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Simon Singh

On Monday we had the honour of meeting Dr Simon Singh an internationally acclaimed famous mathematician. We were introduced to code breaking and taught how to understand it. Such knowledge is crucial in today's world of security and suspicion. Codes are contained everything from mobile phones to emails. Without these codes protecting your security any freak, or weirdo or some guy who has nothing better to do with his time could listen into your conversations and find out where you live, your name and so on. Basically nothing good would come out of it. As for emails as they travel through the net they always need to stay secure so they always have a coded lock on them, without these 'locks' anyone could read your emails. As your emails travel to whoever they need to get to they are locked and same thing goes on the way back.


Julius Caesar was one of the first people to come up with extremely complicated, coded security. Hell, the codes were so complicated that is was centuries before anyone decoded them! There was this one occasion where a Roman general needed to get a message to allies behind enemy lines. Obviously the message was not meant to be detected. So what he did is he took his messenger and he shaved him bald, he then tattooed the message on the messenger's bald, shiny head. He then waited for the messenger's hair to grow back. So now they had a well hidden message. When the messenger was sent to pass on the message and was asked if he had any messages by the enemy, he said no, he was searched and they found nothing! The message was hidden in his hair. Once he got to his destination they just shaved his head and there was the message!


In World War 2 the German military used 'Enigma' machines. These machines would take in a message and transfer it to the message's destination / receiver however the message would be hidden because the letters used would be replaced with random letters, except the same letter that is being hidden. Once the message is received it would be unscrambled. The Allies in WW2 stole some of these Enigma machines from the Germans and used them against them by receiving German messages, decoding them and finding out the German's next move! 1000s of lives were saved thanks to the decoding of these machines by the allies and that was a crucial factor in Nazi's ass 'woopin'!


The world's governments now employ people good at mathematics, good at puzzles, fast thinking people for code breaking jobs such jobs can range from something as boring as business to government spooks like; MI6, CIA, FBI or even the big NSA an organization in America even bigger than the CIA or the FBI. These 'National security' organizations or 'spooks' require decoders, people who are good at puzzles. Hey, what do you think jigsaws are for?


Anyway, that highlights most of what we learnt that day, we even got our pictures taken by the press. As for a conclusion nowadays we got to know about security, without it well like I said, nothing good will come from it. For some coded security you could have every person in the country working on the same code for over 100 years and still not crack it!

By Yussif Osman

If you want to find out more about Simon Singh and codebreaking check out these links:

http://www.simonsingh.net/

An interview with Simon Singh

Bletchley Park (where the Enigma code was broken)

The History of Bletchley Park

If you think that you can make it as a codebreaker then see if you can work out what the message on this page is ! there will be a prize for the first person to tell Mr Lyndon.