Over the years, I have been responsible for countless papers, propositions and developments across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Subjects such as Geology, Oceanography, Astronomy, Biology, Archaeology, the Computer Sciences, Audio, Acoustics and more have all interested me and have received my attention in one way or another. A few random examples from these activities are mentioned, at a basic level, below. Further information may be obtained by contacting me directly, using the Contact page of this web site.
I have been developing and revising the SilkPad encryption system for over 20 years and, in all that time, nobody has ever managed to break a SilkPad encoded message. And they never will as, due to the design of SilkPad, encrypted messages cannot be broken by brute force attacks, or by any other method. The application is also super efficient, taking less than 1 mB of space and running very fast. It may thus be run from a USB stick or various mobile devices. Recently, example cipher text was sent to the security services of several countries. No-one has been able to break the code. SilkPad is, almost certainly, the world’s strongest encryption system.
I decided to build a SilkPad 2. It is around 25% more powerful than the original and adds a few user convenience features. However, it remains super efficient with a compiled executable file of just 659k. Yes, the most powerful encryption in the world may also be run from a USB stick. See if you can break the cipher text in the image below, by whatever means are available to you. Just copy and paste the cipher text into an application of your choice and try your best to decipher it. A prize will be awarded to anyone who can break this very simple little message.
Text encrypted with SilkPad 2
A slightly longer message appears here in pdf form, making it easier to cut and paste. See if you can break the cipher text and let me know when you have done so!
Why is it called SilkPad?
It takes the name of ‘SilkPad’ in remembrance and in honour of the extraordinarily brave individuals who acted as agents for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the second world war. Many of these agents were women, they were all volunteers and they were told clearly that their life expectancy behind enemy lines would be around two weeks; some of them did not last that long.
In addition to their information gathering, they had to communicate by radio back to London at predetermined times, using predetermined codes. The detail of these codes changed over time and eventually they used ‘one time pads’. The coding seeds, or keys, were eventually printed on silk using ultra-violet ink, which could be revealed by shining a torch with a special UV filter placed over the front lens. Often, these codes would be printed on the ladies’ silk underwear, enabling them to use the code and then tear it off and discard it, making sure that it never fell into enemy hands.
After the war, those who survived could not say anything about their activities due to the Official Secrets Act. They simply went back to their everyday lives, as housewives, shop assistants and so on, their friends and colleagues never knowing that they were living and working alongside heroes. The bravest of the brave. God bless them, and may they never be forgotten.
If any Government Agencies are interested to test or acquire SilkPad, I will provide it freely to them and explain how they may build a customised version for themselves.
Around 15 years ago, I worked to develop a conservation methodology that could be both practical and universal in scope. The resulting Evolutionary Conservation system uses a comprehensive system of classification codes which are not language dependent and may therefore be used anywhere. They enable the ongoing monitoring of any habitat or natural environment, from a garden to a town, from a province to a country and, most importantly, across countries and continents. It remains the only system which has the capability to monitor our world, in fine detail, year on year and thus understand the distinction between natural evolutionary changes and changes brought about by the impact of mankind. It is an extremely powerful methodology and yet, it may easily be used by school children as well as by Natural Scientists. The book Evolutionary Conservation – Protecting Our World Should be read by everyone who has an interest in the protection and conservation of our planet for the benefit of future generations. It additionally explains the freely available tools with which to practice the methodology. Those who are serious about conservation should be using this methodology.
BANTAM – Biometric and Token Technology Application Modelling Language
More than 30 years ago, work was started on a modelling language, initially to simplify the design of biometric systems as there were no common design systems or requirements in this area. The success of this methodology quickly spread to encompass token technology of all kinds and BANTAM was created. Since that time, it has further evolved to embrace PKI and certificate management, encryption and even payments. It is, in fact, a universal methodology for systems design. However, it is much more than that as it also includes a complete procurement and program management methodology which facilitates almost any operational scenario which one could imagine in either the public or private sectors. There is a book published by Springer entitled BANTAM User Guide, which describes the basic BANTAM methodology and this, for many organisations or government agencies, will be a useful guide, if not a revelation as to how to go about program management. It is highly recommended. Below is a short introduction to BANTAM in PDF form which will provide a taste of the methodology.
The Proximity Matching Method
Around fifteen years ago, reflecting on the inappropriate methodologies being used to match biometrics upon a large scale, such as for crossing borders or other public applications, I invented a much better method that ties the biometric much more closely to the individual. This new methodology provided significantly higher levels of accuracy in matching while, simultaneously, increasing usability for individuals. The image below shows a simple simulator built to illustrate this principle. You should be able to easily ascertain from this how the process is working. Incidentally, there is a parallel to the early fingerprint systems (Galton-Henry) and how matching was undertaken manually and, some would say, more accurately. Sadly, these skills have been lost.
