Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Codes and Ciphers


Why am I writing at 1AM on a school night. I've woken up to prevent another coughing fit, as well as feeling queasy still. Yesterday was spent in bed sleeping so I was expecting to be fit and back to work today, then about 5PM I woke and started coughing again.

I've finished my course of antibiotics, but none of the standard remedies seem to be working for me. The worst thing is I'm sort of able to do things (I can write this) but then when I start coughing, feeling sick then I get out of it and am not fit to do anything and would certainly not be appreciated in work.

When I am trying to occupy my mind I am reading Simon Singh's "The Code Book", possibly his most unassuming title. THhs is third of his books that I have read, the first being "The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets" which is an entertaining observations on why The Simpsons is jammed for of mathematical asides, the second being "Fermat's Last Theorem" which is a remarkable detective story about a conceptually simple but complex theorem and much of the side effects of of that area of mathematics then there is this....

"The Code Book" means to read it and understand it you have to think, it explains the development of codes and ciphers from the beginning of time to the present day, though I am only half way through the book. One of the things the book does explain is the difference between a cipher and a code:

"The difference between a cipher and a code is: a cipher changes a message on a letter-by-letter basis, while a code converts whole plaintext words or phrases into other words or numbers. That’s it, question answered."

Full explanation here. The book has taken me through the story of Mary Queen of Scots and the continual development of more and more complex code/ciphers each time with accompanying examples of how these work up to the Enigma machines and how Alan Turing drove the team that broke it, developing what became the computer I am typing this on on you are reading this on today, and probably shortening World War Two by two years.

Ofne very frightening part of this is that if the authorities that be had known of his homosexuality, Turing would have been jailed and Britain would have lost the war, remember that when someone is not the same as you. Society still drove him to suicide after the war.

Essentially this is another excellent Simon Singh book, and the work of Turing is leaving my tiny intellect floundering and I am only half way through.

I was trying to think of an accompanying piece of music for this and thought maybe something from Public Service Broadcasting's "The War Room" and a tribute to another major contribution to Britain's War Effort, "Spitfire".

Right now time to try and get some sleep.

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