Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: October 2018 (Page 1 of 4)

Online Participation Check-in

Your online participation in this course contributes 10% of your final course grade. At the end of the semester, I'll ask you to review your online participation in this course, compare your participation to that of your peers, and assess your contributions to the learning community. I'll ask you to give yourself an online participation score between 0 and 10 points, and email it to me with a justification (not more than a paragraph). If I think your score is reasonable, given your justification, I'll use that as your online participation grade.

Your assignment for Monday, October 22nd, is to email me your self-assessment of your online participation in this course as it stands now. This is your chance to reflect on how you've been contributing to our little learning community.

To assess your online participation, focus on blog posts and bookmarks on Diigo, as well as other forms of online participation, if any. In each of these areas, I usually ask you for specific contributions -- posts that responded to particular questions, or bookmarks about specific topics, or tags and comments that fit certain parameters. As you look over your contributions to the course, keep these requests in mind. Also consider how your online participation contributed to the learning of your peers in the course.

Podcast Assignment

Here are the details on your podcast assignment, along with a draft rubric I'll use for assessing your podcast episodes.

Rhett McDaniel, educational technologist at the Center for Teaching, will join us this Friday, October 12th, to show how to use Audacity to edit audio and to walk us through some of the podcasting resources he has collected.

Numbers Station Podcast

Numbers Stations is particularly interesting for me for many reasons. In the intro part, the author starts by talking about his personal connection with the topic, thus making his listeners more engaged in the subject. And then, the author uses a mixtape of different radio waves to create a context for the listeners. The author then wastes no time to dive right into a very simple and elegant introduction of the topic, starting with an example of the spanish numbers station.

What's particularly interesting to me is how the author went a long way to quote a lot of different sources. By stating everyone's name and position, he successfuly convinced his audience the credibility of his sources and brought many different perspectives to the podcast. He managed to keep all his examples authentic, despite the fact that they are all in different languages. The audience was provided with a great historic context. The author also ended by exploring the contemporary development of the topic, creating a sense of entirety for the topic.

The music use throughout the podcast was very intriguing. The tone of the music remained almost unchanged, and he adjusted different tunes to fit with the plot line. Overall the podcast is a mixture of many elements and its audience would never get bored.

A Killer on the Loose

"A Killer on the Loose: The Zodiac Ciphers" gives an extensive history of the Zodiac Killer and the attempts of the officials at Vallejo at capturing him. I believe that the producers were successful in making a good podcast and kept a balance between the content and the theatrical aspects of it.

The title itself gives the impression of an interesting podcast and serves as a good hook for the audience. Additionally, the background music complements the eerie tone set by the podcast and betters the experience of the audience. The structure of the podcast is such that it seems like an interesting story but is also filled with information and facts which seems like a good way of sharing raw information without causing much boredom. To refer to an example, the segment about cracking the Zodiac cipher seemed to come right out of a dramatic movie but was filled with precise information on the cryptanalytical steps taken.

Finally, I also felt that the conclusion was done in manner that inspired the audience to look up the focus of the podcast. By mentioning different unlikely theories, the producer was able to spark an interest in the different theories behind the identity of the Zodiac Killer. All these factors contributed in making this podcast a good production.

Zodiac Killer on the Loose

I thought that the podcast about the Zodiac Killer was extremely interesting and very well done. I think that one of the most important aspects of this podcast was the use of music. The creator of the podcast clearly knew how dark the subject matter was and chose music accordingly. I liked how the music was not overpowering either so that the voice of the narrator was crisp and clear. I think that finding this balance is difficult, and I think they did a very good job with it.

I also really liked their use of storytelling. Nowadays, we are so used to the movies where everything is shown to us, so explaining in words the gruesomeness and eerieness surrounding the Zodiac killer's murders is a difficult task on a podcast especially. They did a very good job with the storytelling, and overall their podcast was pretty stellar.

If I had to make one small critique though, it would be that at a couple of places there were a few short pauses/ stumbles that drew away from the rather fluid nature of the podcast, if these were cleared up, I think it would be very hard for me to tell their podcast apart from the professional ones.

Takeaways From an Engaging Podcast

One of the podcast episodes I chose to listen to was "Numbers Stations" from 99% Invisible.  The episode is hosted by Roman Mars, who discusses mysterious shortwave radio frequencies used to broadcast endless strings of numbers, also known as numbers stations.  Something I found very interesting about this topic was the degree of mystery and obscurity behind these broadcasts.  It is assumed that the numbers represent coded messages, but nobody knows who is meant to receive them.  The most popular theory is that these shortwave frequencies are used by government agencies such as the CIA to communicate with spies around the world, but there's no way to be certain.

The producer does an excellent job at keeping the podcast interesting and engaging through the use of various sound clips.  He sprinkles in recordings of numbers station broadcasts throughout the episode, allowing listeners to feel like they are directly tuning in to them.  Additionally, there is a lot of creepy background music which serves to reinforce the sense of mystery behind numbers stations and make the listener want to know more about them.  Finally, the content is explained in a way that is relatively easy to understand.  The producer avoids using heavy jargon in order to keep his audience as broad as possible.

