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NOVA scienceNOW: Kryptos

Program Overview


Scientists introduce Kryptos, a giant sculpture with an encrypted message that many people are working to decipher.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • introduces Kryptos, a copper sculpture located outside the CIA headquarters in Virginia, and Jim Sanborn, the sculptor who created Kryptos.

  • describes three kinds of codes: substitution, transposition, and concealment.

  • explains that the people sending and receiving encoded messages must agree on the rules of the code system so that messages can be understood.

  • states that when Sanborn created Kryptos, he cut four encrypted messages from a copper plate and that he is the only person who knows the complete solution to Kryptos.

  • reports that at least 1,000 people are trying to solve the Kryptos codes.

  • reveals that Parts 1 to 3 of Kryptos were solved largely by cryptographer Jim Gillogly, but Part 4 remains unsolved.

  • explains that letters of the alphabet occur with predictable frequency, and that even when transposed, these letter frequencies remain the same. Knowing this helped Jim Gillogly solve parts of Kryptos.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: Kryptos
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