Have you ever wondered how billionaires spend their money? Many of them are philanthropic and contribute to charities. A few others also like to develop projects that interest them. Jeff Bezos and …
Have you ever wondered how billionaires spend their money? Many of them are philanthropic and contribute to charities. A few others also like to develop projects that interest them. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson spent part of their incredible fortune developing and then riding into space in their high-tech capsules. Later, Tesla founder, Elon Musk developed a craft for space travel.
Unique in the way to spend a portion of his wealth is Bill Gates. Gates had no desire to go into space. Instead, in 1994 he spent $30.8 million to acquire Leonardo da Vinci’s “Codex Leicester.” It is named for Thomas Coke who purchased it in 1719 before becoming the Earl of Leicester. Da Vinci’s codex is a remarkable collection of scientific writing. Da Vinci known more for his works of art, his codex, by way of detailed sketches and writings, predicts items that were centuries away from being developed. He designed a helicopter, a parachute, a winged flying machine that predated the airplane and a self-propelled cart that centuries later became the car.
Da Vinci attempted to protect his concepts by writing everything in mirror images. He was one of the first who used methods that in our time has become a way to send secret coded messages. Many coded messages take years to “crack.”
Some codes have become famous. During World War II, the Germans used an Enigma Code to send encrypted messages to and from their invading forces.
Once it became evident that Germany was using a secret code to send and receive messages, the British amped up their Code and Cypher School. The British knew that the Germans were using an Enigma machine, but for a long time the code could not be broken. Because the Germans changed their code sequence daily, breaking it was a challenging task. Eventually, Alan Turing a brilliant mathematician, cracked the code. His efforts helped defeat Germany and its allies.
Nowadays, there are automatic encrypting devices on many computer app sites. No longer do you have to have a Turing-like mind to keep your messages a secret. Even social media sites, such as WhatsApp, automatically encrypts messages so that only you and the recipient can read them.
Computers have put many deciphering companies out of business. Encrypting business documents and plans are a necessary protection in today’s world. Messages that used to be hand delivered to ensure privacy can now be encrypted by using one of the many sites and apps that provide the service.
One of my favorite holiday movies, A Christmas Story, had a scene that involved code breaking. The lead character, Ralphie, had to send in a bunch of Ovaltine labels to get his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. When it arrived, he rushed to the radio to hear the secret code. Using his treasured decoder ring, Ralphie broke the code and was crushed to learn it just said, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”
Open most newspapers and you will find a cryptogram on the puzzle pages. The puzzle, an encrypted text, is usually a quote or name of an author. Only one hint is given, as an example, “A is Q.” It seems impossible to break the code. But eventually your mind adjusts and the solutions come Auickly.
Perhaps, da Vinci’s predicted devices would have been kept secret had he taken the time to invent an encryption machine instead of using mirror image writing.
Every so often, I dabble in experimenting with developing codes. I find creating them and cracking others, a terrific way to keep my brain sharp.
Rarely do I get to share one of my code techniques. But for my loyal readers, I have given you an opportunity to solve a relatively easy one in this column. HINT: “Z is P.” Use that to decode “Zay attention to the oZening letter in each ZaragraZh.” As da Vinci would write...kcul doog.
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