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Keuka College News > Author Archives: Doug Lippincott

Oscar Win Would be Fitting Tribute to Turing

By Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president

Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera

The Imitation Game, based on the real-life story of Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at England’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School in World War II, garnered eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Benedict Cumberbatch.

Turing built a digital computer that broke Nazi Germany’s most closely guarded encryption code, the Enigma code. That story was superbly told in The Imitation Game, which ended with the filmmakers’ revelation that Turing committed suicide in 1954. An open-minded gay man, Turing was a victim of the discriminatory laws of the day.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that “Turing’s work was one of the most important factors in the victory for the Allied forces and had probably shortened the war by as much as two years.” In 1945 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to his country and in 1951, Turing was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

However, we knew nothing about this war hero and mathematical and engineering genius until the 1970s, and not until 2012, 100 years after his birth, were his wartime papers declassified. What is now known is that Turing’s brilliant work proved essential to the development of computers and today’s machines rely on his seminal insight. He brought cryptology to the modern world and invented the concept of the programmable computer.

In 1936, while reading mathematics in Cambridge, England, the 24-year-old Turing made an extraordinary discovery: a universal “computing” machine. Turing called this theoretical entity the “automatic machine,” or a-machine; today we call it the Universal Turing Machine. Turing proved that the a-machine could solve any computing problem capable of being described as a sequence of mathematical steps. In 1938 he completed his Ph.D. thesis at Princeton, providing a formalization of the concepts of “algorithms” and “computation.” More importantly, he proved the notion that “software,” a word not coined yet, was capable of encompassing “every known process” as evidenced by today’s world of computers.

Turing’s interest in the human mind, even from 1936, centered on modeling the brain; in the 1940s he developed ideas for artificial intelligence (a term attributed to John McCarthy from the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s). In the early 1950s Turing founded a completely new field: mathematical biology (today’s computational biology, without which we would not have been able to decipher the human genome). In 1952, he developed a chess program for a computer that did not yet exist but which he simulated by hand. It was his fascination with the human brain that led him to develop a test for machine-based intelligence; he called it the imitation game, published in his extraordinary paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” It is now known as the famous Turing Test.

The hardware does not look the same, but the mathematical model of today’s computers is identical to the Turing machine. Proving again that he was way ahead of his time, Turing showed indirectly that we cannot automatically detect machine viruses or other malicious code, which explains why cyber-security is one of the most intractable problems of the 21st century.

The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) A.M. Turing Award is an annual prize that honors an individual “for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community.” It is generally recognized as the highest distinction in computer science, the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” now carrying a $1 million prize.

This is a fitting tribute to Turing, who was grossly misunderstood during his lifetime, but today is remembered as a true science and engineering pioneer, and a hero of the theory and practice of computer science.

And while The Imitation Game did a superb job of chronicling Turing’s heroic work during World War II, the film told just a portion of his story. As I left the theater I couldn’t help but wonder how much further ahead computing would be today if Turing had lived longer.

Students Deliver Capital Performance in Albany

From left: Seniors Tom Drumm, Shadayvia Wallace, Erin Scott and Dee Metzger traveled to Albany to advocate more student aid

Advocacy is defined as “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy.”

And no one did it better than four Keuka College seniors who traveled to Albany last week for New York Student Aid Alliance Advocacy Day.

Dee Metzger, Erin Scott, Shadayvia Wallace, and Tom Drumm are passionate about Keuka College and the aid that will make it possible for them to join the College’s alumni ranks this May.

Metzger and Wallace shared that passion with a large crowd of students and others gathered in the Well of the Legislative Office Building.  The storytelling continued when all four students met with a staffer in State Sen. Tom O’Mara’s office. They extolled the virtues of TAP and HEOP and reinforced the need to keep those and other student aid programs vibrant for students who will follow their path to Keuka College and other schools in the Empire State.

How good were these students at advocating for student aid?

“If you didn’t believe student aid was a just cause,” said Executive Director of Grants, Governmental Relations, and Compliance Doug Lippincott, “you would after listening to Dee, Erin, Shadayvia, and Tom. Their personal stories were captivating and their knowledge of the issues impressive.”

The New York Student Aid Alliance is a coalition of colleges and universities and other stakeholder organizations that support funding vital student aid programs in New York State.

Terrorist Attacks Put “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” to the Test

By Sander A. Diamond, professor of history

It was Paris where the Revolution of 1789 unfolded, giving the world the phrase “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” The recent sad events in Paris—when radical Muslim terrorists slaughtered 12 people in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine, and a lone gunman shot four customers to death in a Jewish grocery—are putting this to the test.

Many people in European Union (EU) countries have concluded that Islam is an inherently violent religion and are pointing their fingers not only at the Middle East but also to the growing Muslim populations in their midst. France’s Muslim population is close to 6 million and growing.  In Germany, it is 4 million out of a total of 82 million, and 5 percent of the population in the Netherlands is Muslim.

