In the US, we often will express a time as 4 pm; in the military, its equivalent is 16:00. This could be explained as being based on mod 12 because our clock has 12 numerals.

To “decode” 16:00 to 4pm, we begin at the 12 and count clockwise 16 places to end up at the 4. We use the pm notation to denote that we’ve already been around the clock once that day.

So you could say that 16 = 4 in mod 12.

Rather than counting around the clock, we can just take the original number (16), subtract the mod we are using (12), and get the remainder (4).

That’s pretty straightforward. Mods are very easy to calculate when
the interval between each number is one place, so it’s not very effective
for sending coded messages.

Consider this: You are a spy. You want to meet with your contact
in the middle of the night. The only way you can reach your contact is
to post the time of your meeting in a public place. You don’t want others
who may see your message (the enemy) to attend your meeting. So you’ve
agreed with your contact to send messages based on an interval of two.

Using this method, midnight is at the 12 position on the clock (as usual),
and 1am would skip to the 2 position. 2am would be written as 4, etc.

So, if you wanted to meet at 3am, you’d say the meeting was at 6, and
your enemy who intercepted your message would show up at 6am, after you’d
be long gone.

3, using mod 12, with an interval of 2, would be 6. (3 x 2 = 6) In this example, we didn’t go “around the clock”, so to speak, making it relatively easy to decode. You can see, however, if your meeting was scheduled for later in the day, or if you had agreed to an interval larger than two, things could become a bit more complex. (We’ll delve into that in the next section.)

0 a

1 b

2 c

3 d

4 e

5 f

6 g

7 h

8 i

9 j

10 k

11 l

12 m

13 n

14 o

15 p

16 q

17 r

18 s

19 t

20 u

21 v

22 w

23 x

24 y

25 z

If we count all of the letters, we’ll find that the alphabet is naturally a mod 26 system, even though our numbers only reach 25. This is because we began numbering at zero.

Now, let’s work with English in mod 28. (label 0 – 27)

0 a

1 b

2 c

3 d

4 e

5 f

6 g

7 h

8 i

9 j

10 k

11 l

12 m

13 n

14 o

15 p

16 q

17 r

18 s

19 t

20 u

21 v

22 w

23 x

24 y

25 z

26

27

You can see from the chart above that with an interval of 1, breaking a code would be easy in mod 28. It makes no difference what mod it is, as long as it’s mod 26 or higher. Our alphabet remains unchanged.

19 7 8 18 8 18 19 14 14 4 0 18 24

What would happen with, say, an interval of 3? How the heck do we create a chart like that? Try it on your own before you turn the page.

(Hint: Keep in mind our clock example.)

Mod 28, interval 3

0 a

1 t

2 k

3 b

4 u

5 l

6 c

7 v

8 m

9 d

10 w

11 n

12 e

13 x

14 o

15 f

16 y

17 p

18 g

19 z

20 q

21 h

22

23 r

24 i

25

26 s

27 j

As in our clock example, when we reach the last number, we just start
over at the first number. Notice that when the chart is complete, we still
have two numbers without associated letters. That’s because we only have
26 characters to work with, and it’s a mod 28 system. This is okay. However,
if the message we were trying to decode had a 22 or a 25 in it, we would
know instantly that it was not created with mod 28, interval 3 if the message
was supposed to be in English! Then we would need to try some other intervals
as long as we knew it was a mod 28 code.

Before turning the page, create a mod 28 chart with an interval of 2.
What happens? What does this tell us?

Looking at your mod 28, interval 2 chart, you’ll find that some
numbers can represent more than one letter. Generally, this would cause
that interval to be considered not a valid solution.* The way to rule out
other intervals is to check if the mod you’re using is divisible by the
interval, or by a factor of the interval. In this case, because our mod
happens to be an even number, an interval of 2, or multiples of 2 (such
as 4, 6, 8, etc.), will produce solutions with some numbers resolving to
more than one letter.

Another way to rule out improbable intervals can be done. For example, if we were given a code of 9 0 1 8 27, without creating a chart, how do we know it’s not using an interval of 1? (The answer should be fairly obvious, but if it’s not, peek at the chart on page 3.) We can also tell it’s not mod 27. Keep in mind that the interval cannot exceed the mod, because solutions would just repeat those of earlier intervals.

With our code of 9 0 1 8 27, assuming mod 28, we can rule out intervals
of:

interval reason

1 visually, because the code has a 27 in it

2 28 is divisible by 2

4 28 is divisible by 4

6 factors to 2*3, and 28 is divisible by 2

7 28 is divisible by 7

8 factors to 2*2*2, and 28 is divisible by 2

10 factors to 2*5, and 28 is divisible by 2

12 factors to 2*2*3, and 28 is divisible by 2

14 28 is divisible by 14

16 factors to 2*2*2*2, and 28 is divisible by 2

18 factors to 2*3*3, and 28 is divisible by 2

20 factors to 2*2*5, and 28 is divisible by 2

21 factors to 3*7, and 28 is divisible by 7

22 factors to 2*11, and 28 is divisible by 2

24 factors to 2*2*2*3, and 28 is divisible by 2

26 factors to 2*13, and 28 is divisible by 2

28 28 is divisible by 28

The intervals left to test are 3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 23, 25,
& 27

_____________________

* We saw multiple letter codes used in Chasing the Wish where it did
appear to be a valid solution and players were required to figure out which
letters were in- or ex-cluded.

Below is the Alphabet Chart. To figure out the value for a specific interval, take the corresponding number from the Alphabet Chart, multiply by the interval, then calculate the mod. (Mod function keys are included on scientific calculators, including the one found in Windows. Just open the calculator, click View, and change to Scientific.)

To find the value for W, Mod 28, with an interval of 3, click:

2 2 * 3 =

The display will read 66. Then click:

Mod 2 8 =

The display should read 10, which is verified by the interval 3 chart we did on page 4.

Alphabet Chart (same as interval of 1)

0 a

1 b

2 c

3 d

4 e

5 f

6 g

7 h

8 i

9 j

10 k

11 l

12 m

13 n

14 o

15 p

16 q

17 r

18 s

19 t

20 u

21 v

22 w

23 x

24 y

25 z

Congratulations! Now you have all of the skills necessary to finish
decrypting our code. Hopefully, when you’re done, you won’t be 9 0 1 8
27 than you were when you began!

Diandra

More hints for this code:

0 = A for all possible intervals.

There is probably at least one other vowel in the code.

Decode vowels first for all probable intervals. If you get a hit in
the code, then begin calculating possible consonants. This may save a lot
of time!