The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: December 2010

Enduring Understandings

Here are the photos I took of the “enduring understandings” you came up with during our final class today. Sorry they’re a bit blurry–the camera on my Droid wasn’t quite up to the challenge of capturing your handwriting! Should have brought my digital camera. You can still make out the themes, however. Click on an image to see a larger version.

A Few Wikileaks Resources

Just a few links about Wikileaks relevant to our discussion today…

  • Columbia University Reverses Anti-Wikileaks Guidance” (Wired) – Last week, Columbia University advised its students not to say anything about Wikileaks online (like in Facebook status updates or blog posts) because doing so might hurt their job prospects down the road. Now they’ve reversed their position on this and returned to supporting free speech.
  • Wikileaks Hacker a Villain or a Hero?” (MSNBC) – The hacker who took down the Wikileaks site using a distributed denial or service (DDoS) attack last week goes by the name “th3 j35t3r” (“the jester”), which is just about as cheesy as “Justice Man.” He has a history of pro-US hactivism.
  • Wikileaks Defended by Anonymous Hacktivists” (BBC) – Meanwhile, some of the companies who are refusing to do business with Wikileaks (such as web hosting companies and credit card companies) are dealing with their own DDoS attacks thanks to the hacker group Anonymous.
  • Wikileaks and the Long Haul” (Clay Shirky) – Shirky, an expert on “the social and economics effects of Internet technologies” and an adjunct professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, weighs in on Wikileaks.
  • Wikileaks Under Attack: The Definitive Timeline” (Guardian) – Here’s a timeline of Wikileaks’ troubles since releasing all those cables back on November 28th.

For late-breaking news, you can search Twitter for “wikileaks.”

Image: “Water Drop,” DBR9007, Flickr (CC)

Problem Set 8

Here’s your final problem set of the semester: Word and PDF. It’s due at the start of class on Thursday, December 9th.

Reflections on Improving Writing from Your Peers

A couple of weeks ago, after returning your second essay to you, I asked you to reflect on ways you could improve as a writer based on the feedback you were given from me and from your peers on that second essay. Some of you made some very insightful comments in your reflections. I thought you all might benefit from hearing some of your peers’ thoughts on improving their writing.

Here are a few (de-identified) highlights from the reflections:

  • “Dr. Bruff mentioned that I could still do some work with developing my voice, and I think this will come as I write more and more at this level.  It seems that the more familiar I am with the material I am writing about, the better I can explain them in a fitting manner, kind of as if I was giving an oral presentation (to my peers, to a scholarly audience, to the general public); the audience will influence the voice I use.”
  • “I need to make better use of the Delicious feed and the Barr textbook.  I think both of these are valuable sources, and I haven’t taken advantage of them.”
  • “For the next paper, I need to make sure that I keep everything organized.  I usually brainstorm by just writing ideas all over the page, so when I write the paper, sometimes my ideas jump all around like my notes.  I need to learn to think things out better beforehand, and make an outline that keeps me on track.”
  • “One general writing skill I can work on in the future is writing concisely.  I sometimes get into long, winding paragraphs that could be shortened and clarified to create a more effective, efficient paper.”
  • “Connections to other topics in the course would make my paper stronger. We see these connections in almost all of our discussions, and there are many which relate to my paper topic. While I did mention a few, discussing others and in a bit more depth would have made the paper more accessible and more interesting.”
  • “What I realized that I need to work on as a writer is developing a more entertaining voice.  This is difficult to do, however, when the topic discussed is not particularly entertaining.  Perhaps trying to connect more with the topic about which I am writing will give me a more unique and interesting voice.”

Image: “Pen and paper,” LucasTheExperience, Flickr (CC)

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