This episode features an audio peice called “The Panizzardi Telegram” produced by Vanderbilt undergraduate Charlie Overton. Charlie was a student in podcast host Derek Bruff’s first-year writing seminar last fall, a course on cryptography. The course is a busy one, with mathematics and codebreaking, history and current events, and, as of recent offerings, a podcast assignment. Derek asks his students to explore the history of codes and ciphers for a class podcast called One-Time Pod. Charlie’s contribution on the Panizzardi telegram deftly combines historical storytelling and technical explanations. It also communicates an enduring understanding about cryptography: If you don’t know how a message has been encrypted, it’s really easy to make up a decryption method that makes the message say what you want it to say.
For more student-produced pieces on the history of cryptography, check out Derek’s class podcast, One-Time Pod. And for those interested in using audio assignments in their teaching, see Derek’s podcast assignment and rubric for ideas.