Cris Moore (Professor, Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, University of New Mexico; Professor, Santa Fe Institute)
Caesar shifted each letter three places in the alphabet. Much of modern computer science was born in the effort to break the Nazi Enigma code, and Cold War spies used code books that fit inside a walnut. Nowadays, the cryptography we depend on every day — for instance, to send our credit card information when we buy something on the Web — relies in turn on the mathematics of prime numbers. But in 1994, Peter Shor discovered that a future quantum computer could crack our cryptosystems by breaking large numbers into their prime factors. Cris will start by describing how these cryptosystems work, and how a quantum computer could break them. (Nothing beyond high-school math, he promises!) He’ll end by giving a personal view about whether quantum computers can be built — and what kinds of cryptography could remain secure even if and when they are built.
Underwritten by Joy and Philip LeCuyer