2019 Festival: Cryptography: Secrets and Lies, Knowledge and Trust (2:00pm showing) | National Math Festival
Illustration of two people discussing playing cards over the phone

2019 Festival: Cryptography: Secrets and Lies, Knowledge and Trust (2:00pm showing)

Saturday May 4, 2019 from 2:00pm - 2:45pm ET

Can you play poker on the telephone with people you don’t trust? Amazingly, you can! Come find out how—the ideas involved, and related ones, also underlie internet security and e-commerce.

The general public is well aware of the essential role cryptography plays in underlying security and privacy of all digital communications. Much less known are the beautiful ideas and concepts underlying cryptography, and the amazing impact they had on many other developments in computer science.

Perhaps even less known is how cryptography arose from mind games and toy problems (see below) which predated the Internet, and whose magical solutions enabled the many applications which drove its fast development.

Can two people who never met create a secret language, in the presence of others, which no one but them can understand? Can you convince others that you have solved a really difficult puzzle, without giving them the slightest hint of your solution? Can a group of people play a (card-less) game of poker on the telephone, without anyone being able to cheat? Can they collectively toss a fair coin so that no subset can bias it?

Such questions (and their remarkable answers) kick-started the theory of modern cryptography. In this talk Dr. Avi Wigderson will survey some of the mathematical and computational ideas, definitions and assumptions which underlie this field and its impacts. These will also clarify the fragility of the current foundations of modern cryptography, and the need for stronger ones. No special background will be assumed.

This presentation repeats the session taking place from 11:30am – 12:15pm.

Room 207b, Level 2, Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Age Level



Dr. Avi Wigderson

Dr. Avi Wigderson is a Professor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study since 1999, where he leads the... Learn more