Peter J. Littig
Examines mathematical theories and concepts within their historical and cultural contexts. Topics vary with instructor and may include mathematical symmetries, the organization and modeling of space, cryptology, mathematical models of social decision making, and/or theories of change and strategy.
Description: Interdisciplinary Cryptography / Autumn 2009
Cryptography is the science of secrecy. Since ancient times, secret codes have been employed for both noble and nefarious purposes. They played a surprising role in the events that led to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and they were crucial to the Allied success in World War II. Modern day cryptosystems and coding techniques are indispensable parts of computer network security and global commerce.
How are codes developed and why are contemporary codes so difficult to break? In this mathematics course we will investigate the history of codes, the political and economic ends to which they have been put, and the mathematical theory underlying them. Specific mathematical content will include prime numbers, modular arithmetic, and elementary number theory. The highlight of the course wil be our study of the RSA cryptosystem.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
This course will involve lectures, problem-solving workshops, and a combination of class-wide and small group discussions.
The course has no formal mathematical requirements beyond the university's general admission requirements. Familiarity with algebra and both linear functions and polynomials will be helpful, though we will develop the mathematics we need as the course progresses. An interest in the application of mathematical ideas to real world problems along with a willingness to work hard are the only true prerequisites.
Class assignments and grading
Mathematical problem sets will be assigned on a regular basis. Students can expect to spend an average of 7-12 hours each week on homework assignments.
Grades will be based on student participation, a midterm exam, a final exam, and a quarter-long portfolio project.