Timetable and Main Talks




      Main Talks

      Guest lecture: The Mathematics of the Enigma Machine: how the British read German secrets in WWII

      The Enigma Machine was widely used by the German military in World War II to encrypt information about their war plans. Weaknesses in the design of Enigma and, more importantly, weaknesses in the way that it was used, allowed the British and their allies to read many of these messages, helping bring about the defeat of the Nazis. This talk will explore the mathematical aspects of some of the weaknesses and reflect on how good information security practices are as important today as they were in the 1940s.



      Professor Rüdiger Schack: The Music in a 2000 year old proof

      Are all quantities in mathematics ratios of integers, such as 5/7? The ancient Pythagoreans thought so. For them, mathematics, cosmology, and music were firmly based on the integers. The Pythagorean world view was thrown into crisis in the 5th century BC when it was discovered that some distances, and by implication some musical intervals, cannot be expressed as ratios of integers, that is, they are “irrational”. It took more than 2000 years for mathematicians and musicians to fully come to terms with the discovery of irrational numbers. This talk will present a simple and beautiful proof that the square root of 2 is irrational, and through it explore connections between music and mathematics.

      Professor Rüdiger Schack has been teaching at Royal Holloway’s Mathematics Department for more than 20 years, including 5 years as Head of Department. He has made numerous research contributions in the field of quantum theory ranging from foundations to optics and cryptography. Recently he was a panelist at the World Science Festival in New York. His musical interests include singing in a choir and playing piano and harpsichord.