Saturday, October 18, 2003

Arabian knights
Aditya Rishi

POET Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1841: "Were two individuals, totally unpractised in cryptography, desirous of holding by letter a correspondence which should be unintelligible to all but themselves, it is most probable that they would at once think of a peculiar alphabet, to which each should have a key. At first it would, perhaps, be arranged that a should stand for z, b for y, c for x, d for w; that is to say, the order of the letters would be reversed. Upon second thoughts, this arrangement appearing too obvious, a more complex mode would be adopted. The first thirteen letters might be written beneath the last thirteen, thus:



and, so placed, a might stand for n and n for a, o for b and b for o, and so on."

This was the key to the voice command that Ali Baba had altered last week.

"You just have to add 13 spaces forward or backward to get these letters. The idea clicked when I was reading the cipher "frfnzr". The two fís and the position in which they lie matched with the two Sís in the word Sesame. Then by knowing the numerical equivalents of f = 6 and s = 19 I noticed that there was a difference of 13 spaces forward or 26-13 = 13 spaces backward. I decoded the letters of "frfnzr" that came out to be Sesame, so I got the idea," says Vijayesh Narayan Singh (B.Sc. honours school, third year, Department of Mathematics, Panjab University, Chandigarh). The code "ab frfnzr, gel zremvan" becomes "no sesame, try merzina". Now you can try "Open, Merzina!" and "Shut, Merzina" to open the cave door.

U.K. Gupta (DE, Phones, Malout), Dr Tarsem Lal (Khanna), Jaskirat Jassal (Amritsar), Nitin Khanna, Bhavna Anand, Vivek Singla (IIT, Roorkee), Ravneet Kotwal (Jalandhar), Chitrangada Singh (class XI), Rishabh Singla (Kitchlu Nagar, Ludhiana), Mehr Kashyap, Parminder Singh (Ludhiana), Geetika Gupta (Thapar College, Patiala), Dhruva Goyal, Kechit Goyal, Shimul Sachdeva (Carmel Convent, Chandigarh), Suhail Singh Shergill (class XI B), Divya, Kamal Sethi (Hisar), Saurabh Sood (Ludhiana), Dishant Ahuja (Panjab Univerity), Mohit Bhambri (Patiala), Meenakshi Prajapati (Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies), Harshpreet Kaur, riaa_2011 (no name is given, decode that!), Sudhir Dhamija (BE, Aeronautical, first year, PEC, Chandigarh) and Madhur Sharma (second-year engineering, Ranjit Avenue, Amritsar) also have the secret words that can open Sesame. All they have to do now is locate the cave. Some of you actually read ĎArabian Nightsí to know about Merzina, which says a lot about you.

"This method of coding, again, having an air of regularity which might be fathomed, the key alphabet might be constructed absolutely at random," says Edgar Allan Poe. (Write at The Tribune or