Friday, January 23, 2009

Science Toys - 3

Spy Science

I have done a couple of recent posts on code and cipher breaking, SIGINT on signals intelligence and A Crypto Problem about Edgar Alan Poe's The Gold-Bug.And so I thought what better science kit for this week than Spy Science,which has materials for sending secret messages a number of different ways including codes, invisible ink, a cypher wheel, encryption sheets, and a Spy International ID card. And if you are found with the secret spy ID card I'm afraid it will give the whole game away. But no matter. Kids will no doubt love being an official secret spy.

Want to make your own invisible ink at home? Lemon juice is good as is milk and both develop with heat. Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writingshould have even more examples.

So on to more codes and cyphers. Codes, Ciphers and Other Cryptic and Clandestine Communication: 400 Ways to Send Secret Messages from Hieroglyphs to the Internetis a beginners guide to all kinds of codes, cyphers and signaling methods. It covers everything from flag codes to World War Two code breakers. It is not very detailed, but it does give an excellent overview.

United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers: 1775-1938should be of interest to those who like American History. Did you know that Thomas Jefferson, our smartest President ever, invented a cipher system that used code wheels? Well you know it now.

American Black Chamberby Yardley details American code breaking efforts in World War One. It caused quite a scandal when it came out because it gave away a lot of secrets that our government would have preferred to remain secret, including how breaking the codes of other nations gave Americans a serious advantage in post war diplomacy. You can read more about Yardley in the book The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail: Herbert O. Yardley and the Birth of American Codebreakingby David Kahn. Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaedais as up to date as the headlines in your newspaper. Stealing Secrets, Telling Lies: How Spies & Codebreakers Helped Shape the Twentieth Century.Yes they did, frequently. Did you know that the breaking of a diplomatic code by the British helped get the USA into WW1? The Zimmermann Telegramis a classic telling of the tale by Barbra Tuchman. And it is just one example of how spying shaped the history of the world.

The Spycraft Manual: The Insider's Guide to Espionage Techniquescovers how to do it for your budding spy. International Spy Museum's Handbook of Practical SpyingHas practical tips on how to apply spying in your daly life. Such as:
Learn how to apply spy knowledge to situations in your own life, from how to hide valuables in your home, to how to shake a tail if you are being followed on a dark street. Learn how to avoid carjacking, pickpockets, and how to protect yourself from identity theft. The same tactics used by CIA and KGB agents can also be used in less serious situations-and these techniques can work in surprising ways. Planning a surprise birthday party for someone special? Learn how to create a cover story. Real spies know the tricks and what can give your cover away. A spy must master many skills, and is only as good as what he or she sees and understands. Observe and Analyze, Avoid Capture, Use Disguises, and Analyze Threats. These are all things that can help you in daily applications.The book is presented by International Spy Museum director and ex-CIA operative Peter Earnest, and filled with useful information gathered by the Spy Museum's team of experts.
I can think of uses for this information that would eventually lead to divorce court. So be careful out there.

So you want to break codes and ciphers? Here is a set of three books that will help:
Secret Code Breaker: A Cryptanalyst's Handbook (Codebreaker Series, Number 1)
Secret Code Breaker II: A Cryptanalyst's Handbook (Codebreaker Series, Number 3)
Secret Code Breaker III: A Cryptanalyst's Handbook (Codebreaker Series, Number 3)

And if you want to try your hand at deciphering here are a few puzzle books:
Mind Boggling Code Breaker Puzzles for Kids
The Cryptogram Challenge: Over 150 Codes to Crack and Ciphers to Break
The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms: Over 600 Mystery Codes to Be Cracked!
The Six Unsolved Ciphers: Inside the Mysterious Codes That Have Confounded the World's Greatest Cryptographers
Lubos Motl's Reference Frame links to an online cryptogram that you can try to crack.

And to kind of wrap this all up I want to cover the breaking of the German and Japanese Machine codes in WW2. Let me start with a book I am currently reading The American Magicwhich deals with the breaking of the Japanese codes and how that information was used to defeat Japan and had an influence on the decision to atomic bomb Japan.


Here is the book that got me interested in WW2 code breaking: The Ultra Secret: The Inside Story of Operation Ultra, Bletchley Park and EnigmaThere are lots of books on the subject for those interested in the origins of the modern computer is: Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Code-breaking Computers (Popular Science)YouTube has a couple of videos on the subject: Colossus 1 and Colossus 2. I also liked the PBS video series described here in excellent detail Mind of A Codebreaker. Unfortunately the video does not seem to be available any more.

There are lots more books on the subject of WW2 code breaking. Here is a list:
Enigma: The Battle for the Code
Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II
The German Enigma Cipher Machine: Beginnings, Success, and Ultimate Failure
The Secret War: The Inside Story of the Codemakers and Codebreakers of World War II
Codes and Ciphers: Julius Caesar, the Enigma, and the Internet

And for those of you who mouse around your computer: Lorenz Cipher Machine Mouse PadIf you want to watch a DVD about spying may I suggest: Secrets of War - Intelligence (The Ultra Enigma, Women Spies in World War II)narrated by Charlton Heston.

That should be enough to keep your junior spy and the rest of you into the clandestine arts busy for a while.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

1 comment:

PsychoI3oy said...

If you want a geeky historical fiction on the WWII code breakers, pick up Criptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. It parallels the story of a modern day computer geek dealing with computer-based encryption and his grandfather, a fictional cohort to Alan Turing in WWII.