Codes & Codebreaking

The secrets of the past are locked away behind an unpenetrable mix of seemingly random letters. A secret society is formed in order to break the elusive code and reveal the author’s grand design. Can new technologies help solve the mystery? If you find yourself fascinated by codes, code-breaking and cryptography, here’s some resources to help you pursue your interests.

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NONFICTION

The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum CryptographySimon Singh – The Code Book

(From the inside cover) In his first book since the bestselling Fermat’s Enigma, Simon Singh offers the first sweeping history of encryption, tracing its evolution and revealing the dramatic effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and incredibly simple) logisitical breakthrough that made Internet commerce secure, The Code Book tells the story of the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known: secrecy. Throughout the text are clear technical and mathematical explanations, and portraits of the remarkable personalities who wrote and broke the world’s most difficult codes. Accessible, compelling, and remarkably far-reaching, this book will forever alter your view of history and what drives it.  It will also make yo wonder how private that e-mail you just sent really is.

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Enigma: The Battle for the Code

Hugh Sebag-Montefiore – Enigma: The Battle for the Code

Few of the great espionage successes of the twentieth century were engineered by dashing, James Bond-type agents. Rather, many of the “heroes” of spying were anonymous people performing seemingly tedious tasks of gathering countless bits of information, analyzing them, and trying to assemble coherent conclusions from them. Sebag-Montefiore is an attorney and journalist. The key players in this saga are not the stuff of which romantic action thrillers are made. Still, the story itself, describing the breaking of the German naval code during World War II, is both engrossing and exciting. Much of the information presented here is based on recently declassified documents. The parade of characters includes ordinary seamen, double agents, and technical experts who manage to^B decipher what seems indecipherable, even to some of their peers. The result is a real-life thriller that should entice historians, fans of the spy genre, and ordinary readers who appreciate a tense, dramatic, and superbly told story. Jay Freeman Copyright © American Library Association

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Alan M. Turing: Centenary EditionSara Turing – Alan M. Turning: Centenary Edition

‘In a short life he accomplished much, and to the roll of great names in the history of his particular studies added his own.’ So is described one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century, yet Alan Turing’s name was not widely recognised until his contribution to the breaking of the German Enigma code became public in the 1970s. The story of Turing’s life fascinates and in the years since his suicide, Turing’s reputation has only grown, as his contributions to logic, mathematics, computing, artificial intelligence and computational biology have become better appreciated. To commemorate the centenary of Turing’s birth, this republication of his mother’s biography is enriched by a new foreword by Martin Davis and a never-before-published memoir by Alan’s older brother. The contrast between this memoir and the original biography reveals tensions and sheds new light on Turing’s relationship with his family, and on the man himself.

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FICTION

Angels & Demons  (Robert Langdon, #1)Dan Brown – Angels & Demons

(From the inside cover) World-renowned Harvard symboligist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization – the Illuminati. Desperate to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth . . . the long-forgotten Illuminati lair.

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The School of NightLouis Bayard – The School of Night

Bayard (The Black Tower) shifts smoothly between present-day America and Elizabethan England in this superb intellectual thriller. At the Washington, D.C., funeral of document collector Alonzo Wax, who committed suicide, Bernard Styles, an elderly Englishman and rival collector, approaches Henry Cavendish, an Elizabethan scholar and the executor of Wax’s estate, whose academic reputation suffered grievous harm after he authenticated a new Walter Ralegh poem that was later exposed as a hoax. Styles offers Cavendish ,000 to locate a prize Wax had borrowed, a recently discovered Ralegh letter that may prove the existence of the School of Night, a secret debating club whose members included playwright Christopher Marlowe. Murder complicates the search for the letter. The author’s persuasive portrayal of undeservedly obscure real-life scientist Thomas Harriot, a member of the school, enhances a plot with intelligence and depth. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Movies

Sneakers

This enjoyable thriller, written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson (the screenwriter of Field of Dreams), follows a raggedy group of corporate security experts who get in over their heads when they accept an assignment poaching some hot hardware for the National Security Agency. Robert Redford plays the group’s guru, an aging techno-anarchist who has been hiding from the feds since the early 1970s; his companionable gang of freaks includes Dan Aykroyd, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell, the late River Phoenix, and Sidney Poitier, as a veteran CIA operative turned “sneaker.” The technological black box that everybody is after, an array of computer chips that can decode any encrypted message, isn’t a very plausible invention, but it’s a serviceable McGuffin, and the megalomania of the master plotter played by Ben Kingsley has more resonance than most. Modest inferences can be drawn about the very latest high-tech threats to civil liberties. –David Chute

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File:Sebastian FilmPoster.jpegSebastian

Sebastian (Dirk Bogarde) is an undisciplined mathematics genius who works in the “cipher bureau” of the British government. While cracking enemy codes, Sebastian finds time to romance co-worker Susannah York. The plot rotates between codebreaking, romance and international intrigue, never quite committing itself to any particular genre.

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National Treasure

Benjamin Franklin Gates is a historian and amateur cryptologist searching for a lost treasure of precious metals, jewelry, artwork and other artifacts that was accumulated into a single massive stockpile by looters and warriors over many millennia. Starting in Ancient Egypt, the treasure was later rediscovered by warriors who formed themselves into the Knights Templar to protect the treasure.  It is eventually hidden by American Freemasons during the American Revolutionary War. A coded map on the back of the Declaration of Independence points to the location of the “national treasure“, but Gates is not alone in his quest. Whoever can steal the Declaration and decode it first will find the greatest treasure in history.

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