Hiding messages in DNA

DNA origami is predicated on various tropes of hiddenness: nano-scale locked “boxes” made of folded DNA strands to conceal active molecular agents (enzymes, drugs, active DNA material) from their immediate environments where they may be harmed or cause harm. Nano-objects are in any case hidden from direct view, detected via sensing apparatus such as electron…More


Using techniques I alluded to (briefly) in my previous post, genetic engineers fabricate, isolate and deploy a class of short DNA strands (20 or so DNA base-pairs) known as staples (oligonucleotides). There are techniques for inserting these staples into long DNA strands at specific locations to cause the strand structures to fold. So the double…More

DNA cryptography

Developments in biotech impact on the spatial implications of cryptography. DNA involves sequences of just 4 molecules connected in pairs in a double helix configuration. These nucleotide molecules are adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). The DNA in a human cell is made up of about 3.2×109 of these pairs, normally tangled…More

How to make up words

ETAOINS are the 7 most commonly used letters in the English language. See post: Counting letters. Perhaps we could communicate with just those seven letters. https://unscramblex.com is a website that provides all anagrams of up to 15 characters. There are 178 anagrams of ETAOINS. If you want include words where letters occur together (EE, TT,…More

Codes and legals

Code is a useful term, not least as it has several meanings: rules, laws, computer programs, hidden messages. You can code and decode messages. The terminology around cryptographic ciphers is more restricted. It invokes meanings related to hidden writing. According to Simon Singh in The Code Book, “A cipher is the name given to any…More

Urban cryptography

I’ve been investigating city life through the lens of cryptography. Here are some of the claims I think I can make on behalf of an “urban cryptography.” The most obvious contribution is that cryptography (digital encryption) addresses and resolves challenges of securing data and information flows in the city. But there’s more. Cities rely on…More

How the Meta(verse) stokes division

The release of the trove of papers (“The Facebook Papers”) by whistle-blower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen in 2021 suggests that Facebook manipulates and displays its content to polarise opinion and keep people engaged, if not “addicted,” in their social media news feeds. Social media platform developers configure their systems to encourage controversy. At…More

Life in the metaverse

Technology companies such as Facebook have committed to developing the “metaverse.” According to a Facebook report the metaverse is “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” Facebook’s parent company is now called Meta. Skeptics say this is an excuse…More

Greening the blockchain

While the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 takes place in Glasgow this week, attention turns to the energy waste of cryptocurrency transactions. A substantial part of the cost resides with the “proof of work” (PoW) process by which validating nodes on a blockchain compete to solve a numerical puzzle the solution to which…More

Urban affordances

The term affordance was invented by the psychologist James J. Gibson (1904-1997): “The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill” (1979, p.27). He introduced the concept by referring to the relationship between the non-human animal (water bugs and bears) and its environment,…More