Failure for sale

Things that don’t function properly are valuable commodities if their failure offers advantage for someone. In fact, it’s information about that failure that’s the commodity. Consider an urban example. You see that your neighbours have left one of their windows unlatched as they are about to move out for the weekend. So, you’ve detected a…More


A Shibboleth is a kind of pronunciation test. You can tell where someone is from, or not from, by asking them to say a particular word. It can also indicate where someone has been. I can tell with a degree of certainty if someone has been to Australia by the way they say “Melbourne.” If…More

Wittgenstein’s secret place

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) wrote diary entries in code. I’ve been reading Dinda Gorleé’s book Wittgenstein’s Secret Diaries: Semiotic Writing in Cryptography. There are several touch points with architecture and place. Wittgenstein had trained as a mechanical engineer, and undertook a serious foray into architecture when he designed his sister’s house, which followed the…More

Cryptography for space aliens

“Anticryptography” is a loose term to designate a type of cryptographic message that is legible to someone who has no knowledge of the plain text language from which the message derives. Nor do they have access to the method of encryption, or anything like an encryption or decryption key. Nor is the message meant to…More

Quantum entanglement for designers

The idea of the quantum Internet (QI) adds a new dimension to city infrastructures. Quantum physics is even more difficult to grasp than the blockchain. But I’ll give it a shot, starting with lasers. Lasers A laser beam is a concentrated beam of coherent light within a narrow colour band (i.e., frequency range). You can…More

Quantum Internet

Quantum computers can potentially remove the need to iterate through the huge numbers of combinations required to crack a code, reconstruct an original source document from a hash string or derive the key used to encrypt a file.More

How architecture keeps its secrets

Here’s a basic application of the containment principle. If you put something into a cardboard box and close the lid then it’s concealed from view. Buildings also conceal things. I discussed the house-museum of the architect John Soane in a previous post. Soane was a practitioner within a secret society (Freemasonry), which in turn traded in…More

Seven secrets

Architecture has even more in common with the theory and practice of secret-keeping than do secret societies. I would add the offer of crypts, basements, darkened rooms and cupboards to the reasons secret societies gravitate towards architecture: its histories and theories, functions, types and symbols. I’ve started reading (listening to) Dan Brown’s novel The Lost…More

Secret architecture

The prominent Regency architect John Soane (1753-1837) was a member of a secret society. In an account provided by architectural historian David Watkin, Soane “took Freemasonry very seriously” (402). Though he wasn’t initiated as a member until the age of 60 his work adopted the mood of Freemasonry. “He reflected its deistic philosophy in his…More

Secret society

There exists a secret society, custodian of the theory and practice of secrets. Its adherents embrace the systematic invention, application and promotion of codes and ciphers. As it includes architects and mathematicians amongst its adherents, this society preserves and embeds arts of semiotics, geometry, combinatorics, indices, logics, riddles, paradoxes, and mechanisms to examine the arts…More