Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Computer Cracks Code Thomas Jefferson Could Not

In 1801 Thomas Jefferson received an encrypted message but its message remained a mystery ... until March 2009. In the letter, math professor Robert Patterson wrote that he had devised the perfect cipher: simple, yet impossible to break without the key. Patterson claimed that his message would stump humanity “to the end of time.”

Challenging Patterson's challenge, Lawren Smithline wrote a computer program which unveiled various pairs of letters. Pairs like “qu” and “nt” offered promise, while impossible pairs like “vj” and “dx” were rejected. After a week, Smithline exposed the message - words Jefferson would have easily recognized: the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

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