By: Rupert Dean, Year 13 Pupil
On Tuesday 17th October, a group of fourteen A Level physicists went to Cambridge to view a talk on cryptography, a very important part of our everyday lives, even though it is frequently overlooked. The speaker – Dr James Grime, who is also the creator of the YouTube channel ‘Numberphile’, with over 2 million subscribers – demonstrated the complexity of various encoding techniques. Starting with a basic Caesar shift (which has 26! permutations and would take 2 billion years to solve if every person on the planet tested one permutation each second!) and moving on to RSA encryption, which is used daily over the Internet to protect sensitive information, such as bank details.
The students were also shown a genuine Enigma machine, dating back over 80 years, which was found dumped in a French field after the war, and were told about the incredible feat performed by Polish mathematicians, who were able to crack the code and understand the machine without ever seeing one!
Dr Grimes described the incredible talent harnessed at Bletchley Park including mathematicians, scientists, linguists and game players who were used to decipher the Enigma code as portrayed in ‘The Imitation Game’.