The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: podcast (Page 1 of 2)

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.

The Progress of Necessity

In 99% Invisible's episode Vox Ex Machina, the producer outlines the transformation of a piece of groundbreaking technology from recreational to military use in the midst of the Second World War. The "Voder" was introduced in 1939 to a crowd of dazzled people at the World Fair. A marvel of mechanical mimicking of the human vocal chords, inventor Homer Dudley had embarked on a quest that would shape the way humans will communicate up to this day.

I really enjoyed how the producer, Delaney Hall, pulls the audience in with the dramatic shift from a playful invention to a wartime necessity. Soon after Pearl Harbor, the United States Government commissioned specifically Homer Dudley to design a machine that would effectively encrypt radio waves for secure communication. Halls use of a dramatic need with a ticking clock adds an element of interest to the podcast. Furthermore, she expands on not just the one time use of the "vocoder", but the way it transformed the history of communication.

The continued decrease in size brought on by the military's improvements was a gradual process that aided Cold War negotiations. Consequently, these adaptations eventually reached the grasp of the public. With AT&T's lawsuit against the military to release information, the capability of public communication skyrocketed. I enjoyed the fun twist Hall applied to the end of the podcast where she included links to its effects on electronic music of famous artists. Hall's creativity and dramatics made this podcast extremely gripping and will be elements I incorporate into my own podcast.


A Killer Podcast

The part of the podcast I found most interesting was when Kelsey talked about Corey Starliper and how he supposedly decrypted the Z340 cipher. Before, I had thought that the Zodiac codes were almost all unbroken, and that the identity of the killer was completely unknown. However, if Starliper's decryption of the Z340 cipher is correct, that means there's a very solid lead on the Zodiac killer's identity. Whether or not it's actually Leigh Allen is up to debate, as it could have been intended to misdirect investigators, but it sheds more light on the mystery of the killer. Since I had previously thought that none of the decrypted codes yielded any useful information, this part of the podcast really stood out for me.

In the podcast, the producer introduced several technical concepts like cribs, frequency analysis, and substitution ciphers, while talking about the Zodiac killer. When the concepts were first brought up, she would add in a little side note explaining exactly what the term meant as well as how it applied in the context of whatever she was talking about. For example, when the concept of cribs came up, Kelsey gave the definition of a crib, and then connected it back to how the crib "KILL" was used to crack Z408 by Donald and Bettye Harden. Additionally, she refrained from using overly complex language that would push away listeners with less knowledge of cryptography and cryptographical history.

Podcast Issues: Manuvering Through Describing the Topic of Stenography.

The podcast, Something Out of Nothing, discussed theories that believe that Shakespeare did not any of his sonnets, poems, or even plays. The speaker dives into the presence of cryptography in a lot of Shakespeare’s writing; the speaker gathered information about a unique cipher that utilized a substitute key and a form of stenography to embed messages within Shakespeare’s writing. I found it interesting how the speaker described Francis Bacon's Bi-literal Cipher within the podcast and with a single visual aid as the SoundCloud cover image. Without the visual aid, the description of the five letter long strings of a’s and b’s used to code each separate letter would not have made sense to me. Furthermore, she included the techniques used to hide the cipher within plain sight and brought a relevance to the use of stenography in Shakespeare's writing in comparison to other classical writers of that time. I appreciated how in depth the description was during the podcast, and how she carefully worded her description to not use heavy and technical words that could confuse me or other listen.

While the podcast did not use much audio clips from different speakers, the director of the podcast included some music breaks with appropriate music to fit these specific high intensity moments. These breaks offered the listen both a short mental break to absorb the information and to ponder some of the thoughts that the speaker just said. This discussion about stenography seems to interest me and I would like to have my podcast about some sort of modern stenography and utilize audio clips and more external resources.

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