The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: Gold

Tell me a story

The Memory Palace’s blog Greenway Girls in centered around the life of Rose Greenway and her mother also Rose Greenway. Interestingly, the main character in the story was the daughter, who actually didn’t have much to do with ciphers bar her 8-month stint in prison with her mother. The way the story was told leaves the listener always waiting for the shift in dynamic of the story, the pivotal moment where she contributes to cryptography in a meaningful way. However, this never comes. The author’s deliberate choice in doing this allows the listener to stay absorbed in the story, wanting more. This story, unlike almost every story ever written, this story doesn’t contain a satisfying ending in which there is a resolution. The author, however, just questions possible outcomes, allowing the listeners to speculate and create their own endings. In addition to the lack of information provided by the author, the author doesn’t provide many visual aids or embedded pieces of information within the page of the podcast. This may have been done to add to the feeling of mystery and lack of information, leaving the listener even more puzzled than before.

In terms of the author’s style of narration it very much reminded me of both Winston Churchill and Barack Obama’s speaking styles. His slow narration, with seemingly deliberate word choice, has a somewhat trancelike effect on the listener. When this is coupled with frequent, short pauses, it builds suspense in the audience, leaving them grasping for more. He also uses very descriptive yet simple language allowing the listener to envisage the story as it unfolds which is a critical component for storytelling in any form.

Using the author’s style as a guide, I may experiment with speaking slowly, emphasizing specific words including the use of pauses to aid the delivery of my podcast. I will definitely tell a story in my podcast as it is the primary way we communicate as humans, and people are far more likely to recall events in the form of a story than in any other way. With regards to topic, the mystery of unsolved or unknown portions of history of cryptography seems to be very enticing and so I may focus my podcast around that.

What is it all worth?

The Beale Ciphers have remained unsolved for over a hundred years, yet thousands of people have tried to interpret its hidden meaning.  The code has never been cracked due to a very complex number cipher as well as the possibility that the cipher text has been altered, making it forever impossible to crack.  The main reason that people would persist in trying to solve the cipher was for the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”  The “pot of gold” literally was a stockpile of gold worth over $20 million, found by Beale and his crew.  Even now, when there is almost no chance of the treasures remaining undisturbed, scholars continue to work on trying to break the Beale ciphers.  These people are not in search of monetary gain, but instead a challenge to attempt to complete.

Image: "Puzzle," Ryan Amos, Flickr (CC)

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