Honors Topics in Math for the Liberal Arts: Cryptology, Fall 2008 

Meeting times: TF 11:30-12:50 in Scott 219

Instructor: Dr. Michael Weingart

Teaching Assistant: Michael Weingart. If you are shy about asking the instructor for help, please don't hesitate to ask the TA.

Email: weingart [at] math [dot] rutgers [dot] edu

Office hours: W 5:30-7:30 and Th 11:30-1:30 in Hill 209, and F 9:50-11:10 in Hardenbergh B7, and by appointment.
These times may change in response to popular demand.

Required Text: Invitation to Cryptology, by Thomas Barr.
Optional, informative, entertaining text: The Code Book, by Simon Singh.

Course topics: We will discuss both classical and modern methods in the art and science of making and breaking codes, with special emphasis on the role which mathematics plays in making these methods work. Interwoven with our study of how codes are written and broken will be discussion of some of the many settings in which cryptology is applied, and policy questions relating to these; examples include electronic eavesdropping, copy protection of media files, security of voting machines, privacy of medical records, and security of financial transactions on the internet, to name just a few.

Grading: The overall course grade will be based on homework and writing assignments (40%), a midterm exam (20%), and a final exam (40%). Attendance and classroom participation are expected!

Final exam: Thursday December 18, 12-3pm.

A few friendly words of advice: Never fall behind in a math course!!!!! The ideas we'll be discussing need time to sink in, and are very difficult to learn quickly right before an exam, so it is important to clear up your confusions sooner rather than later. An excellent way to improve your understanding of the subject is to study and work on homework together with classmates. Explaining mathematical ideas to others is often the most effective way to sort out your own confusions and clarify your understanding; you don't know just what it is that you don't know until you try explaining it to someone else.
You are also warmly invited to ask questions in class, which students are far too hesitant to do in math courses, or in office hours!