It was a cold, damp, dreary day at Bletchley Park, a large manor outside of London. The year was 1942, during the darkest days of World War II, and hundreds of workers huddled in little huts on the manor grounds. In this secret place, the workers listened to Morse code (a code using short and long taps to represent the letters of the alphabet) and wrote down what they heard. Most of these workers had no idea why they were doing this, only that it was important for the war effort.
The project began in 1939 when a group of mathematical geniuses gathered in secrecy at Bletchley Park. Their mission was to break the infamous German code called Enigma. This code, developed in the early 1900s, was very cleverly designed. It depended on a machine that could write a large number of codes by scrambling letters of the alphabet. The programmer would rotate several rotors to the settings described in a daily codebook, type in the message, and then the machine would encrypt the message. Morse code then transmitted this encrypted message. If the Allies could break this code, they would gain a huge advantage in the war. However, the British mathematicians and engineers often faced the task of finding one right answer out of 150,000,000 possibilities! Despite these odds, they remained undaunted by the enormity of the task. They knew that the code could be broken. It took years, but finally in 1942, they created a prototype that could decipher Enigma. Once deciphered, the British military had access to crucial German military plans. This information helped turn the tide of the war.
There is a biological code that contains information, much like Enigma. Also like Enigma, people have cracked this biological code, captured in DNA. In this WebQuest, you will learn more about how both Enigma and DNA send their codes.