History and technology tie together at an upcoming Brock University event that will discuss the German Enigma encryption device, its role in the Second World War and its impact on modern encryption and computational sciences.
Organized by Brock University’s Faculty of Mathematics and Science in partnership with the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, “Beyond the Imitation Game: From Dieppe and James Bond to Blackberry and Quantum Encryption” will feature Enigma and cryptology artifacts as well as discussions about the significance of the Enigma — and of the Allies breaking its code — on world and Canadian history, along with its impact on modern espionage and encryption technology.
“More than any other encryption device, it was the German Enigma machine that embodied the unleashing of a covert war between rival intelligence services and capabilities, and it was the breaking of the Enigma code that gave the Allies a critical edge over the Nazis,” says Peter Berg, a computational physicist and Dean for Brock University’s Faculty of Mathematics of Science.
“The Enigma was arguably the first serious, semi-automated encryption device to be employed on a large scale. Its functionality, flaws in operation, vulnerabilities and associated codebreaking methodologies spurred advancements in computing and shaped the development of modern encryption technologies and algorithms,” he says. “Physicists are now trying to move beyond conventional encryption and utilize quantum mechanics to generate more secure communication channels, even via satellites.”
Berg is one of three guests speaking at the event set to take place Friday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre (PAC) in St. Catharines. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of $20.
Joining Berg on stage will be Richard Brisson, a mathematician and collector of cryptology artifacts, who will be showcasing the rare Enigma machine, and Thomas Jennewein, Associate Professor for the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing and Department of Physics and Astronomy, who will discuss the Enigma’s impact on modern technology, such as space-based quantum communication technology.
The community engagement event is one of several in which Brock University has partnered closely with the PAC.
“The FirstOntario PAC thrives on our partnership with Brock University, and we enthusiastically welcome collaborations with multiple departments annually,” says Sara Palmieri, Director of Programming and Marketing at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. “We are thrilled to collaborate with the Faculty of Mathematics and Science on this fascinating program to help deepen understanding and appreciation of this important piece of our history.”
Complementing the “Beyond the Imitation Game” event at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre will be free academic lectures by Brisson and Jennewein at Brock University.
Brisson will present Cryptologic History and Canada on Friday, Jan. 26 from 1 to 2 p.m. in Rankin Family Pavilion room RFP 214/215 as part of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Seminar Series. The presentation will shed light on some of the most meaningful instances of cryptologic history in Canada through a selection of events and artifacts from the Second World War and the Cold War as well as the 18th and 19th centuries.
Jennewein will present a technical talk on quantum physics on Friday, Jan. 26 from 1 to 2 p.m. in Thistle Complex room TH 257.
For those interested in diving deeper into the Enigma machine, a film screening of The Imitation Game is taking place Sunday, Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the PAC. Tickets are $9.50 for the general public or $7.50 for Film House members.
For more information, and to reserve tickets for “Beyond the Imitation Game: From Dieppe and James Bond to Blackberry and Quantum Encryption,” visit the FirstOntario Performing Arts website. Limited tickets are available, and advance registration is encouraged.
The event is supported with sponsorship by the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society.