Tag Archives: codes

DNA and Enigma

28 Nov

Those of you who happen to be World War II buffs probably know a lot about the enigma machine.  This machine was used before and during WWII by the Germans to encrypt and decrypt secret messages.  In the 1930s, Polish cipher experts began working on breaking these codes and passed the information to the British before WWII began.  enigma machine

There is a neat website you can use with your students called “Enigma and the Code Breakers“.  Here there are pictures of the machine, a description of how it worked, and more.  REALLY interesting stuff. 

There is also a site with an Enigma simulator (make sure your Java is working properly) that you can have your students go to, type in a message, and then see how it would be encoded.  Neat!

So, what does this have to do with science, and more specifically, DNA? 

I used these sites this year at the start of our DNA unit to demonstrate what it means for something to be encoded, what a code is, what decoding means, etc.  I used it in conjunction with this BBC “Decoding Humanity” site and had the students compare how both enigma and DNA are codes. 

I imagine you could probably use this type of information in conjunction with a history teacher at your school to create some sort of neat cross-curricular unit. 


%d bloggers like this: