Posted by: Chris Brew | February 13, 2010

The Black Chamber Society

For the past few years I have been running a Codes and Code Breaking course at Ohio State. We got the idea from Chris Kennedy who taught a similar course at Northwestern, and before that at UCSD, where the course has now been pushed in a slightly different direction by Andy Kehler. It’s a very enjoyable course to teach.The way we do it there is a lot of problem solving and group work, and just a smidge of modern stuff like public key cryptography. We feed the people who become passionate about the math and CS aspects into courses like Steve Lai’s graduate CSE class. I am grateful to the National Science Foundation for helping support the course in its early years. Most of the students come from Linguistics or from the Security and Intelligence major. They’re delightful (usually) and smart (on average). Both Linguistics and International Studies seem to get many students who enjoy learning and are good at it.

We are beginning to open this course up to be taught by graduate students as well as faculty. The first graduate instructor is the wonderful DJ Hovermale who uses new-fangled avian social media to give clues to the assignments. He also sometimes uses disguise, confederates and a thick Russian accent to make the first lecture into a coup de theatre. When I teach the class again, I’ll need to up my game.

The students last quarter were so fired up by all this that they decided to keep the thing going as a student society. So we have (drumroll) The Black Chamber Society. This is immensely gratifying.  Thanks to all concerned.



  1. That’s cool.

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