Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

An Interdisciplinary Approach

While German overconfidence in the enigma did eventually contribute to the cracking of the code and their subsequent downfall,  the use of mathematicians and scientist as opposed to linguists and classicist ultimately made the most difference. Many mathematicians and scientists are interdisciplinary. For example, Alan Turing was both experienced in math and building machines. Being interdisciplinary helped the breaking of the Enigma to be approached in both a creative and a logical sense. As opposed to the linguist and classists, that may just look for the patterns within the code, mathematicians and scientists will find the algorithm within the code and  the applicability behind the code and then find a method to apply it broadly. But while there were many mathematicians and scientists, Bletchley park was also made up of "an authority on porcelain, a curator from Prague Museum, the British chess champion and numerous bridge experts" (Singh, 178). This gives breaking the code many different ways of thinking and approaches. I think this mixture of knowledge filled the need to balance both creativity and logic. This is a balance that is needed to break any code. I also think that their motivations behind breaking the codes also had a huge impact. For the British it was a matter of breaking this codes in order to save more lives and keep their country safe. On the other hand, the original way of finding out more about the Enigma was through Hans-Thilo Schmidt's want for revenge on his brother and damage of his country's security. So while the Bletchley park codebreakers were compelled to figure out Enigma for their own countries' sake, Schmidt was driven by hate for his country and his own brother.

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1 Comment

  1. lala1

    In his blog post titled "An Interdisciplinary Approach," Browkm10 shows how the creativity of the minds in Bletchley park heavily contributed to the success of the team. We talked about in class how breaking a cipher involved a certain degree of logic, creativity, and skill. Browkm10 discusses how all the major players like Turing brought diverse expertise to the table. He talks about how there were chess champions, bridge builders, and machine experts all congregated together working on the same problem. He ultimately argues that it was the combination of creativity and logic that made the defeat of the German enigma possible.

    I do think, however, that he/she left out an important aspect that had to take place for the enigma to be broken, which was luck. The cipher was only able to be solved because of a few key mistakes that were made by the Germans. They didn't allow switchboards to have connections to adjacent letters, which lowers the total number of combinations by a huge amount. They also had rules about scambler placement that had the same effect. It was the logic and creativity that made breaking the enigma possible, but there were a good amount of mistakes made by the Germans as well that contributed to the Enigma's demise. I think overall the blogger made some very good points, but I think that this nuance's his/her argument.

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