- Macaulay Honors College

Science and Technology in NYC, HNRS 225, Seminar 3, Fall 2014, Queens College
Class (NSB B141): T,Th 1:40-2:55
Prof. Kent D. Boklan
Department of Computer Science, Queens College
Email: [email protected]
Office Hours (NSB A214): T, Th 3:15-4:15 or by appointment
Instructional Technology Fellow: Andrés Orejuela
Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: Wednesday, 10:30-1:30, Honors 19
The History of Science is punctuated by profound (re)directions of thought. This course will focus, first,
on some of the basic concepts of one such 'revelation', Information Theory. And then we will look at a
related and also highly significant area of modern concern, Cryptography.
This is a class designed to help one understand the scientific path to our current state, to our heavily
computerized world and to discuss, in the immortal words of Buffy, “Where do we go from here?”
We will study the work of scientists and discuss the historical, social, legal, cultural and technological
impacts of the topics of our focus: the development of digital communication and the protection of data.
Collaborative learning through team research projects will culminate in the presentation of results to
audiences in our classroom and to the Macaulay Honors College.
Learning Goals for this Seminar include:
1. Developing and demonstrating an awareness of the complexity of the progress of scientific knowledge.
2. Understanding how scientists conduct their work by learning about select procedures and methodologies.
3. Becoming aware of key literature and data resources and understanding sufficient terminology to be able
to conduct background research on a related topic.
4. Practicing critical thinking through the evaluation of scientific and technological issues by analyzing a
problem in detail.
5. Presenting, to a general audience, perspectives on a research topic.
Required text: Although we have no formal required text, occasional readings will be provided. Further,
directions to mathematical primers, if needed, will also be given.
Attendance in class is expected and lateness will count as half an absence. Please don't come late. If, due
to illness or emergency or some conflict, you cannot attend a lecture or must be late, notify me in advance,
if possible ([email protected] or call 718 997 4993). Having more than two unexcused absences may
jeopardize your course grade.
Plagiarism in any form will not be accepted – and will be dealt with harshly, in accordance with College
policy. Any work that you hand in is expected to be your own. Any form of cheating is unacceptable and
will result in, at the very least, a failing grade.
You may not solicit nor receive help from anyone not currently enrolled in this class (with the exceptions
of myself and A. Orejuela). This means that you can't ask a friend who already took this class for advice or
for copies of quizzes, etc. You have your classmates. (If there are exceptions, these will be explicitly
stated.) Any violation will be regarded as cheating and may result in failing the class.
Course Grades will be determined by several factors:
1. Class participation will account for 30% of your final grade. There is both an in-class contribution
component as well as from discussions on the online discussion forum. (‘Prizes’ may be awarded for
outstanding contributions.) Questions and topics for discussion will be periodically posted and the
inputs/thoughts/ideas of all students in the class are invited (and expected). The discussion board and
forum URL is: http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/boklan14/
2. Periodic homework assignments will count for 20% of your grade. (*Note that some assignments ask for
a ‘best’ answer and that student who submits a ‘best’ answer will receive a ‘prize’. Students working
together are not eligible for a ‘best’ prize.) Homework problems will appear on the on-line discussion
board and will be submitted (on paper) in class. You’ll get about one assignment every two weeks.
Announcements of new assignments are made in class.
3. Weekly quizzes will make up 25% of your grade. We will have weekly quizzes (almost every week of
the semester). Your best 10 scores will be selected and the sum will determine this 20% of your grade.
4. A final presentation will account for 25% of your grade. You - in group work – will give a presentation
in class and at Macaulay in Manhattan in December. (Note that grades within each group are not
constant. If you do more or better work than someone else in your group, you deserve a higher grade.)
Topics for these projects will be made given out in the second half of October or very beginning of
November. The closing common event for Seminar 3, the Seminar 3 conference at which all the students
present their work is scheduled for early December. Details and dates will be provided. Each group may
also be required to create a poster for the campus-wide event.
There will be no makeup quizzes and work will not be accepted late.
Once all of your scores are combined, course grades will be assigned as follows:
IF you had excellent attendance AND you paid attention in class AND I feel that you put in a good effort
on EVERY quiz and EVERY homework assignment and you contributed sensibly to EVERY discussion
(when contributions were expected) AND to class AND you made a good contribution to the final project,
you will not receive a grade lower than a B+. The grade you do receive will depend upon your
percentage as described above compared to others in the class.
If the conditions in the previous paragraph are not satisfied, your grade may be lower than a B+ and will be
determined by the percentage total as well as through consideration of why you did not satisfy the stated
conditions in the previous paragraph.
Discussion topics in the class will follow the following (approximate) plan:
1 Introduction and experimentation and the measure of uncertainty of outcomes
2 A gentle introduction to probability and entropy and uncertainty
3 A gentle overview of logarithms, bits, counting and the Information content of (un)biased experiments
4 Data communication. ASCII and the measure of unknown in text.
5 Efficient representations and evolution. Conditional characteristics of language.
6 Deconstructing and reconstruction. Encodings. Music and images.
7 Limits, lossy and lossless compression.
8 Huffman encoding, as an example, and best representations.
9 The Entropy of English. Randomness and generation Passwords and PINS, causality
10 Error detection and error correction.
11 Protection of data and the needs of security today. Flavors of cryptography.
12 Permutations and mono-alphabetic substitutions.
13 The limitations of security and public keys and private key systems. Trapdoor one-way functions.
14 Comgruences, a gentle introduciton. DES.
15 Language recognition. Breaking the Confederate Code.
16 Randomness. Breaking the Union Code.
17 The problem of key distribution and the DLP and Diffie-Hellman.
18 Passwords, hash functions, salting.
19 Knapsack. The Enigma machine.
20 PBE and New York City, entropy, biometrics, LCG's and periodicity.
21 Authentication and digital signatures, compression, randomness and NIST.
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