http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991814 15:02 21 January 02 Will Knight A Canadian university has awarded a scholarship to the first prospective student who successfully cracked an encoded mathematics problem, posed by teachers in place of a conventional entrance exam. One hundred other students who also managed to decode and figure out the problem were offered a place on the computer science course at the university. The University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, issued the challenge to computer science and mathematics students in October 2001. The competition closes on 1 February 2002. Local college students between the age of 16 and 19 were encouraged to take part, but the competition also received significant international interest. About 16,000 visitors from numerous countries were recorded at the competition web site, where the encoded message can be found. Increasing popularity The challenge was to convert a mathematical problem into text from a confusing string of numbers. Then figure out the problem and email the answer to the university. Nigel Smart, a researcher at the University of Bristol, UK, says that cryptography is increasingly popular with undergraduates and lecturers because it combines pure mathematics with real-world computer science. "It is a really good way of attracting students and has been a really big growth area," he says. However, Smart adds that the University's problem does not look very difficult at first glance. It took New Scientist 30 minutes to decode and solve the problem. It is not the first time that a code-cracking puzzle has been used to select new recruits. The UK government's intelligence headquarters, GCHQ, issued a challenge to job hunters in January 2000. The problem was more complicated than Lethbridge's and involved messages hidden within images on the organisation's web site. Another problem was posed in November 2000. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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