Anti-Islamic sentiment, or Islamophobia, is on the rise along with anti-immigration sentiment. In France the leading anti-immigration party is the National Front, led by 46-year-old Marine Le Pen, whose followers stir the pot of Islamophobia. In Holland it is led by Geert Wilders, a member of Parliament since 1998 and whose documentary Fitna highlighted the spread of Islam in Holland. And in Germany, a new movement yet to become a political party, Pediga (an acronym for (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident), is led by Lutz Bachmann. It is located in Dresden, and given Germany’s history, images of flag-waving Germans chanting “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the People”) is troublesome for many Germans and those outside the Federal Republic.

All religions have their extremists. The average Muslim in Europe goes about his business quietly each day— vendors, store owners, and members of the high civil service. In fact, the policeman who was shot in Paris was a Muslim. On the other hand, it appears that the alienated Muslim youth are increasingly becoming radicalized and eschew Western values. Some become Jihadists. Their aims are well known: wreak havoc on civil society by any means. Terrorism is war on the cheap.

Restrictive immigration, with set caps on nation of origin, are already in place in some countries and will spread to others. Security services will spend billions tracking terrorists working hand-in-glove with the USA and the UK and there will be NSA-style monitoring of all Muslims, especially the Imams in the mosques that dot the landscape.

And then there are the fears of the Jewish communities in France, Belgium and Holland. Anti-Jewish hostility and attacks on Jews were born out of the seemingly endless rift between the Israelis and Palestinians. Today, it is rooted in old-fashioned Jew hatred. The mere trickle of Jews leaving France for the Jewish state—7,000 last year—will grow. French Jews are so fearful they are not wearing the symbol of the faith, the skullcap, in public and keeping their children out of school. When Israel’s prime minister spoke in the Great Synagogue in Paris, he invited all Jews to “come home.” However, Germany’s 265,000-strong Jewish community does not appear to be moving anytime soon. And in the post-Holocaust world, no one should expect the huge Muslim populations to be put on trains and sent home. Millions are nationals in their own lands, born inside the EU.

Greater efforts have to be made to meld Muslims into the broader community, what Germany’s Chancellor Merkel calls “The Middle Road.” It may take many generations to accomplish this.  At the end of the day, the French will not permit Muslim extremists to shatter the land that gave the world “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” When a million or more people chanted “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) it spoke volumes. It had a better ring to it than the xenophobic “Wir sind das Volk” across the border

If the situation in the traditional homelands of Muslims starts to stabilize, some will leave. But millions will stay and hopefully, with time, diversity will win out over xenophobia.

ISIS Blitzkrieg Mirrors Path, Tactics of Past Conquerors


By Dr. Sander Diamond, professor of history

The first seedlings of civilization started to take root along the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers—the Fertile Crescent— roughly 5,000 years ago in what is today called the Middle East.

People did not venture too far into the arid wastelands just a few miles from the rivers for reasons other than trade, carried on by long lines of caravans along established routes where tribes carefully guarded the waterholes, a story best told in the epic film Lawrence of Arabia.  For the locals, water was, and is, more precious than the oil below the ground as the leaders of ISIS well know. It is no coincidence that the ISIS blitzkrieg has been along the fabled Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. ISIS tried to capture a reservoir in northern Iraq and one suspects if it tries to take control of Baghdad, it may cut-off the water supply as the Barbarians did when they finally took old Rome in the 5th century.

The two rivers have their origins in the mountains of Turkey and flow to the Persian Gulf. In the ancient cosmology of the region, there was a family feud among the Gods, and from the tears of the Mother Goddess the two rivers flowed. Sadly, the tears of the Mother Goddess continue to flow as a result of the savagery of ISIS, which aspires to create a Sunni caliphate not only in the Fertile Crescent but farther south as well.

ISIS is the latest conqueror to covet this region, which for thousands of years has been geopolitically important, the conduit between the East and the West, which today includes Eastern Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and smaller states connected to Saudi Arabia. To understand this region, one must be mindful of its long history, each civilization establishing itself as a layer on top of another: the Sumerians, Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Parthians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Muslim conquest after 636 CE, the Babylonians again, Byzantines, and the Ottoman Turks, who controlled most of the region until it was dismembered after World War I, creating the states of the Middle East today. Prior to the Great War of 1914-1918, the Germans hoped to control the Middle East and connect Berlin to Baghdad by rail. In the 1920s the French and the British arrived and in the Cold War, the Russians and the Americans jockeyed for control.

