Cryptography: The Science of Secrets

Today we investigated the science of secret codes and ciphers: Cryptography! We learned that 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 and the Caesar Cipher (named after Julius Caesar).

Younger classes practiced with the Jefferson wheel, a code-making device created by President Thomas Jefferson. Older classes analyzed the frequency of letters in a cipher in order to uncover its hidden message. Ask your student what the most common letters are in the English language!

Print your own Caesar Wheel to use at home! Use this link.

Tecnología 1: Criptografía

Hoy estudiamos la ciencia que estudia los cifrados y códigos secretos; la “Criptografía”. Aprendimos que esta disciplina ha existido desde que la gente guarda secretos, es decir, ¡hace mucho tiempo! 4.000 mil años atrás los antiguos egipcios ya usaban códigos secretos.

A los estudiantes se les mostró una serie de “cifrados” (códigos secretos) y luego se les desafió a descifrarlos. Estudiamos distintos tipos de cifrados, como los simples, de transposición y de substitución, incluyendo los cifrados de “Pigpen” (fracmasón) y de “César” (llamado así por el emperador romano Julio César).

Los estudiantes de cursos menores, practicaron con la rueda de Jefferson, que es una máquina “creadora de códigos” creada por el presidente Thomas Jefferson. Los estudiantes de los cursos mayores analizaron la frecuencia de las letras en un cifrado para poder revelar el mensaje secreto. Pregúntele a su hijo o hija cuales son las letras más habituales en le lengua inglesa.

Pueden imprimir su propia “rueda de César” para usar en casa. Use este link.

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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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