The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

It stands to reason that every secret code is crackable. After all, encryption doesn't work unless the intended receiver is able to decipher it and therefore get at the information being relayed; so if one party is able to do it, a third party theoretically should be able to solve it. The primary goal of the encoder is to make it as hard as possible to unwrap the encrypted package without having the proper tools. This can take the form of various things, from the simplest--secret decoder rings, mental riddles--to the most complex--special inks, software, biotechnological keys, etc. But the point remains the same: Since it's possible to decode the encryption at one point, it's very possible to do it at an unintended point, albiet with lots of work.

That's why, when I read about a new technique in encryption that, thanks to the use of quantum physics, is declared uncrackable, I was skeptical. The more I read, though, the more it seems that the hype might very well be for real. I'll admit that much of this stuff is over my head, although I understand the basic concepts and remain interested in it overall. From what I'm reading here, cracking this stuff would take unprecedented effort.

I like how Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is invoked. Again, that's part of what fascinates me about this field. The historical aspect of Heisenberg's work is at least as compelling to me; for anyone who's interested in such things, Michael Frayn's Copenhagen (the script of the play) is a great piece to absorb.