What We Are Reading Today: The Mathematics of Secrets 

Updated 13 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: The Mathematics of Secrets 

  • The Mathematics of Secrets takes readers on a fascinating tour of the mathematics behind cryptography — the science of sending secret messages

BOOK AUTHOR: Joshua Holden

 

The Mathematics of Secrets takes readers on a fascinating tour of the mathematics behind cryptography — the science of sending secret messages. Most books about cryptography are organized historically, or around how codes and ciphers have been used, such as in government and military intelligence or bank transactions.Joshua Holden instead shows how mathematical principles underpin the ways that different codes and ciphers operate. Holden focuses on both code making and code breaking and he discusses the majority of ancient and modern ciphers currently known.

Holden begins by looking at substitution ciphers, built by substituting one letter or block of letters for another. Explaining one of the simplest and historically well-known ciphers, the Caesar cipher, Holden establishes the key mathematical idea behind the cipher and discusses how to introduce flexibility and additional notation. Holden goes on to explore polyalphabetic substitution ciphers, transposition ciphers, including one developed by the Spartans, connections between ciphers and computer encryption, stream ciphers, and ciphers involving exponentiation.

He also examines public-key ciphers, where the methods used to encrypt messages are public knowledge, and yet, intended recipients are still the only ones who are able to read the message. He concludes with a look at the future of ciphers and where cryptography might be headed. Only basic mathematics up to high school algebra is needed to understand and enjoy the book.


What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

Updated 24 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

  • In 1933, when in a bid to pull the US out of depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts
  • Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families

JEDDAH: The American economy is strong in large part because nobody believes that America would ever default on its debt. Yet in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt did just that, when in a bid to pull the country out of depression, he depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts. American Default is the story of this forgotten chapter in America’s history.

Sebastian Edwards provides a compelling account of the economic and legal drama that embroiled a nation already reeling from global financial collapse.

It began on April 5, 1933, when FDR ordered Americans to sell all their gold holdings to the government. This was followed by the abandonment of the gold standard, the unilateral and retroactive rewriting of contracts, and the devaluation of the dollar.

Anyone who held public and private debt suddenly saw its value reduced by nearly half, and debtors — including the US government — suddenly owed their creditors far less.

Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families. The banks fought back, and a bitter battle for gold ensued. In early 1935, the case went to the Supreme Court. 

Edwards describes FDR’s rancorous clashes with conservative Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a confrontation that threatened to finish the New Deal for good— and that led to FDR’s attempt to pack the court in 1937.

At a time when several major economies never approached the brink of default or devaluing or recalling currencies, American Default is a timely account of a little-known yet drastic experiment with these policies, the inevitable backlash, and the ultimate result.