Royal Institution and more Mind Games

1. More Mind Games
2. Royal Institution talk
3. Optical Illusions
4. Crypto Tutorials
5. Horrendous Space Kablooie Quiz
6. Cryptogram Competition
7. Competition Winners

1. More Mind Games

In his Evening Standard column, the TV reviewer Victor Lewis-Smith was not very complimentary about my puzzle show Mind Games – “The greatest puzzle is why intelligent people can’t find anything better do with their brains than watch this.” To find out what Victor was talking about, you can catch the 2004 run of Mind Games on BBC4 starting on Feb 16th at 9pm. More details at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/tvsites/mindgames/

2. Royal Institution talk

On Monday Feb 16, I will be giving a lecture at the Royal Institution in London – “Probability for the Terrified!” It will be a slightly extended version of my half of the Theatre of Sciences show. You can find out more about the lecture by emailing rhandbury@ri.ac.uk or calling 020-7409 2992 or visiting:

http://www.rigb.org

If you cannot make it to the lecture, then you can still find out about one of the topics that I will be covering, the fascinating and infuriating Monty Hall paradox, by visiting:

http://plus.maths.org/issue4/puzzle/doors.html

I will also be talking about the Bible Code, which was recently the subject of a BBC Horizon TV documentary. You can read more about why mathematicians believe that this is a hoax at:

http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/torah.html

3. Optical Illusions

I recently came across a website full of optical illusions. Here is the main site, followed by my two favourite illusions.

http://www.optillusions.com/

http://www.optillusions.com/dp/1-1.htm

http://www.optillusions.com/dp/1-13.htm

4. Crypto tutorials

A couple of people have asked about good cryptography tutorial sites. The following sites vary in their target audience, from children to enthusiasts: www.simonsingh.net/The_Black_Chamber/home.html My Black Chamber site www.antilles.k12.vi.us/math/cryptotut/home.htm The Crypto Tutorial site www.cryptoclub.math.uic.edu/indexmain.html The Crypto Club site www.cryptool.com

https://www.simonsingh.net/The_Black_Chamber/home.html, My Black Chamber site.

http://www.antilles.k12.vi.us/math/cryptotut/home.htm , The Crypto Tutorial site.

http://www.cryptoclub.math.uic.edu/indexmain.html, The Crypto Club site.

http://www.cryptool.com, The Crypt Tool site.

5. Horrendous Space Kablooie Quiz

The Horrendous Space Kablooie is an alternative name for the big bang, coined by Bill Watterson in his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. For a while it was even a fashionable term among cosmologists.

Apparently, Calvin says to Hobbes, “I’ve been reading about the beginning of the universe. They call it ‘The Big Bang.’ Isn’t it weird how scientists can imagine all the matter of the universe exploding out of a dot smaller than the head of a pin, but they can’t come up with a more evocative name for it than ‘the Big Bang’? That’s the whole problem with science. You’ve got a bunch of empiricists trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder.”
Hobbes asks, “What would you call the creation of the universe?”
Calvin replies, “The Horrendous Space Kablooie!”

I am trying to find out when this particular comic strip was published. It is a bit of research for my new book, but I am going to sneakily disguise it as a competition. There will be a copy of Ken Croswell’s excellent “The Universe at Midnight” for the first person to give me a date for this strip. Just send your answer to Kablooie@simonsingh.net

6. Cryptogram Competition

What is the missing word? BANKS, GLYPH, CWM, FJORD, VEXT, ????

It does not seem like a code breaking challenge, but the technique of frequency analysis will help you with this quiz.

Email the answer to cryptogram@simonsingh.net and one of the correct entries will win a copy of The Code Book and the interactive CD-ROM.

If you would like a more traditional cryptogram, then you might like to visit the following site, which seems to have regular code breaking challenges:

http://www.thawte.com/cryptochallenge/,

7. Competition Winners

The last cryptogram competition involved a rather specialist question. There were only a couple of dozen correct answers and the winner out of the hat was Greg Melia, whose answer covered every interpretation of the question: “Solitaire (or Pontifex) was invented by Bruce Schneier. The perl script in the back of the book to allow it to work on a computer was written by Ian Goldberg. Of course, in the book Solitaire was invented by Rudolph von Halklheber,” A copy of Neil Stephenson’s “Quicksilver” is already on its way to Greg.

And that’s it. I am sorry that there is not much to report, but I have been busy writing my new book, which should be available within the next 12 months or so. I should be able to tell you a bit about its contents in a few months from now. In the meantime, here is one my favourite quotes discovered so far this year:
“Math was always my bad subject. I couldn’t convince my teachers that many of my answers were meant ironically.”
Calvin Trillin.

Cheerio,
Simon Singh.

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