Almost home (kind of)

I’ll explain this picture later

Hello dear readers, I hope you’re having a good time following our blog. I’m sure you will all be crushed to hear that there are only a few more posts left before we all come home. But turn that frown upside-down, dear reader, because I’m here so you’ll be glad they’re ending soon to tell you all what happened this past Wednesday and Thursday (8-21 and 8-22 for those of you reading this further in the future).

I’m Simon Parker, by the way.

Well to start off, Wednesday was presentation day for all of us. These presentations were about past Turing Award winners (The Turing Award is the Nobel Prize equivalent in the computer science world). We each had our own individual or group winners to talk about, and they were, not surprisingly, all given the award for pretty complicated and technical reasons. The only one that I think I could even attempt to explain would be my winner, Edgar Codd (1981 winner). I want to tell you why he won, but if you don’t want to hear a complete technical description of database management, then please skip to after the picture of Codd below. So Codd invented the idea of the “Relational Model” of database management – ok, now that they’re gone, it’s actually not that technical after all. The main idea is treating stored data as tables. That’s it. I could go into more precise detail of exactly what I mean by that, but I’d bore myself writing it, and I’m sure I’d bore you reading it. If you really wanna know check this out. Anyway, Codd:

Edgar F. Codd

I can hear your eager voices all calling out, “what else did you do in class on Wednesday, August 21st?”. Well, that’s a great question. We began diving into RSA cryptography, AKA public key cryptography. The jist of RSA is that there is a way 2 people can communicate completely securely, such that someone listening in on their conversation would have no clue what they are saying, without having traded any secret information (a key) prior to their conversation. It sounds crazy, and, like 80% of the things in modern cryptography, we have no idea whether or not it works. Don’t get me wrong, we (by we I mean people who handle internet security) are pretty sure it works. Practically, it works. Theoretically, no idea. That’s because in order to prove that something like this would work, we would need to prove that it is impossible to efficiently factor extremely huge numbers that are the product of 2 primes. And to prove that, you would need to prove whether or not P vs NP, a huge undecided problem in computer science. I won’t even attempt to give you an explanation, but this video will.

This is an abrupt change of subject, but I want to talk about what I did on Thursday. I say ‘I’ here because a good chunk of the class went to London to check out the British Museum and the Barbican. Now, this was an optional trip, and I didn’t really want to go to London to see a museum that I had already been to (I went during midterm break), so I didn’t go. And, as of writing this post, I forgot to ask for pictures of the trip. The trip is a mystery to both you and me, dear reader.

Instead I went to the Centre for Computing History here in Cambridge. And wow, it was pretty cool.

Aside from a bunch of older videogame consoles (all playable), there were quite a few old computers with manuals and activities that helped you learn older languages. I spent a while trying out simple BASIC programs, which were surprisingly easy to write. They also had a similar station with Raspberry Pis and Python. I would definitely recommend it if you ever find yourself in Cambridge, because I am not great at getting across how interesting this place was.

That’s it. I’m out of stuff to say other than I hope you enjoyed my post. Bye!

Almost home (kind of)

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