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Old 07-22-2009, 04:44 PM   #1
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Code / Cypher Breaking

See post below for sample puzzles.

Would anyone (or, ideally, more than one person) be interested in an eBook that was basically a series of easy to difficult code / cyphers to be broken by the reader?

Perhaps either tied together by a loose overarching story, or maybe the text revealed by solving the easier codes / cyphers would offer tips on solving the harder ones.

Just an idea I'm playing around in my head, and would like to gauge interest.

I envision this sort of thing as using a wide variety of different writing scripts, so we are not talking about dull and laborious code breaking of letter substitution and other puzzles... but rather mini Voynich manuscript type mysteries. (But definitely with a focus on having at least two thirds range from easy to moderate difficulty, and only a few well-nigh unsolvable ones.)

- Ahi

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Old 07-23-2009, 04:53 AM   #2
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It sounds very interesting - I'll be very interested in such a book, personally.

Please note, by the way, that the word is "Breaking"; the word "Braking", although it sounds the same, has a completely different meaning .
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Old 07-23-2009, 06:28 AM   #3
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Sounds very interesting (although hopefully more breakable than the Voynich manuscript )
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:30 AM   #4
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:11 AM   #5
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Simon Singh did a history of codebreaking his book The Code Book which included, I think, ten challenges to break (of increasing complexity).

I'd imagine it is difficult to pitch the codes at an appropriate level such that most readers could get it, but that it was at least something of a challenge..
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:39 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
It sounds very interesting - I'll be very interested in such a book, personally.

Please note, by the way, that the word is "Breaking"; the word "Braking", although it sounds the same, has a completely different meaning .
Thanks, I actually know this... or at least "know" it. I have a feeling that my extended exposure to shoddy spelling (curiously enough primarily since I entered the work force) is in part to blame.

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Originally Posted by ShortNCuddlyAm View Post
Sounds very interesting (although hopefully more breakable than the Voynich manuscript )
In a full collection, I think I would have to aim to have at least one manuscript as unbreakable as the Voynich MS--but I agree, most would have to be considerably more accessible.

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Originally Posted by dadioflex View Post
Sounds more like a game, than a book. How many readers would allow the level of interactivity required?

Most adventure games are a series of puzzles. Professor Layton for the DS is another recent puzzle based game. Actual cyphers... I don't know that it would interest me. Code-breaking is a pretty niche interest. And I used to be fascinated by secret codes at school. These days keeping my life running smoothly is sufficiently challenging.

How about an example of what you had in mind and we can see how much fun it would be.
I will try to put up something in the next day or two.

Suffice it to say that I am not thinking of heavily mathematical codes like public key cryptography even for the hardest puzzles. More like substitution cyphers of both plain and unorthodox sorts, secret codes that make use of certain unusual features of the foreign scripts used.

Definitely primarily an interactive endeavour... and I would say my hope is for something that is not just solely code-breaking but plentifully blends the experience of logical and creative reasoning with the aesthetic experience of (and bits and pieces of edutainment about) various writing systems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LazyScot View Post
Simon Singh did a history of codebreaking his book The Code Book which included, I think, ten challenges to break (of increasing complexity).

I'd imagine it is difficult to pitch the codes at an appropriate level such that most readers could get it, but that it was at least something of a challenge..
Agreed. What ought to make it simpler is that, as hinted above, I would almost certainly stay away from stuff requiring advanced mathematics and make the exercise more like "creative secret diary deciphering".

Mainly security through obscurity sort of codes, with some of them perhaps even being steganographic in nature.

But I will try to post an example of the sort of thing I mean sooner rather than later so people could comment on something concrete.

Thanks for all the feedback thus far!

- Ahi
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Old 07-23-2009, 12:12 PM   #7
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this sounds very interesting to me, but as the others have said, it will depend on how it is realised of course. i'll be looking forward to seeing your sample code.
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Old 07-24-2009, 06:42 AM   #8
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:08 PM   #9
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While I enjoy puzzles, if they were to be integrated into a story, then the story would have to be very compelling. And I agree with dadioflex, it sounds a bit like some adventure games, especially the Infocom and other great interactive fiction games of yore. Still, I'm up for it!

And for anyone who likes non-conventional stories that need to be untangled for maximum enjoyment, I'd like to suggest Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars and Italo Calvino's Castle of Crossed Destinies.
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:11 PM   #10
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I have the beginning of an idea, of making the puzzle-containing story arch be an investigation of notes left by a paranoid-schizophrenic (or sufferer of some other form of mental imbalance that ultimately better fits the exhibited symptoms)...

I'll definitely get a puzzle to post worked out for this weekend.