After listening to this episode, I realized how important it is to have good background music and other appropriate sounds.  It adds a whole new dimension to the experience.  Depending on the topic I choose, I plan to implement strong auditory elements into my own podcast to hopefully make it more engaging.

The Captivating Story of a Serial Killer

The first thing that I noticed in the podcast "A Killer on the Loose: The Zodiac Ciphers" by Kelsey Brown was the background music. The music went well with the topic of the podcast. The music sounded very ominous and I think that relates to the dark theme of the podcast. Without even completing the podcast I was compelled because the background music captured my attention and made the podcast more interesting. The music would transition with the story when Kelsey would talk about the different subject matter.

One of the things that I admired about the podcast was Kelsey Brown’s use of storytelling. The podcast was very fluid. This makes me want to make my podcast in a similar way. I think that if my podcast was not fluid, there would be a disconnect with the listeners. Kelsey Brown’s podcast is so alluring because of how smoothly it transitions.

The topic of the podcast was very interesting to me. I am an avid enjoyer of murder mysteries, and crime television shows like Criminal Minds. I actually researched the Zodiac Killer a couple of years ago because the zodiac killer was a topic on one of the episodes on the show. I decided to listen to this podcast because the topic relates to my own interests in life. I know that for me to keep the listener’s attention in my own podcast, I have to be passionate about what I am speaking of.

Analysis of One-Time Pod "Something Out of Nothing"

I listened to the podcast “Something Out of Nothing” by Maria Sellers. In this podcast, Sellers explained how a bi-literal cipher could point to Shakespeare not being who we really think he is.

Overall, I found the entire premise for the podcast to be very interesting. For me, the topic directly undermines a concept I learned in high school, and I am sure the same applies to many others. Due to this, I personally believe that the topic would be easy to present to almost any audience and keep their attention for the short fourteen minutes that it runs.

I also really enjoyed the introduction that featured several different voices. The pacing was nice and everyone flowed together perfectly. The chosen music fit very well, and it was used appropriately. The topic itself was interesting, but these stylistic choices helped me initially engage.  

One technical aspect I appreciated was the reintroduction of Seller’s music as she moved to different “acts” in her podcast. Not only did I find it clever that she chose to section off her podcast in this way, but her use of the music to bring in each section sort of felt like the curtain was closing and then opening into the next point. Based on other podcasts I have listened to, however, I would have loved to hear some more of the music or even other sounds/music.

This podcast has helped me realize how important the topic itself is. I will also be looking into using other voices and music when necessary.

What makes a Good Podcast?

My first thoughts after listening to both the professional podcasts and the student made podcasts was that podcasting is very difficult, and to be good at it, one needs to put in a lot of time and practice. The professional podcasters in 99% Invisible sounded so fluid and smooth, as if they were having a completely normal conversation. Music and sound effects fit in extremely well, and they complemented the podcast without distracting from what was being said. I imagine that it would be very easy to accidentally mess up how the music fits into a podcast properly, so I was very impressed.

In both of the 99% Invisible podcast, and especially Vox Ex Machina, I liked how the producers used stories to describe all of the examples they were making. They started with a relatively broad topic, and slowly narrowed it down to the specifics of how it was used in the war, using stories and narratives. I found it very interesting how the vocoder turned out to be something used commonly today in a lot of music. I've heard so many songs with that "robot voice", but I never knew the vocoder was responsible. It seems like a lot of things that were created for wars have ended up being remade into common modern day items. I find this very interesting, but it also makes sense. Wars are a time where we are trying to make new technologies to one-up our enemies, and a lot of this stuff can eventually be adapted.

After listening to these, I think it would be cool to do a podcast on Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, though I'm not sure how unique of a topic that is.

Mysterious Numbers

The 99% Invisible episode about numbers stations was interesting to me because radio is a unique form of communication as it relates to cryptography. Since radio is publicly broadcast, anyone can tune in, so while sending an encrypted message, you have to assume that your enemies are listening at all times. Because of this, using the radio to broadcast highly sensitive information such as important updates to spies in the field seems like an odd form of communication to choose. However, as was pointed out in the podcast, the benefit of using radio for communication is that it is accessible from anywhere, and it keeps the location of the recipient unknown, making it the perfect form of communication for spies who need to keep their heads down. This in addition to the use of one time pads which are in theory unbreakable without the key make numbers stations a surprisingly efficient way to distribute information.

In addition to the interesting content, there were a variety of techniques used to keep the podcast interesting to listen to. Even while people were talking, there was always background music, sometimes even a numbers station playing in the background. I would have thought that having someone listing numbers in the background would make it difficult to understand the podcast, but it was done in such a way that it actually made the audio more interesting to listen to, and it provided continuity between segments. In addition, even when there was dialogue going on, there was always something in the background to keep your ears fully engaged, and it strengthened the sense of continuity of the episode making it easier to listen to without zoning out.

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