Binary & Cryptography

Binary & Cryptography

We use computer-based technology daily to communicate with others. We share information in the form of text, images, and sound with each other. We send text messages and emails. We share photos online and send faxes. We buy songs from our favorite artists and download them to our computers, or listen to the latest and greatest tunes on the music channel on TV. Students learned today just how computers do what they do: computers “read” and “write” using a system called binary code. Students explored the difference between base-10 numbers (our regular numerical system) and base-2 numbers (binary code) and how these unusual numbers can be used to encode messages! (Ask your student to show you how to write their name in binary!)

Students also explored the science of cryptography, the science of secret codes, as much of the information we exchange via computers is encrypted or protected in some way. Cryptography has existed for as long as people have been keeping secrets. The ancient Egyptians used secret codes 4,000 years ago! Students were introduced to a number of ciphers (secret codes) and were challenged to figure out how to crack the codes. We explored simple ciphers, transposition ciphers, and substitution ciphers, including the Pigpen Cipher, the Caesar Cipher (named after Julius Caesar), and the Jefferson wheel (a code-making device created by President Thomas Jefferson).

Students can create their own Caesar Wheel at home by following our attached DIY Caesar Wheel guide below! Caesar Wheel DIY

Author

Lauren Koppel

Lauren earned a Bachelor’s degree with a double major of Biology and Psychology from Clark University, and a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During her undergraduate years, she worked in a evolutionary neurobiology lab that studied the neural development of annelids (marine worms), with a focus on the sox family of genes. Lauren loves learning about how the world works (including everything from biology to chemistry to engineering), and is passionate about sharing that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. In the past, she has interned at the Museum of Science, where she educated learners of all ages through hands-on activities, games, and experiments. Other science education organizations with which Lauren has worked include The People’s Science, EurekaFest, and Eureka! of Girls Inc. of Worcester. Currently she lives in Boston, where devotes her free time to playing Quidditch, reading sci-fi novels, playing her ukulele, and enjoying all the culinary delights the city has to offer.

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