Engineering 101

AI Message: Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine

I love it when researchers exhibit a sense of humor. This news piece made me laugh. Duke University researchers created an encryption method based on patterns created by bacteria growing in a petri dish. The encryption above reads, “Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine.”

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably seen A Christmas Story, one of my all-time favorite seasonal films. In the film, Ralphie Parker waits with eager anticipation at the mailbox for a decoding tool, enabling him to read a “secret” message.

The researcher simulated bacterial growth using the new encryption method based on specific initial conditions to form patterns corresponding to letters. The advantage of the technology includes:

  • We can use self-organized patterns for secure information encoding
  • The research proposes a machine learning-mediated decoding method
  • Encoding capability and security are tunable through modulating system properties

The team’s research creates self-organized patterns that generate high-dimensional outputs, combined with machine learning, to achieve distributed information encoding and decoding. Modulating the pattern generation and machine learning model training can tune the tradeoff between encoding capacity and security. The strategy is scalable by implementing the encoding and decoding of all characters of the standard English keyboard.

To learn more and code a secret message video yourself, go here. I coded the lyrics to my favorite Meatloaf song.

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