Thursday, July 23, 2015

Would You Put Your Arm Into A Dark, Moldy Hole?

Today we started learning about cryptography, and how braids can be used to encode things. We spent most of the morning partnered up, trying to encode and send messages (with varying levels of success). My partner (Ethan) and I finished much faster than everyone else, because instead of drawing out the braids we wrote them in Artin notation, which is far easier and more efficient, just harder to visualize. However, the type of braid encryption we were using was slightly ambiguous (which was part of what we were supposed to learn during the activity), so Johanna says that tomorrow we'll learn the unambiguous way to encrypt messages using braids. 

Later, I went up to the board to explain how a braid with two half-twists at the top was equivalent to a braid with two half-twists at the bottom, and I was feeling too lazy to draw out braids on the board, so I started out with "So you have any braid. For example, right now my hand is the braid..." (For some reason the class kept breaking out into laughter when I crossed my fingers and turned my hand to show twists in the braid. I found myself overcome with the inexplicable urge to giggle as well.)

The hole in the tree--my upper arm didn't quite fit
In the afternoon we watched three videos about the basics of how cryptography works and the RSA algorithm. I'm only slightly ashamed to admit that after about five minutes I was instead staring out the window in rapture, because it had started raining. I would be more sorry about it, but I already knew most of the basics.

It's a good thing I have skinny arms
After Arete, Miranda and I planned to go look for the egg, and we grabbed Hummd on the way since we're always supposed to be in groups of three or more. The clue was "I'm in a good place to throw juice boxes from." It was a reference to the video we watched the first day, which showed all the proctors doing weird things. Ashley was sitting in a tree drinking out of a juice box, and she threw it down. So, we determined it was in or by that tree. Unfortunately, no one knew what tree it was, since there weren't any landmarks nearby or anything. So, we walked around Hank lawn and Wyatt looking for any climbable trees (there were only a few, so we didn't actually stop and search very often, so it didn't take a whole lot of time). Finally, we found a tree that was partially hollow and had an opening in the trunk about the size of my fist. Miranda looked down the hole and saw the egg at the bottom. I have to say I really had to psych myself up to stick my whole arm into a tree trunk that was completely dark, had ants crawling in it, and was probably moldy and maggoty. Finally I just stopped thinking about it and shoved my hand in. We found out the hole was about a foot and a half deep, because when I reached in my arm couldn't fit more than three or four inches past my elbow, and my fingertips were just brushing the egg. (Hummd kept mentioning how terrible it would be if my arm got stuck in the tree, which didn't help anything.) Fortunately, there was also an opening slightly off to the side where a branch was partially broken, and so I managed to squeeze my arm in that way, and got to the egg by bending my arm awkwardly at the elbow to get the right angle. I had to put my arm in all the way to my shoulder, but I was successful. (In total, the search and retrieval of the egg took about fifteen minutes.) When we turned the egg in to the proctors, they were shocked. Apparently the egg had slipped and been dropped in the tree trunk accidentally. They couldn't get it out, so they had thought it was lost forever, even in the unlikely case that someone found where it was. They had thought that they had gone too far today, but since I found it anyway, Kelly says they're going to go even farther than "too far" tomorrow. (Holly told me that one possible clue that had been discussed for tomorrow was "Just try, Gwennie. It's somewhere.") 

Tomorrow should be an exciting day, not only because the egg will be hidden well, but also because tomorrow night is "Coff-V House," and there'll be hot chocolate and tea and hot apple cider in the lobby, and an Open Mic in the basement.

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