TITLE: Camouflage in Computer Science AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 25, 2006 6:07 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Camouflage Conference poster A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I was submitting a proposal to speak at a local conference on camouflage. The conference is called "CAMOUFLAGE: Art, Science and Popular Culture" and will be held at my university on April 22. It is being organized by Roy Behrens, a graphic design professor here about whom I wrote a bit in that old entry. My proposal was accepted. You can see a list of many of the conference speakers on the promotional poster shown here. (Click on the image to see it full size.) Behrens has attracted speakers from all over the world, despite no financial support for anyone. He recently announced that Marvin Bell, the first Poet Laureate of Iowa, will open the conference by reading a new poem about camouflage, especially written for the event, named "Dead Man". I've enjoyed hearing poets at CS conferences before, most recently Robert Hass at OOPSLA, but usually they've been invited to speak on creativity or some other "right-brain" topic. I've never been at a conference with a world-premiere poetry reading... It should be interesting! A conference on camouflage run out of a graphics arts program might seem an odd place for a computer science professor to speak, but I thought of proposing a talk almost as soon as I heard about the conference. Computer scientists use camouflage, too, but with a twist -- as a way to transmit a message without anyone but the intended recipient being aware that a message exists. This stands in contrast to encryption, a technique for concealing the meaning of a message even as the message may be publicly known. I've studied encryption a bit in the last couple of years while preparing for and teaching an undergraduate course in algorithms, but I've not read as much on this sort of "computational camouflage", known more formally as steganography. This is not an area of research for me, at least yet, but it has long been an idea that intrigues me. This audience isn't looking for cutting-edge research in computer science anyway; they are more interested in the idea of hiding things via patterns in their surroundings. This conference affords me a great opportunity to learn more about steganography and other forms of data hiding -- and teach a non-technical audience about it at the same time. If you have ever taught something to beginners, you know that committing to teach a topic forces you to understand it at a deeper level than you might otherwise be able to get away with. For me, this project will be one part studying computer science, one part educating the public, and one part learning about an idea bigger than computer science -- and where CS fits into the picture. I have titled my talk NUMB3RS Meets The DaVinci Code: Information Masquerading as Art. (I'm proud of that title; I hope it's not too kitschy...) I figure I'll show plenty of examples, in text and images and maybe even music, and then relate steganography to the idea of camouflage more generally. I also figure that I will have a lot of fun writing code! -----