Another podcast in the series from our trip to the UK and Europe.

Royal Signals Museum

This time the video comes from the Royal Signals Museum in Blandford, Dorset, England. This museum is situated on an army base, so there is tight security to navigate before you can gain access to the museum. But the minor inconvenience is worth it, as the museum contains lots of displays that any teacher could make good use of with a upper primary/elementary or middle school class. As a bonus, at the security checkpoint we met a sergeant with a very dry wit who talked at length about his views on Margaret Thatcher, UK politics in general and the military that I found hilarious.


I must acknowledge here my sincere thanks to Adam Forty, ┬áBusiness Development Manager of the museum, and┬áChairman of the Dorset Museums Association. When I explained that I wanted to video inside the museum for a mathematics podcast he was very happy to agree, and said that the museum is planning to produce materials for mathematics teachers and so would be interested in what we come up with. A DVD is on its way to Adam’s office, now that this episode is finished – thanks, Adam! Officials at the Science Museum in London – take note; podcasts are not a great threat to your intellectual property, and may in fact help to publicise your museum to interested teachers!

Museum Exhibits

Museum Exhibits Highlighted in this podcast:

  • Shutter Telegraph
  • Morse Code
  • Heliograph
  • Enigma Machine (see Episode 17 for more in this topic)
  • Laser Transmission
  • Modern Battlefield Encryption

Math Topics in Communication

Mathematics that could be linked to a study of secure communications includes:
  • binary numeration (writing numbers using just two symbols – which is similar to how Morse code and other systems encode text using just two signals)
  • permutations and combinations – how many different “bits” are needed to encrypt the 26 letters of the alphabet plus digits 0-9, etc.
  • geometry of mirrors – used in the heliograph and laser transmission
  • probability – how hard is it to crack a secret code?
  • computer science – encouragement for students who want to take math further by aspiring to study higher level computer science, cryptology, and so on
As always, I encourage you to leave a comment or question to keep the conversation going. If you like this podcast, why not tell your math teacher friends?

Next Week: Ep #19 – Math in the Cemetery