 1930’s is mentioned, an age of speed and style when rail companies went to extraordinary measures to provide the fastest most luxurious locomotives.

The book also examines the important role played by railways in times of war And looks at The important role trains play in moving large amounts of freight and goods during war-time and in peace time, and shows how technological advances over the years led away from steam, in preference of diesel and electricity as more desirable forms of motive power. THe development of high speed mass transit like the Intercity 125, Advanced Passenger Train, Shinkansen bullet Trains, SNCF TGV and Eurostar are also mentioned as are Trans-continental railways like AMTRAK, for long distances as well as urban diesels, elevated railways, trams and electric railways. The future of railways is also examined and how modern innovations are  helping to shape today’s and future railways.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four was published on 8th June 1949. It is set in Oceania, where society is tyrannized by The Party and its totalitarian ideology.The Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc) under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thoughtcrimes. Their tyranny is headed by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist.

Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good.The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports the current party line. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

As literary political fiction and as dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, room 101 and memory hole, have entered everyday use since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four also popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005 the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels and was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor’s list, and 6 on the reader’s list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.

Posted in computers, Internet, Science-tech

Alan Turing

British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist Alan Turing OBE, FRS was found dead 8 June 1954 after committing suicide. Born on June 23rd, 1912 in Maida Vale, and grew up in Hastings. He displayed great individuality from a young age. At 14 he went to Sherborne School in Dorset.Turing subsequently read mathematics at Cambridge,He was completely original thinkerwho shaped the modern world, and assisted in the development of the innovative Manchester computers. He was also highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of “algorithm” and “computation” with the Turing machine, which played a sinificant role in the creation of the modern computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligece.He also became interested in mathematical biology and wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, which were first observed in the 1960s.

On 4 September 1939 the day after Britain declared war on Germany, Turing reported to Bletchley Park where he worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS)the forerunner of GCHQ, Britain’s codebreaking centre. For a time he was head of Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Turing led a team whose ingenuity and intellect were turned to the task of breaking German ciphers. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers and One of Turing’s main contributions whilst there was to invent the Bombe, an electromechanical machine used to find the daily settings of the Enigma machine. as a result he played an absolutely vital part of the British war effort and It is without question that his efforts helped shorten the war significantly, saving the lives of millions of people.He was also a remarkable British hero who helped create the modern world. Now known as the father of computer science, his inventions contributed greatly to the groundwork for the modern computer.

After the war he worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he created one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, the ACE. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman’s Computing Laboratory at Manchester University, where he assisted in the development of the Manchester computers and invented a type of theoretical machine now called a Turing Machine, which formalized what it means to compute a number. Turing’s importance extends far beyond Turing Machines. His work deciphering secret codes drastically shortened World War II and pioneered early computer technology.He was also an early innovator in the field of artificial intelligence, and came up with a way to test if computers could think – now known as the Turing Test. Besides this abstract work, he was down to earth; he designed and built real machines, even making his own relays and wiring up circuits. This combination of pure math and computing machines was the foundation of computer science.

Despite his achievements, he was treated badly. A burglary at his home led Turing to admit to police that he was a practicing homosexual, at a time when it was illegal in Britain. This led to his arrest and conviction in 1952 for ‘gross indecency’. He was subsequently forced to choose between imprisonment and chemical castration. He chose chemical castration (treatment with female hormones) as an alternative to prison.As a result of his conviction he lost security clearance and was not allowed to continue his work. Sadly On 8 June 1954 just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, Turing was found dead from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined that his death was suicide and he had poisoned himself with cyanide.

One hundred years on from Turing’s birth, attitudes hve changed and The US-based Association of Computing Machinery has given The Turing Award annually since 1966, which is the computing world’s highest honour for technical contribution to the computing community and considered equivalent to the Nobel prize.On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”.Despite his valuable contributions Turing did not receive the recognition and plaudits that he deserved while alive, However this has now been redressed and there is now A fully functional rebuild of the Bombe which can be found today at Bletchley Park, along with the excellent Turing exhibition