Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cryptography -- an MAA lecture and a poem

     Living near the Silver Spring metro station, on the border of Washington, DC, makes travel to the offices of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA)  an easy trip for me, and I am able to enjoy occasional lectures at MAA's Carriage House Conference Center.  On December 9 I was fortunate to attend an entertaining and informative lecture on  "Cryptography:  How to Keep a Secret," by UC Irvine math-computer-science professor (and Numb3rs consultant), Alice Silverberg. (Podcasts of lectures are available at the MAA site.) 
     Silverberg's presentation introduced audience members to the canonical personalities involved in transmission of secret information:  the two parties attempting communication are Alice and Bob and the enemy wishing to eavesdrop is, not surprisingly, Eve.  Here is a poem by Adam Rulli-Gibbs that features these cryptographic characters:

     A Quantum Romance     by Adam Rulli-Gibbs

     Alice has problems
     with a private affair;
     talking to Bob
     without Eve being aware.

     For Alice loves Bob--
     he has the key to her heart.
     But then so does Eve
     and she wants to keep them apart.

     To keep their secrets
     they must find a way
     to communicate in public
     without Eve hearing what they say.

     A public channel
     with a private communique.
     How to solve this cipher
     so they can communicate as they may?

     They need to cut through the spin
     so Eve can't interfere.
     Eve loves Bob and hates Alice
     There's a polarity problem here.

     They cannot do what they used to,
     when they're apart -- a call.
     Now they talk by coded waves
     with no privacy problems at all.      
                                                            ©Adam Rulli-Gibbs 2003 - 2006.
     I found "A Quantum Romance" at this link, one of many posted at Gibbs' website of Science Fiction and Fantasy poetry.
    My October 3 posting tells of another MAA presentation, on September 23, by Annalisa Crannell -- on mathematics and art.     

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