Inside the Enigma cipher machine

Our Mission

Mission is a word probably a little too inspired for what we’re trying to start here. We think of this project rather as a target, an ambition or an objective. A plan to be executed. And then, when we, hopefully, succed, we’d like to be able to say that we’ve earned the right to call it a mission. So we are about to describe the reasons standing behind our actions and goals those actions are heading toward.

Well, actually the reasons part is quite simple to explain. The Enigma issue is interesting. Just like that. If we view it as a part of science (as mathematical theories involved are definitely scientific in nature), then we would probably have the right to use Richard Dawkins’ anecdote to back us up and stop the arguments here :) But we will not, as someone might get offended by the (funny) use of inappropriate language. We’ll skip ahead to the next argument and come back to maths later. Maybe we need arguments from an engineers point of view? Actually I’m one too, but nobody gives better arguments than guys from cryptomuseum. And they do it with an inspired writer’s ease. We can trust them – they’re engineers :)  But any of the technical arguments would mean little without the great historic context of breaking the Enigma cipher. The greatest secret of both sides of the greatest war in the history. A crucial weapon of Hitler’s plans, one of pillars to the Blitzkrieg. And on the other hand – the deciding piece of the puzzle in Allies’ victory. The word enigma itself forecasts a mystery. And a mystery is always the backbone to a great story.

But the truth about our inspiration is that it is both mathematics itself and Polish contribution to breaking the cipher. And those both also define the direction we want this particular website to take. We don’t mean to get pompous here, but the edu part stands in the URL for a reason. The reason is to educate. Educate about the Enigma. We want the user to follow a simple scenario here. S/he visits our webpage with basic knowlegde of maths and enthusiasm towards learning new stuff. Then follows a path from zero to hero:

  • Zero means that You don’t have to know a thing about either the Enigma, or the maths standing behind it.
  • First we want to teach you the basic stuff about permutations.
  • Then we’d show you the Enigma’s guts,
  • And show you the maths coming from them.
  • After that we’ll show you the history, and methods of breaking the cipher.
  • Hero stands for the knowledge you achieved along the way. The one at the level of the brilliant mathematicians that cracked the code. The one of a true hero.

You could get to the same point by simply doing a research online and/or maybe reading those two papers on how the Enigma works and how it was cracked. But we want to make it easier. The subject is already quite complicated, why not make it as easy as possible? So we want to execute a plan that roughly says to create:

  • An online tutorial explaining every aspect of the theory of permutations needed.
  • An extended animation showing the internal mechanism of Enigma along with an explanation of it’s math connection.
  • An online tutorial explaining the Enigma maths along with excercises helping understand it.
  • An online application allowing one to play around with the 3D Enigma instance.

Want more? Well, that above is already a pretty heavy task. But if you have any other useful ideas, we can talk about it, maybe even implement them later.

Anyhow – that’s what we want here, but can only achieve with Your help.