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Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing [Paperback]

Martin Gardner
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1984 Dover Children's Activity Books
"A fascinating, challenging book." — A. L. A. Booklist. Experiment with cryptography — the science of secret writing. Cipher and decipher codes: transposition and polyalphabetical ciphers, famous codes, typewriter and telephone codes, codes that use playing cards, knots, and swizzle sticks...even invisible writing and sending messages through outer space. Hours of intrigue and challenge. 45 diagrams.

Frequently Bought Together

Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing + The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography + Cryptanalysis: A Study of Ciphers and Their Solution
Price For All Three: CDN$ 29.80


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About the Author

Martin Gardner was a renowned author who published over 70 books on subjects from science and math to poetry and religion. He also had a lifelong passion for magic tricks and puzzles. Well known for his mathematical games column in Scientific American and his "Trick of the Month" in Physics Teacher magazine, Gardner attracted a loyal following with his intelligence, wit, and imagination.

Martin Gardner: A Remembrance
The worldwide mathematical community was saddened by the death of Martin Gardner on May 22, 2010. Martin was 95 years old when he died, and had written 70 or 80 books during his long lifetime as an author. Martin's first Dover books were published in 1956 and 1957: Mathematics, Magic and Mystery, one of the first popular books on the intellectual excitement of mathematics to reach a wide audience, and Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, certainly one of the first popular books to cast a devastatingly skeptical eye on the claims of pseudoscience and the many guises in which the modern world has given rise to it. Both of these pioneering books are still in print with Dover today along with more than a dozen other titles of Martin's books. They run the gamut from his elementary Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing, which has been enjoyed by generations of younger readers since the 1980s, to the more demanding The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings, which Dover published in its final revised form in 2005.

To those of us who have been associated with Dover for a long time, however, Martin was more than an author, albeit a remarkably popular and successful one. As a member of the small group of long-time advisors and consultants, which included NYU's Morris Kline in mathematics, Harvard's I. Bernard Cohen in the history of science, and MIT's J. P. Den Hartog in engineering, Martin's advice and editorial suggestions in the formative 1950s helped to define the Dover publishing program and give it the point of view which — despite many changes, new directions, and the consequences of evolution — continues to be operative today.

In the Author's Own Words:
"Politicians, real-estate agents, used-car salesmen, and advertising copy-writers are expected to stretch facts in self-serving directions, but scientists who falsify their results are regarded by their peers as committing an inexcusable crime. Yet the sad fact is that the history of science swarms with cases of outright fakery and instances of scientists who unconsciously distorted their work by seeing it through lenses of passionately held beliefs."

"A surprising proportion of mathematicians are accomplished musicians. Is it because music and mathematics share patterns that are beautiful?" — Martin Gardner


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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still Good May 9 2003
Format:Paperback
This book is a little out of date and a little too basic. It is for the beginner and is not an advanced text. The best thing that it is short. Because it is so short, it had to be packed densely with information, no wordiness. I've never had enough time to read The Codebreakers book, too big. Here I got informed in minimal time and the book is much less expensive -- it's got a better cost to read ratio and cost to information ratio.
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3.0 out of 5 stars fun for beginners... July 3 1999
Format:Paperback
Very well written. This book offers an introduction to "crypto-stuff" such as mono/polyalphabetic substitutions and grille methods. It doesn't go into much of anything else in huge detail, but it offers many methods including "how to build" your own encoding/decoding tools. If you're looking for some fun reading, I highly recommend it. If you're serious about learning though, check out "the code breakers" by kahn.
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Format:Paperback
This is a fascinating introductory book about codes and ciphers. It is very readable and understandable for young adults and older. Anyone who is interested in codes and ciphers will like, and want to own this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good basic codes, great for beginners. Sept. 27 2002
By M.B.
Format:Paperback
This is a great reference of basic codes. Excellent explanations, examples. Don't expect anything too intense, and you won't be disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fun for beginners... July 3 1999
By "usdevildogs" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Very well written. This book offers an introduction to "crypto-stuff" such as mono/polyalphabetic substitutions and grille methods. It doesn't go into much of anything else in huge detail, but it offers many methods including "how to build" your own encoding/decoding tools. If you're looking for some fun reading, I highly recommend it. If you're serious about learning though, check out "the code breakers" by kahn.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-Mathematical Intro to Ciphers of Historical Interest June 13 2007
By Jeff Martens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a good, well-written book requiring essentially no mathematical background. It's appropriate for teens and older folks interested ciphers. As another writer has pointed out, it's not current (this is a Dover reprint of a 1972 Simon & Schuster work), and the very few places where it says a code is still in use, it's likely not. I don't view this as a problem.

Ciphers are categorized and historical development is given. Invisible inks and the like are discussed, as are microdots, and SETI, though not by that name. Modern ciphers get no mention whatsoever--thus the non-mathematical nature. The approach doesn't consider computers to any real extent. Also, certain historical items that could have been covered, like the Enigma, aren't mentioned.

There are three weaknesses, IMHO, that keep it below 5 stars.
(1) Most of the ciphers presented have a set of possible setups, which can effectively be considered keys. E.g., the Caesar Cipher, using the Roman alphabet, has 25 different possible versions, which can be considered 25 different keys. Gardner makes no attempt to explain the relative complexities of breaking the various ciphers.
(2) The age.
(3) There is no index, but the table of contents is detailed.

I expect to use a few of these ciphers in introductory computing classes (think CS1, CS2) in the near future--the explanations are clear enough for undergrads with no real background and minimal interest.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good basic codes, great for beginners. Sept. 27 2002
By M.B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great reference of basic codes. Excellent explanations, examples. Don't expect anything too intense, and you won't be disappointed.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very educational, practical introduction to codes & ciphers Feb. 4 1999
By Jonathan Clegg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating introductory book about codes and ciphers. It is very readable and understandable for young adults and older. Anyone who is interested in codes and ciphers will like, and want to own this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool stuff Jan. 12 2013
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It had a lot of ways to decipher and make codes. It was cool. I liked it a lot. I am 12 and my brother is 8. He likes it too
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