Oops! … & The Code Book on CD-ROM now available

1. The CD-ROM is now available
2. My favourite mathematics joke at the moment
3. The on-line shop is now open
4. Lectures, Theatre of Science, radio broadcasts
5. New Stuff (Advice for writers, Cartoons)
6. This month’s challenge
7. Cryptogram

Apologies to those of you who received an empty newsletter on 23 October…. Or was it an example of steganography?

The temporary glitch also affected some people’s attempts to subscribe to the newsletter, but if you are receiving this newsletter then you have no need to worry. The problem has now been fixed and the mail server is back to normal.

1. The CD-ROM is now available

At last, the interactive CD-ROM version of The Code Book is available. It has encryption pages, code breaking tools, mathematics, history, animations, video clips and even a virtual Enigma machine.

I think that it’s a great companion to the book, or a fun introduction to cryptography if you are new to the subject. And it contains material for people of all ages. The aim of the project is to make the CD-ROM available at a minimal price, which means just £5 … or just £3 for schools. I am particularly keen to get the CD-ROM into schools, as the reaction from teachers has already been very positive.

I know that this will annoy a significant fraction of you, but the CD-ROM is only available for PCs. Sorry, but at the moment I have neither the time nor the money to make it MAC compatible. If a MAC version does become available, then I will let you know via the newsletter.

Find out more about the CD-ROM and how to obtain it here.

2. My favourite mathematics joke at the moment

“There are 10 kinds of people in the world – those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”

Heard it before? Not funny? Think you can do better? Well, send me your favourite mathematical or scientific joke by December 25th 2002, and we’ll see if we can find the world’s funniest one. It will be a veritable geeky gigglefest. You can find out how to send me your joke by visiting here.

I will pick my favourite ten jokes, put them on a page for you to rate at the end of the year, and the sender of the winning joke will receive a copy of “Laughlab”, a book by Richard Wiseman about the psychology of humour, and a copy of the excellent “How Long is a Piece of String?” by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham, a quirky collection of tales about mathematics.

If you want to find out about Dr Richard Wiseman’s search to find the world’s funniest joke (not just science or mathematics), then you can visit The Laugh Lab.

3. The on-line shop is now open

Up until now, purchasing copies of The Code Book and Fermat’s Last Theorem at the site has only been possible for those who live in the UK. At last, these books and others can be bought by anyone and they can be sent anywhere. You can order on-line or by post.

In particular, several translations of my books are available, and these can now be bought on-line. And, of course, you can order the CD-ROM version of The Code Book.

All books are signed, and all profits go to ActionAid.

Find out more here.

4. Lectures, Theatre of Science, radio broadcasts

No more Theatre of Science until next year, and only one lecture in Bristol on November 27 to report.

I will be presenting “Material World” on Radio 4 (92-95FM and 198LW) on Thursday 24 October (today) at 4.30pm (UK time). This is my favourite science radio show, and when the regular host (the brilliant Quentin Cooper) is on holiday they let me have a go. The programme will be followed by a web chat about search engines. Details about how to take part can be found here.

5. New Stuff

Peter Tallack, literary agent, gives his advice for budding science writers

Mathematics Cartoon Gallery

There is even a cartoon about Fermat’s Last Theorem by Craig Swanson. You can see more of his terrific work here.

6. This month’s challenge

In a maximum of 300 words, explain why a rattleback (a.k.a. “a celt”) does what it does. No equations allowed. You can find out what a rattleback is by searching the web, but essentially they are objects with a curved base that spin clockwise, but not anticlockwise. These weird objects amaze me, but I have never really understood how they work. The best explanation wins a copy of “Fingerprints” by Colin Beavan, an excellent history of the subject. (There is no connection between fingerprints and rattlebacks – it is just a great book and I needed a prize for the competition).

Last month, I asked you to name actors to play roles in Fermat’s Last Theorem – The Movie. The winner was Steve Futch from Florida, who suggested Leelee Sobieski as Sophie Germain. You can see his other suggestions at the website, where you will also find some of the other ideas that have been sent in (Pete Postlethwaite as Andrew Wiles, or John Malkovich as Monsieur Fermat?). Thanks to everyone who entered. It was great fun reading your suggestions.

7. Cryptogram

A new competition cryptogram is ready to be cracked and another book and CD-ROM are waiting for the winning entry. This month’s cryptogram is trickier, so it will be interesting to see if there are as many correct entries as last month. The cryptogram can be found here.

Last month’s winner was Dave Adams at Devenport High School. Well done – the prize is in the post. In case you didn’t crack it, the answer is at the bottom of the substitution cryptogram page.

That’s All Folks,
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.