More Mind Games

1. More Mind Games
2. Bradford Hardie Memoir
3. Manchester Lectures
4. Visions of Science
5. CD-ROM Video and Networking
6. Cryptogram Competition
7. Competition Winners

1. More Mind Games

If you like puzzles and you have access to BBC4, then you might be interested in the new 10-part series of Mind Games. It starts on Monday 10 November at 9pm and is then repeated on Thursdays at 7.30pm and 11.30pm. I will be handing out lots of puzzles and guests such as Dara O’Briain (my favourite comedian) and Lord Robert Winston (my favourite professor of fertility) will be trying to solve them.

In the meantime, if you want to try something puzzling, then have a look at the Wason Test:

And if you have trouble going to sleep tonight, then here’s a quick puzzle: what is the only English number that is spelt out in alphabetical order? For example, in French the letters of deux, cinq, dix and cent appear in alphabetical order. Also, deux x cinq x dix = cent.

2. Bradford Hardie Memoir

The Enigma cipher machine that I have in my office was discovered in France by an American military cryptographer Bradford Hardie while on active service in the Second World War. He wrote a memoir of his life as a cryptographer. His family is willing to share this with anybody who is seriously interested in the history of cryptography, so if you would like a photocopy of this 94-page typewritten (sometimes illegible) memoir then please send your address and a UK cheque for £5 payable to Simon Singh to PO Box 23064, London, W11 3GX. This will cover the cost of photocopying and postage. This manuscript can only be sent to addresses in the UK. I should reiterate that this memoir is only suitable for serious historians of cryptography. Orders should arrive by November 20 and copies of the memoir will be despatched on December 1.

3. Manchester Sixth Form Lectures

There will be a series of lectures aimed at sixth form mathematicians on the 10th December in Manchester. I will be talking about codes and code breaking and demonstrating a genuine World War II Enigma cipher machine, while the brilliant Rob Eastaway will be giving his ‘Guide to Impure Maths’ and the entertaining Colin Wright will be explaining the ‘Theory and Practice of Juggling’.. The aim of the event, organised in conjunction with the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), is to prove that maths does have a life beyond A Levels. If you are a teacher and would like to bring a group of students, then more information and a booking form can be found at the IMA web site:

4. Visions of Science

I was one of the judges for this year’s Visions of Science photography competition. You can see the winners at the Visions of Science website, where you will also find details of the Visions of Science lectures and exhibitions being held around the UK.
(My favourite image is the recovering toenail.)

5. CD-ROM Video and Networking

Some teachers have asked about how to network the CD-ROM version of The Code Book so that it can be a shared resource. You can find details of how to do this at:

Also, a few people with the very latest versions of Windows XP have not been able to run the video clips on the CD-ROM. The solution to this is also available on the web page above.

6. Cryptogram Competition

I am sorry that this latest newsletter is so UK-centric (BBC4, Manchester, Bradford Hardie memoir), but at least the competition is open to everybody. The prize is a copy of “Quicksilver”, Neil Stephenson’s prequel to “Cryptonomicon”.. The question is this: which cryptographer devised an encryption algorithm based on a deck of playing cards that was discussed in “Cryptonomicon”? Email the answer to and one of you will win Neil Stephenson’s latest epic.

5. Competition Winners

The last cryptogram competition involved cracking a simple substitution cipher … except that the plaintext contained no E’s. It was the opening sentence from Gilbert Adair’s “A Void”, a translation of Georges Perec’s “La Disparation”, neither of which have any E’s in the entire novel! Over one hundred of you were not fooled by this trick, and the winner drawn out of the hat is Javier Sanjuan from Barcelona.

The winner of the probability competition (who receives a copy of “Reckoning with Risk” by Gerd Gigerenzer) is Manish Nayak from Hong Kong. He worked out that you need 41 people in a room to have a 90% chance of a shared birthday.

If you want to play with various parameters and work out the probablity of a shared birthday, then you can visit Andrew Webster’s website, which has a programme designed to solve this sort of problem:

And that’s just about it … except to recommend a rather quirky little science site. If you are a fan of the astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, then you can hear a song dedicated to her at the web site of Lynda Williams (the Physics Chanteuse):

To fully appreciate the song, you might like to read the lyrics and find our more about Annie Jump Cannon.

Simon Singh.

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