Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Prime Number Generator: Chapter 2 - the Validation

It is a peculiar taste one acquires as the currents of time write the truth on the walls of experience.
How can one truly understand the realities that exists beneath the colors one projects onto the 3-dimensional landscape of desire, hope and belief? 

Chapter 2 - the Validation

Was I moving towards truth as I walked to my meeting with Dr. Atkinson – filled with excitement mixed in with some “trepidation”? 
Was it “realistic” to believe that there was actually $100,000 available for the taking? In hind sight, it seems rather silly and trivial that I happened upon Eratosthenes' sieve, expressing patterns with summations and basic boundary conditions. 
Interesting connections that flair our taste buds – sweet and sour, salty and sweet, bitter and sweet, excited and nervous, prime numbers and monetary rewards, encryption and CORA. 
I put one foot in front of the other and walked head on into the lion’s lair, to meet Dr. Atkinson. He was truly kind and disarming; very approachable and down to earth. 
A bashful 18-year-old with a strange mix of certitude and confidence, that was fueled by thoughts of $100,000, sat with Dr. Atkinson whose smile was warm and comforting. 

I was summoned to the University to speak with Dr. Barry Fawcett. I was left with some papers that were correspondences between Dr. Fawcett and Dr. Atkinson.
Dr. Fawcett to Dr. Atkinson - 1977 - about Latouf's Prime # generator.
page 1 of 3
 What happened during this meeting you ask? What did Dr. Fawcett say?

  1. My prime number generator did generate the entire set of prime numbers. 
  2. It was similar to Eratosthenes’ sieve but did have some merit as it simplified the calculations. (see Chapter 3 for a surprising discovery about "organic-sieves")
  3. There was no reward. (sad face - the $100,000 was noteworthy as an incentive, but fell short as a reward)
  4. There were two other prime number generators developed my mathematicians, one group in Russia, and another out West.
  5. He suggested that mine had some merit as it involved fewer variables
    (3 rather than 10).

Dr Fawcett suggested that I should write an article in a Mathematical Journal. Sadly, I had no idea what that would involve, or what significance an article to a journal would have.
I had never even seen such a journal, or article. Moreover, in an instant, I had lost $100,000 – or so it felt.


Dr. Fawcett went on to explain why prime numbers are important. 

Encryption uses prime numbers as the keys that lock and unlock data. If two very large prime numbers are (simplified version) multiplied together, they will produce an even larger number. This composite number would have only two divisors that leave no remainder.
Simplification of how prime numbers are used in encryption

I left his office, papers in hand, and a wallet that felt very light indeed. I tucked away the memory of encryption and prime numbers until it would resurfaced again, many years later. 


This was many years before “the internet”, and many years before the notion of a “home computer” – we were still using “punch cards” to enter instructions into a computer.

I blinked

I was no longer programming in Fortran 77. I hadn’t seen a punch card for decades. I was typing my instructions directly into a computer as I watched these programs execute in real time - on my monitor - WOW. 

I loved the freedom and complexities that programs like C brought to the playing field. I reveled in the convenience of IDE’s like Borland C, then C++. 

Modems appeared on the scene and suddenly I began to cave in and use passwords on my computer. The Internet appeared – such a brave new world.

Then one day I encrypted a technology base I was working on and decided to upload it to "the Internet" for safe storage, and I remembered – encryption – and the keys – prime numbers. 

Yes, if anyone really wanted to unlock my technology, they could simply try all the large primes until they found “my keys”. If they too had a prime number generator, then the time required to find those keys would be greatly reduced. I realized that encryption was not protecting my data from everyone, but rather, only from those who would never acquire it in the first place.

Still to come

Chapter 3 - the Generator (will be posted this Thursday, 19 May 2016)

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