Magic Mirror

Two blue framed mirrors at right angles to one another, with three white triangular pieces stacked in-between. There are letters cut in half, on the white pieces.
A red and blue exhibit table, with an orange, whih and purple information panel on top, sits in front of two green and blue walls. On the table top are two blue framed mirrors at right angles to one another.

Symmetry can be explored using mirrors.

How it works

Place the triangular piece of wood with its secret message against the mirrors.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Can you crack the code?
  • What is special about these letters?

Background

Some letters in the alphabet are symmetrical—they have two identical halves. Letters like K, D and E are horizontally symmetrical—their top and bottom halves are the same. Y, U and A are vertically symmetrical—their left and right halves are the same. O, I and X are vertically AND horizontally symmetrical.

The symmetrical half letters in this exhibit are a basic form of cryptography (the process of encrypting a message so it cannot be easily read by someone who intercepts the message either accidentally or illegally). While this coded message is very simple to decode, most modern cryptography uses computers and complex algorithms to encrypt messages.

Finding the science in your world

Everyday examples of encryption can be found within electronic communication used by banks, internet service providers and mobile phone companies, in an attemtp to transfer data so it cannot be intercepted and translated by criminals and hackers.