It would be difficult, but hardly impossible, to list the number of armies that have moved through this region. Until the 20th century they came on camels, horses, and donkeys followed by foot soldiers. For thousands of years they followed the same path, hugging the waterways, looting, slaughtering, and raping along the way, often driving the inhabitants to seek refuge in the arid wastelands just as hundreds of thousands have to avoid the wrath of ISIS. Today, ISIS moves in vehicles stolen from the Syrians and what they seized from the Iraqis: American-made equipment, tanks, and heavy vehicles. The foot soldiers no longer walk but ride in Japanese-made small trucks with heavy machine guns mounted behind the cabs, black flags flying, the latest incarnation of a terrorist movement on the move.

The United States and its partners hope to stop the ISIS blitzkrieg using airpower in conjunction with local militias on the ground and a reformed Iraqi army. Many ISIS military commanders are well-trained officers who once served Saddam Hussein. They know the terrain and when threatened from the air, simply melt into the local populations or fade into the arid wastelands.  They present a formidable foe, highly disciplined, willing to die and dedicated to the recreation of the Sunni caliphate. The ISIS assault on Iraq can be temporarily stopped but not arrested. In the annals of modern warfare, no highly organized army has been defeated using airpower alone as the staggering amount of explosives dropped on Germany in the last world war, on Vietnam, and more recently on Saddam reveals.

ISIS will only be defeated when confronted by an army on the ground working in tandem with airpower. For the moment, neither the United States nor the major regional powers in the Middle East have any intention of fielding land armies, the proverbial “boots on the ground.”  But in time they will and one suspects the colors the soldiers will be wearing will not be that of the United States, the NATO powers, or Washington’s current allies in the region. Once ISIS consolidates its hold on Iraq, Iran will move to destroy it. Sh’ia controlled Iran will never permit the rise of a Sunni caliphate next door and the expected mass slaughter of Iraq’s Sh’ia population.  One also suspects that behind the scenes, talks between Washington and Tehran are already under way.

College Receives $250,000 from New York State to Help Fund Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics

Keuka College has received $250,000 from New York State to fund a project aimed at boosting the economic profile of Yates County.

The Empire State Development (ESD) grant will help fund the Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics, which will be housed in a new building. Construction of the facility is expected to start in spring 2015.

The funding was included in the $80.7 million awarded to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC) at a ceremony yesterday (Dec. 11) in Albany. The awards culminated the fourth annual New York State Regional Economic Development Councils competition in which 10 regional councils across the state vied for a piece of $750 million in grants and tax breaks.

Prof. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, Ph.D.

“I am pleased that the FLREDC and ESD saw the value of the Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics (CBAHI), especially the impact it will have on Yates County,” said Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College. “The Center will create jobs and become the hub for entrepreneurial programs and research in Yates County.”

The Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics will leverage Keuka College’s entrepreneurial business programs to boost the economy of Yates County—New York State’s most economically challenged region—by creating construction, high-tech, health sciences, and education jobs,” said Díaz-Herrera.

“The academic programs, workshops, symposia and development of analytical capabilities that the CBAHI will promote will be vital components of our student’s education,” said Dr. Dan Robeson, founding director of the Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics, chair of the Division of Business and Management and associate professor of management. “The CBAHI places Keuka College among the first movers in higher education in this new and dynamic field.”

“The Center will also leverage the College’s expertise in healthcare—in particular nursing and occupational therapy—to address the nursing shortage faced by Yates County and other rural regions across the country,” said Díaz-Herrera.

In addition, the president said health care providers in Yates County will receive state-of-the-art training in informatics.

“This is important because achieving meaningful use of electronic health records depends on the capacity of providers to effectively exchange data through interoperable systems while safeguarding the integrity, privacy, and security of patient information,” he explained.“The training provided by the Center, to nurses and others pursuing careers in healthcare, will help Yates County retain these talented workers, thereby ensuring a high-level of healthcare in the future.”

Keuka College students will also reap benefits because the Center will provide hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, a staple of a Keuka College education and a key to finding success in the job market and graduate school.

The Center will anchor a new college-town development (Keuka Commons)—called for in the College’s Long Range Strategic Plan—that will serve myriad needs of students and community residents. Early planning calls for a fitness center, stores, and eateries.

The ESD grant comes six months after the College earned START-UP designation, an initiative designed to provide major incentives for businesses to relocate, start up, or expand in New York State through affiliations with colleges and universities.

More than 2,500 square feet of vacant space at Keuka Business Park in Penn Yan was declared eligible for the START-UP program and the College is working with the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center to secure businesses for that location. The College also hopes to designate space in the Keuka Commons building for the START-UP NY initiative.

A centerpiece of the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s strategy to jump-start the Empire State economy, the regional councils were established in 2011. The first three rounds of the regional council process awarded more than $2 billion to more than 2,200 job creation and community projects, supporting the creation and retention of more than 130,000 jobs.