03 Jul, 2009

1801 Presidential Crypto Finally C®4Ck3d!

Posted by: shift In: Tech

A 200-year old encrypted message sent to Thomas Jefferson has finally been solved by Dr. Lawren Smithline, a 36 year old Harvard Alumni and professional cryptologist.

The message was originally sent by Robert Patterson (not Pattinson, you Twilight freaks!), who was a mathematics professor at the University of Penn, and friend of Jefferson.

In this particular letter, Patterson described 4 requirements for a “perfect” cipher:

1. It should work in any language.
2. It should be easy to memorize.
3. It should be simple to perform.
4. It should be indecipherable to anyone who doesn’t have the key.

    The Wall Street Journal explains exactly how Smithline cracked the cipher. Pretty intense stuff!

    Harvard Magazine explains exactly how complicated the cipher was:

    In his more sophisticated code, Patterson wrote his message openly, without capitals or spaces, but vertically on ruled paper, “in the Chinese manner,” in columns from left to right. This produces a grid of lowercase letters that are gibberish when read left to right, but a perfectly clear message when read in columns. Next he broke this grid into sections of up to nine lines each, numbering each line 1, 2, 3, etc., and re-ordering them randomly within the section—though all sections would repeat the same reordered sequence of numbers. He also inserted up to nine arbitrary letters at the beginning of each line, which had no bearing on the message content but drastically increased the inscrutability factor. He ?lled vacant spaces at the end of the line with similarly random letters.

    From now on, all text on this blog will be written using the Patterson Cipher. Good thing most of the posts are Videos! Haha

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