Help me be a (sexy) Turing machine!
October 29, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I want to be a Turing machine for Halloween. I'm going to be surrounded by language nerds. They'll get it. But I need my 'fancy dress' (aka, costume) to be fantastic and I have limited time, money and supplies.

I have a couple of boxes, tinfoil, foam blocks, and access to a black and white printer. I need to be mobile and awesome. Bonus points for things to do/say to make my costume more authentic!
posted by iamkimiam to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could wear a tail and some facepaint and be a combination Turing machine-Busy beaver.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:41 AM on October 29, 2010

The Turing Machine Queen:

Print a B&W photo of Alan Turing, cut it to shape, and attach to a headband so it stands up. Sprinkle with glitter--voila, Turing tiara.

Then take a large piece of paper (or other handy material) and make a sash with the symbols that represent the formal definition of a Turing machine.

Wear over cute dress.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:48 AM on October 29, 2010

Bear in mind that Halloween isn't such a big deal in the UK, and people aren't that used to conceptual costumes, so you might have to explain it a lot.

Could you wrap yourself in "infinite" tape (strips of paper) as the majority of the costume, and just have a slider of some kind that moves backwards and forwards along a short section of it?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:01 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Depends on what your dress looks like, but something black would be good.

Then do a grid of white squares around the waist (, i.e. like a pixel display). Then color some of the white pixels red (or green) with symbols that "say" Turing machine. I have no idea what those symbols would be, presumably something the language nerds would get. Then you'd have a digital readout from a Turing Machine viewable from any angle.

For times sake, you could just do front and back, or just front.

Bonus points for making a real digital display!
posted by nomadicink at 8:04 AM on October 29, 2010

You need a tape / sash with symbols. Letters would work, but colored dots or something might be more fun. Any time you get bored "read" a new symbol, rotate your sash one position and change the subject.
posted by ecurtz at 8:04 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about a big box, painted black, with some sort of response distributor (index cards with responses written on them?); you can wear it or take it off and leave it sitting there, and people try to judge whether you're in the box or not by the responses they get to their questions. When you're in the box, you write the responses yourself; when you're not, they get an automatic response from the stack.
posted by richyoung at 8:15 AM on October 29, 2010

As for things to say or do, you may want to reference the Halting Problem - "I never know when I'm going to stop!" for instance. Or think of some corny jokes -

"Where does a Turing machine go to pray? Alonzo Church!"
/me ducks to avoid rotten fruit
posted by Electric Dragon at 8:17 AM on October 29, 2010

ecurtz: xkcd has you covered.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:25 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, you might want to be the Turing Machine yourself, like this SteamPunk character. Obviously it wouldn't have to be so elaborate, but it would be a good conversation starter if you start speaking a Turing Machine, whatever that sounds like. Use some tinfoil and a wire or two with a black and white print out of a digital readout maybe?
posted by nomadicink at 9:13 AM on October 29, 2010

You need adding machine tape.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:45 AM on October 29, 2010

Inspiration for your costume.
posted by misha at 10:45 AM on October 29, 2010

There's something to be said for not making your costume too obvious. If people can't figure out that you're a Turing machine and have to ask you what you are, then you've just passed the Turing test!
posted by painquale at 10:52 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Only vaguely turing related, but with about 15 minutes practice, you can get the hang of internalizing the rules of ELIZA, and then whenever someone says something to you, you know exactly what to say back to them, in a way that is noticeably pseudo-human.
(it often only takes a few exchanges before the eliza response starts to crack, and you'll be saying things like "How does it make you feel to like to like to go to the beach?"

I'm also envisaging you as arms and legs poking out of a giant messy tangled clump of paper tape, with infinite buckets on your back :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:20 PM on October 29, 2010

I'm no good at making costumes, but if you're looking for nerdy things to say, here are a few ideas:

- "Man, I'm so tired. I was up late solving an NP-complete problem." (Or NP-hard, if you want to be risqué.)

- Speak disparagingly of other formal systems of computation. "Stupid finite state automata, they couldn't recoginize a palindrome if it punched them in the face!" "That lambda calculus thinks it's so cool, with its combinators. But I've got an infinite tape!"

- Pretend to be in the middle of computing things. "Can't talk--I've been asked to animate some flying toasters." "I can't hear you--I'm decoding an mp3!"

- Find someone to play a game of pong with.

- If it's not overly confrontational, ask random people to prove they're really human, and not machines.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:37 PM on October 29, 2010

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