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Careful what you say

11 June, 2009

Simon Singh gave a keynote presentation at ISSC ’09. He discussed the codebreaking challenge he set in his book and demonstrated a working Enigma machine.

Batteries included!

Simon Singh and the Enigma

Things I learned:

  • Letter frequency analysis is all very well, but on a machine with no space bar, the Xs used instead will do strange things to the letter frequencies.
  • After the war, the British distributed the ‘unbreakable’ Enigma machines to other countries so they could continue to eavesdrop on their communications. (Though I’m confused by this: I was under the impression that all the tech at Bletchley Park was destroyed after the war, so if that is true what were they going to use for decryption?)
  • Even people who write cryptography books get confused by cryptography.

Singh is also being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for suggesting that chiropractors’ claims to treat asthma are “bogus”. Rather than back down, Singh is fighting both the case and a campaign to reform English libel law. Meanwhile, the BCA’s website has press statements, but no details of the “27 different publicly-available research papers” to back up their claims. Hmm. Citation needed…

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One comment

  1. For anyone interested in these things, the BCA’s high-profile libel case appears to have backfired spectacularly.

    Oops! 😀



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