Thursday, February 11, 2016

Codebreaker - 4 Stars


Codebreaker is another of many recent documentaries about Alan Turing. It covers the many noteworth points of his fascinating life that we've all seen in the previous productions of late, and a bit more. One new aspect of his studies brought to light and covered in some detail by this presentation is Turing's work in the area of biomorphology. Turing was interested in why the particular number of petals on a given flower often corresponded to Fibonacci numbers, and how individual cells in an organism "know" what kind of cells to become in a fully formed organism.

"Morphogenesis," of particular interest to Turing, describes how shapes and patterns emerge in living organisms as they develop. Turing was the first to try to develop a mathematical explanation for how stripes and spotted patterns form in nature. His pioneering work in the 1950's showed that chemical processes, following simple mathematical rules, could spontaneously create striped and spotted patterns such as those we observe in nature. Turing's scientific paper, "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis," described the process by which spots on cows are formed. 

I found the scenes in which the actor portraying Turing speaks with his psychiatrist about his life and his feelings to be a bit contrived, but not a major distraction. Those scenes still managed to convey something of the character of the man that may have been difficult to present in any other way. Overall production was extremely informative and entertaining. I give it 4 stars out of 5, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone with even a cursory interest in the life of Alan Turing.