Cryptographic City

The description of my next book is out with the cover design on the MIT Press website. The graphic designer says that the cover is in code, though I have yet to decipher it. Cryptography’s essential role in the functioning of the city, viewed against the backdrop of modern digital life. Cryptography is not new…More

Automated essay writing

Copysmith is a web-based AI writing tool that deploys an extensive database of texts to generate new content. The human writer provides a few key terms, a title or phrases relevant to their subject of interest. In response, the program offers up a selection of relevant short paragraphs. The writer selects from these to spur…More

Wordle secrets: from CAULK to CYNIC

There’s a pleasant sociable aspect to the online puzzle Wordle. Every day there’s a new word challenge, where you have to guess a new hidden five letter word. Every player has the same secret word to guess. So the puzzle encourages low grade rivalry and serves as a conversation starter amongst players — as long…More

Hash blogs

Hash is a prominent term in computing and cryptography, according to the OED, “so called because it consists of small pieces of code arranged in an apparently jumbled and fragmented way.” See posts tagged hash. To hash is to chop up, to hack, a term applied readily to food (recooked and chopped meat), narcotic dried…More

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. 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

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