The Imitation Game

Tonight I celebrated Valentine’s Day in a somewhat unorthodox manner by going to see “The Imitation Game.” Strangely, it’s actually the first of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees that I’ve seen in the theater. I realize I’m way behind where I was this time last year, but I’ve got plans to see a few more of the Oscar nominated movies before next weekend. But anyway, I figured “The Imitation Game” was one of the most anti-Valentine’s Day film offerings, and therefore perfect for the evening’s entertainment. And it was amazing. It excited my mind. I’m going to say something a little crass, but for an engineer like me “The Imitation Game” was like porn. It lit up parts of my brain that are dormant a majority of the time. Those neural pathways usually only kick in to gear when major problems present themselves at work. I have a little bit of experience tackling crazy problems, sometimes even under very restrictive time constraints. Nothing like the elaborate encryptions that Alan Turing’s team was struggling with, but I think I have some idea of their work process. And I’m in awe of it. Based on my admittedly short career in the aerospace industry, I know what it’s like to work with a limited set of tools to try and solve a complex puzzle. It’s like trying to perform surgery with a spoon. You learn to be creative in ways your college courses didn’t even begin to teach you. You invent new paradigms when you have to. Learning on the job becomes trial by fire sometimes. It’s a humbling experience and it makes me realize just how amazing an achievement it was to break the WWII codes. While watching the movie I started thinking about how I might start attacking something like Enigma. My brain doesn’t work on anywhere near the level of the folks depicted in “The Imitation Game,” but I probably could come up with a rough framework for where to start. I’m no mathematician, but that didn’t keep me from comprehending the remarkable work of Alan Turing and his colleagues. I just hope my scientific brain helped me appreciate it a little more than the average viewer.