- Ahi
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:17 PM   #11
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Wow! Thanks for that!

Feel free to make further recommendation of obscurely wonderful and wonderfully obscure books like this one.

Male version: http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Kha.../dp/0679724613

Female version: http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Kha.../dp/067972754X

Quote:
Written in Serbo-Croatian, first published in Yugoslavia, already a bestseller in Germany and France, this whimsical "lexicon" can be read on many levels. Pavic, professor of Serbian literature at the University of Belgrade, cares passionately about literature and he teases us through the unusual format of this novel to explore the subject. Entries are alphabetically arranged and can be perused at random, read start to finish or back to front. The publisher is offering two different versions, designated "male" and "female," and differing by only 15 lines. The narrative purports to be the historical record of the Khazars, a fictional Indo-European tribe that vanished in the 10th century. According to legend, the Khazar ruler asked a rabbi, a monk and a dervish to interpret a portentous dream; the winner would gain the conversion of the Khazar people to Judaism, Christianity or Islam. The result of this contest was lost in time. Interest in the "Khazar Polemic" prompted the Serbian warlord Avram Brankovich to compile a dictionary on the Khazars with the help of his retinue in the 17th century. Codified by a monk, the dictionary subsequently was 99% destroyed; one copy was found and revised; now it has fallen into the hands of modern-day scholars. Pavic is a 20th century Scheherazade, spinning a series of interconnected folk tales, drawing on a vast source of literary references, eventually metamorphosing his narrative into a murder mystery. Readers who are intrigued by literary conundrums will enjoy entering this magical world with Pavic as their guide.
- Ahi

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Old 07-24-2009, 12:37 PM   #12
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I would suck at breaking code and would probably not care enough to read such a book but I know people who would love the idea.
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:44 PM   #13
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I would suck at breaking code and would probably not care enough to read such a book but I know people who would love the idea.
Good to know on both counts.

If you're bored in a few days, check back on this thread anyways. I'll aim for something fairly easy as the sample for people to check out. If you've never done something like this before, you might be surprised by the feeling of curious satisfaction at rendering scrutable the heretofore inscrutable.

- Ahi

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Old 07-24-2009, 12:45 PM   #14
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http://www.borrett.id.au/computing/petals-bg.htm

That's one of my favourite puzzle stories.
Finally had a chance to read that. That one was too easy. Give us a harder one.

EDIT: Okay, I posted the above after reading through the first 3 or 4 throws and figuring out how it worked. Now I've really read the whole story. It certainly seems to explain a bit about how billg works.

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Old 07-25-2009, 11:48 PM   #15
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Edit: updated PDF with a third manuscript.

Alright, Ladies and Gents!

Find attached a 6" screen sized PDF, with two examples. (If you need larger font, just let me know.) Please, please, read the below explanatory bit before you get started though, to save yourself potentially avoidable frustration. (Also, I'm not philosophically opposed to an ePub version, but must decline the honour of being the one to make it.)

Extracts from the archives of
The Crazed Avar

This is (i.e.: will be) a collection of notes, letters, and excerpts from the personal library of the man (yet to be bestowed with a full name by me) colloquially known as "The Crazed Avar".

The Crazed Avar suffered (or, if one perceives the publishing date of the book[-to-be], will suffer) from a rather inconstant sort of madness, with definite periods of lucidity, and much time spent hovering on the edge of madness.

Most of his writings are in English, albeit rarely in the appropriate latin script used for English in the early 21st century. Of those manuscripts that are addressed to somebody, the addressee (on account of the madness) is often either non-contemporary to the Avar or altogether non-existent. Likewise, his signature lines rarely reference himself as the author.

The two manuscripts are the easiest of their respective sorts. i.e.: The first one is likely the easiest cyrillic-based "code" (if despite its simplicity one can call it that) the book is likely to ever employ, and the second one, (one of) the simplest han character based code.

While with the first one, it's easy to cheat either via the internet or a Russian dictionary/language book--people might find it more rewarding not to cheat. With the second one, I cannot think of any way to cheat--you will need to think, observe, and make notes to solve it. But don't worry, it is solvable despite being a somewhat short manuscript.

And once you have solved what each piece says, I greatly encourage that you try to figure out what they mean. In both cases, it ought to be possible with reasonable effort, and this search for meaning is actually meant to be a part of the overall experience.

If you are an intellectually curious sort, there is a good chance you will enjoy them. And if you are, but you don't, please tell me why, and what you think I could do differently to help you enjoy the next set.

- Ahi
Attached Files
File Type: pdf excerpts.pdf (82.4 KB, 188 views)

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