The Black Chamber is open

1. The Black Chamber is open
2. London lecture and Theatre of Science
3. New Content – Turing Memorial, Cryptograms…
4. Prize Competition – Which actor should play Fermat?

1. The Black Chamber is open

For a few months I have been working on a new interactive section of the website called the Black Chamber. You can now visit it here.

It has pages that enable you to encode messages and decode messages using a variety of classical ciphers, such as the rail fence cipher, the substitution cipher and the Vigenere cipher. It also has code breaking tools and some cryptograms for you to crack.

It is a space where you can explore cryptography interactively. Together, the pages act as a fun introduction to codes and code breaking. Some of the pages are quite challenging, but there is also plenty of material for children and teenagers.

2. London lecture and Theatre of Science

I am not lecturing as much as I used to, but I am giving a public lecture on cryptography in central London on September 28th. You can find more details here.

Theatre of Science went to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Richard Wiseman and I had great fun and the audiences were brilliant, so we intend to return next year with a longer run.

And the Sleek Geeks performed a 4-night sell out run at the Soho Theatre in London last week. These two Australians are fantastic and you might still be able to catch them if you live in Leicester or London. They are performing at the BA Science Festival at Leicester University on Tuesday and Thursday evening (10 and 12 Sept) – call 0116 223 1817 for more details. And they are performing at the Royal Institution in London on the evening of Friday 13 September – call 020 7409 2992 for more details.

In fact, I would recommend visiting the Royal Institution website to find out about their other science lectures. They have an excellent and wide-ranging series of talks.

3. New Content – Turing Memorial, Cryptograms…

In addition to the Black Chamber, there is more new stuff on the website.

Turing Memorial – take a look at the memorial in Manchester dedicated to Alan Turing.

Cryptograms – stretch your brain by cracking coded messages. Perhaps try the crypto competition and win a copy of The Code Book.

Articles about Simon Singh – a few features written by other journalists about me and my work.

Glyphs, etc. – a new section about the decipherment of ancient scripts. Although not entirely relevant, this section also includes a page about the Navajo code talkers of the Second World War, whose story forms the basis of a new Hollywood film.

Episode 2 of my biography – the College Years. Find out why I was the most boring student in London and how I went from being a physicist to a journalist.

4. Prize Competition – Which actor should play Fermat?

Before I set a new competition, you might be interested to know that the answers to the last competition are available here.

Only three people got the Fermat quiz completely right, so the 25 pilot crypto CD-ROMs were also sent to those entrants who nearly got 100% correct. The published version of the CD-ROM will be available next month.

Today’s competition is slightly different. Believe it or not, there was a time when a Hollywood studio was interested in turning my book about Fermat’s Last Theorem into a movie. The film never materialised, but it was fun to think about who might play the main roles. Perhaps Tom Hanks could convey the angst and the ecstasy of Andrew Wiles’s life, or maybe Sarah Michelle Gellar could play a feisty Sophie Germain.

Your challenge is to name three actors who you think would be ideal to play Pierre de Fermat, Andrew Wiles and Sophie Germain. If you want to suggest a fourth actor to play another role (e.g., Ken Ribet or Evariste Galois) then please go ahead.

Just email your suggestions by visiting the contact page of my website. Please put “Fermat movie roles” in the subject header.

The prize is a copy of The Science Book. It is a lavishly illustrated book that highlights 250 of the greatest moments in science. It is edited by Peter Tallack and I wrote the foreword. Signed copies of The Science Book can be bought at my online shop.

In case you need some inspiration, then you might like to visit the Maths and the Movies site.

And if you would like to read about a strange link between mathematics and the movies then you might want to read my article about Erdos-Bacon numbers.

Simon Singh.

Ps. If you need to email me, then please do not reply to this address, as your email will not reach me. Please go via the website and click the contact button. It takes me ages to answer emails, as I am struggling to keep up with my correspondence, so please be patient.