New books on my bookshelf
Spent some time at Borders today and was very disappointed with their selection. I have a Borders rewards credit card so I frequently spend time there using up my coupons, but last time I went they didn’t have any of Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin series books prior to volume 11 – I needed volume 6. Today, I was looking for more of John LeCarré’s George Smiley novels, specifically the ones after Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Considering LeCarré’s status as one of the foremost espionage authors alive today and the fact that he is still writing excellent material (e.g. The Constant Gardener is supposedly terrific, though I have not read it), this surprised me. In fact they didn’t even have The Constant Gardener which is odd since it was recently a successful film.
Nonetheless, I found time to blow all my coupons. I picked up Simon Singh’s The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography along with three non-Smiley LeCarré novels (Absolute Friends, The Secret Pilgrim [Smiley apparently is a peripheral character in this], and A Perfect Spy). I am thinking of using Singh’s book as the basis for a colloquia series I’m running this spring on cryptography. I’m gathering together faculty from at least four departments – Classics, History, Computer Science, and Physics (plus perhaps someone from Math as well, though I’m in both Math and Physics for the spring) – and will have one person from each department present something cryptography-related and follow that up with discussion. We’re going to try to get students involved as well, perhaps offer them some extra credit or something to encourage them to go. We’re going to run it through a Learning Liberty grant that a couple of my colleagues in the Philosophy and Politics departments have obtained. Singh’s book looks ideal for this as the coverage includes everything I was aiming to cover in the four lectures – ancient cryptography, WWII codebreaking, modern encryption techniques, and quantum cryptography.