[Edu-sig] Cryptonomicon

Kirby Urner pdx4d@teleport.com
Fri, 10 Nov 2000 20:09:43 +0200

I haven't posted in awhile, having my hands full doing
heavy duty logistics in South Africa and the Kingdom of

My reading of late (just finished) was Neal Stephenson's
Cryptonomicon, a science fiction novel (and NYT best-
seller) which takes me back to my youth in the Philippine
islands (where I went to high school -- and learned to
scuba dive from exMarine Gill Gilleland), and to other 
places.  I highly recommend the book.

Why this is relevant to edu-sig is there's a lot to write
about cryptography, using the Python language.  I've 
been meaning to explore this more, jumping off from
my http://www.inetarena.com/~pdx4d/ocn/numeracy2.html
wherein I explore prime numbers, and come up against 
the difficulty of finding the factors of very large 
numbers.  If you take a huge number that factors 
uniquely into two primes, you could think of one as
the private key, the other as the public key -- 
something like that.

I'm separated from my eBook on the Standard Library at
the moment, but as I recall, Python already ships with
at least one crypto algorithm.  But there's a lot more
we could be doing, to build bridges between the 
"math through programming" initiative (which I've been
spearheading)[1], and the crypto world.

Anyway, I invite people to consider a role for Python
at this juncture -- could be a great place to do some
original and useful curriculum writing, IMO (think
elementary school for example -- no need to start in
the densest areas -- and do some simple substitution
codes (plus there's always using algorithms to try
cracking such simple codes (then moving on to the 
next level)).


from the Kingdom of Lesotho
(574 Hoo Hloo, Maseru)

[1] http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/python/2000/10/04/pythonnews.html

PS:  another link to Cryptonomicon is the "math teacher
as storyteller" thread -- thinking of math teaching as
an opportunity to tell stories with math content inter-
weaved.  Stephenson's book contains many examples of