The Proximity Matching Method in action
I have long been convinced that birdsong is considerably more sophisticated than we suppose and that many species have, over the millennia, evolved a complex system of communication for many purposes. The idea for taking this proposition a step further came from listening attentively, over several days, to a particular Blackbird, and realising that there was a complex vocabulary at work. Subsequently, I recorded, listened to and analysed hundreds of hours of birdsong, much of it from Blackbirds, Magpies and Crows, but also a good deal from smaller finches and tits, as well as Sparrows. I wondered whether a stream of such communication could be broken down into identifiable and repeatable sections, thus constituting ‘words’ or ‘phrases’. I didn’t have to wonder for long as it quickly became apparent that this was the case. I listened attentively by ear and then confirmed my findings by analysis of spectrograms. Some wonderful and interesting facts emerged, too numerous to recount here, but they are captured within two papers on the subject which have been particularly welcomed in Australia and Canada. In short, birdsong is indeed a wonderfully rich medium of communication and expression. Note, the frequency range of the voice of the Crow. From around 1kHz to 20kHz, quite extraordinary. Later recordings, made with better quality microphones and at a higher sampling rate, showed this to extend beyong 22 kHz. This remarkable vocal range is present within all members of the crow family. Indeed, the microphones used are the limiting factor in this respect. There may well be higher frequency harmonics.
A sample of birdsong, showing the rich and interesting variations
Equivalence of realised performance across operational nodes
I first considered this problem in relation to biometric verification points of presence, realising that such systems (in border control, for example) were of little value if an equivalence of operation within and between systems was not realised. Almost all large scale applications of this type work in isolation, even though data is shared between the agencies operating them. However, the data resulting from the use of these systems are flawed as a result of this nonconformity. I set out to address the problem by designing and building a system which, via a complex and tunable feedback mechanism, provided an equivalence of realised operational performance across nodes, together with some unique central calibration and monitoring facilities. I called the system APEX and offered it freely to government agencies in order that it might be utilised for the common good. However, government procurement works in strange ways and nobody was interested in a ‘free’ system, even though it was, and remains, better than anything in operation. I also developed a few simple utilities to demonstrate the concept of controlled versus non-controlled nodes, a screen shot of a graph showing multiple nodes being controlled in real time is reproduced below.
A graph showing the controlled nodes increasing in performance in response to instruction
Nodes being controlled 1-4 and fixed nodes 5-6, as found in most systems
The Periodic Table
The Periodic Table is a table of natural elements set out according to their periodicity in terms of valence and atomic weight. We generally attribute the Periodic table to Dmitri Mendeleev, the great Russian chemist who did so much to develop our understanding in this area. In fact, there were others before him who worked on a similar idea, including the Englishman John Newlands and the German Julius Meyer. However, it was Mendeleev who really brought it all together and even accurately predicted some missing elements which had not yet been discovered. It is astonishing how often the name of Humphry Davy crops up in the discovery and observation of these elements. I have constructed a software version of the periodic table, but there are plenty available on-line.
Geology and the geosciences
There was geological life long before there was biological life. The very formation of our solar system reflects a tremendous life force of a bursting star and debris coalescing to become the planets, held in orbit by a gravitational force that exists throughout the universe. For a very long time, smaller planetary objects and debris bombarded the larger planets, creating huge craters, the evidence for which is still visible in certain places upon our beautiful blue planet. Then there was a chemical life which worked with the intense heat of the early Earth and created a layer of cloud which, eventually, could hold its cargo no longer and the great rains came, filling the lower levels of the Earth and creating our wonderful ocean basins. The early terrestrial Earth was very different from that with which we are familiar today and, for a while, there was a single massive continent, before it broke apart and fragments moved around the surface of the Earth according to the laws of plate tectonics, crashing into each other and then tearing apart. It would be a very long time before the continents assumed a form which we would recognise today. And, all the time, those wonderful rocks were being formed. Sedimentary rocks (sandstone, limestone, etc.) in the shallow oceans, igneous rocks (Basalt) from volcanoes and metamorphic rocks (Granite and others) being recycled and pushed back up through the magma. When you hold a piece of natural rock in your hand, you are holding a part of the history of our world and connecting back, maybe hundreds of thousands of years or more, to an earlier time. Look at rocks in this way and a wonderful world of discovery will open up around you. Britain is blessed with many interesting rocks and coastlines. The book Geological Landscapes of Britain describes these forms and their history and represents a wonderful introduction to geology.
Limestone layers tilted up from the sea bed to kiss the sky