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In Code: A Mathematical Journey [Hardcover]

Sarah Flannery
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Mar 2000
At the age of 16, the author became the Irish Young Scientist of the Year with a highly innovative, speedy and secure system of encoding data on the Internet. An inspiring account of a mathematical education with many puzzles and examples it offers into cryptography and numeracy.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; First Edition edition (20 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861972229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861972224
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Sarah Flannery is the Irish teenager who last year stunned the world by inventing a way of making public-key encryption much more efficient. Given that this is the underlying security technology of e-commerce, that is an achievement that many of the world's leading research laboratories would have been proud of. That it came from a modest, well-adjusted, cheerful Irish teenager is nothing short of miraculous.

In Code is the story of how she did it, and of what happened to her and her family as a result. It's an engaging, almost playful, book in which the reader is encouraged to spend lots of time working out mathematical puzzles set by the authors. This is not sadism on their part, but a cunning plot to get the reader thinking like a cryptographer. It's also a reflection of the way the Flannery family works, for it's clear that puzzle-solving is as much a part of their communal life as eating. The puzzles are interwoven with a narrative of Sarah's annus mirabilis, in which she found a stupendously clever way of easing the computational load which public-key cryptography imposes on machines. What's striking about this account is its level-headed, self-deprecating, eminently sane tone. This is a girl whose head hasn't been turned by fame. And that, in a way, is her greatest achievement.--John Naughton

About the Author

David Flannery was born in 1952. He lectures in mathematics at Cork Institute of Technology.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring and encouraging book 8 May 2004
By Andrew Johnston VINE VOICE
This is an inspiring book, telling the story of a young woman's introduction to, and enamourment with, of all things, mathematics. In an era where enthusiasm for the sciences is often seen as "uncool", it is delightfully encouraging to read the story of a family, and in particular the author herself, who understand both the value and the pleasure of such interests.
The book balances two quite separate elements. On the one hand there's the story of how Sarah became interested in mathematics, did an interesting science project, and got a lot of attention when as a seventeen year old Irish girl she nearly invented a powerful new cryptographic system. On the other hand there's a very clear introduction to the mathematics underlying modern cryptography, presented using a range of interesting examples, puzzles and clear explanations.
After an introduction to Sarah, her family, and the intellectual training methods of her parents, the first two thirds of the book focus mainly on the mathematical background, interspersed with regular anecdotes explaining how Sarah came to understand and use different skills and areas of knowledge. If you want an introduction to this area of mathematics you could do a lot worse than this book.
The last third of the book focuses on how she did her science project, and what happened when she won a major prize in the annual Irish Young Scientist competition, including how she and her family dealt with quite unexpected fame and media attention. What is interesting is how seriously the Irish establishment and media seem to take these things, and puts to shame the British indifference to this sort of achievement.
Finally a couple of appendixes present answers to the puzzles, and a few key pieces of mathematical background in more detail.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating study of cryptography 21 April 2001
By A Customer
In her remarkable book, In Code, Sarah Flannery demonstrates a flair for explanation and a genius for mathematics that would be remarkable in any seasoned academic. In a sixteen-year old girl, it is nothing short of miraculous. This engaging, and rather touching story, is sprinkled with very digestible chunks of mathematics, ranging from the simple to the very complex, and some marvellous puzzles which really challenge the mind.
Sarah's beautiful writing style has drawn comparisons with other esteemed mathematical writers such as Simon Singh and Martin Rees, and justifiably so. My sole complaint with the book is the lack of description on Cayley-Purser, Sarah's algorithm, and the subject of the book. This is a fantastic book, and its combination of fascinating mathematics and an inspiring storyline is sure to interest everybody from the experienced cryptographer to the general reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for math-ophiles and math-ophilics. 8 April 2000
By Hedles
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are passionate about mathematics, or just enjoy a good read about personal exploits, this is a great book.
I qualify for both the above, I love maths and think Sarah has hit the level exactly right for a popular book of this kind. I was able to get all the flavour and terminology of the mathematical equipment she covered with not much more than a skim of the more technical chapters. Whereas her autobiographical chapters were also superbly written to communicate her own emotional involvement not only with her subject but also the helta-skelta jet-set world of exhibitions, competitions and presentations she has been ejected into by her school project that was slightly more successful than she expected!
I certainly intend to go back and re-read the more technical sections and take a browse at her web site. Although I have had a passing interest in cryptography for some time now, this book has achieved for me what none of the other books and magazine articles have: her description is the first I have read which has made me feel that I have really understood how public key systems actually work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Humbling 18 July 2000
By A Customer
Sarah Flannery is a very talented young mathematician whose modesty shines throughout her co-authored book "In Code". She was European Young Scientist of the Year in 1999 gained from her novel insights into the world of cryptography - the science of encrypting messages. She has baffled and bewildered scientists worldwide with her Cayley-Purser algorithm which is a promising and faster alternative method of encryption for the internet than the standards currently in use. What makes her achievements so astonishing is that she is only 18 years old.
The text is a very personal account which takes you through some of her younger memories during her childhood upbringing in her family surroundings at Blarney in Co Cork. Her father, co-author and mathematician, is her inspiration. She recalls the times when her father challenged her and her brothers to puzzles on the blackboard in the breakfast room in order to develop their interest and knowledge of mathematics. Inevitably, the book contains an element of mathematics but, in maths speak, I would say sufficient but not all that is necessary to present her ideas. It portrays an ordinary woman with an extraordinary grasp of mathematical concepts and ideas gleaned at an early age. "Ordinary" is not meant in any way to be derogatory but the book, written in a very chatty and somewhat naive and innocent style, portrays an enthusiasm from which others, and particularly young scientists, can gain inspiration. She is neither falsely modest nor patronising. It is very evident that her enthusiasm is self-generated and not, as we see too often these days in the media, particularly with young geniuses in mathematics, as a result of interest thrust and forced upon her by parental obsession.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for everybody who is interested in math: for kids and for...
I knew this book for several years. I borrowed it from the Toronto library several times. Finally, I decided to buy it to have the book at home. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sergiy Zhelnakov
5.0 out of 5 stars So clever...
Another book on codes by a very talented young lady; inspiration to all GCSE students. It also has one of my favourite problems in it. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Biro
5.0 out of 5 stars A mathematical journey
I loved it. It was in excellent condition and began easy enough...although my head has to be clear to read it! A********
Published 21 months ago by Chris
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating read!
I first heard of Sarah Flannery after the media hype surrounding her cryptographic algorithm a few years ago. Read more
Published on 30 Aug 2005
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite a Story
In Code is an account, told in the first person, of how a student's project to enter a competition became a international news item when it appeared to improve considerably upon... Read more
Published on 11 Jan 2004 by R. P. Sedgwick
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide to Maths for non mathematicians
This book is probably the best introduction to Number theory and cryptography I have read. If you have studied Maths at degree level then you will probably find this book to be far... Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped and poorly written.
A book written in an almost breathless and far too gushing way, about an admittedly talented woman who seems only to have implemented someone else's algorithm for a science... Read more
Published on 27 April 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, primer on crypthography.
I gave this book 4 stars because it's not exactly what i was looking for, but the book is great belive you me. Read more
Published on 22 Jun 2000 by Remi Lillelien
5.0 out of 5 stars What a treat!
Sarah has written a charming, inspiring text that would be excellent reading for every secondary ed student, especially the girls! Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute gem of a book.
a brilliant book, that introduces just enough maths to get you thinking and enough problems to keep you scratching your head for a fair old while. Read more
Published on 19 April 2000
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