common app personal essay:
le Chiffre indéchiffrable
Ever Since I was a child, I've always loved puzzles. I was filled with delight and wonder if I found a new crossword, and I was fascinated by reading one of Sherlock Holmes mysteries or sitting to watch my favorite "Chasing UFOs" on Nat Geo. My happiness was supreme after solving any puzzle; completing the picture of the jigsaw puzzle or reconstructing cube's discrete pieces represented a sheer joy for me. To keep them, I used to put these solved puzzles in a wooden box-I called it X. I was always looking for new riddles to solve and put them. Within many childhood years of free and easy puzzling, my obsession with finding trickier, bigger puzzles didn't stop.
One late night when I was deciding on a book to read, and all of a sudden, a title startled me: "The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography." The words "secrecy" and "cryptography" lured me strongly to open the book and to start reading it. While I was reading, I was intrigued by the origins of secret writing and how it shaped human history. Inside the book, I learned different techniques for enciphering and deciphering a message. I was pleased with every cipher I cracked; then I started to make my own. I loved to share my interest with my friends and challenge them with the ones I created. OF all the types of ciphers enumerated in the book, Vigenère cipher infatuated me the most for its profundity and complexity. I continued reading to know that this cipher remained impregnable for three centuries; no wonder that cryptanalysts called it "le Chiffre indecipherable." After I've finished the book, I wiggled and jiggled happily when I noticed that there is a cipher challenge at the end of the book. I was lucky as this challenge included a message encrypted using the Vigenère method. Again, I found a new puzzle to solve; I grabbed a pen and paper enthusiastically then started.
Under the pure, warm light of the room and the soft, gentle sound of the breeze, I was sitting opposite my desk with the same excitement of a child playing with a new toy. I was entirely absorbed in the text of the cipher, observing every letter, and scrutinizing each pattern. I started counting spaces, finding frequencies, and looking for suitable combinations. I wrote this information in a small margin and started guessing the key. It has been two hours since I have begun, and all my efforts to find the key were in vain. Before I just began to disappoint, a thought had drifted into my mind: If Vigenère was a French citizen, why wouldn't the text be written in the French language? I tried the frequencies of the French letters and plugged them to my combinations. I jumped with happiness when I found that my inference was true; the matching between the cipher alphabets and the plain alphabets made sense. My heart beat with exhilaration as every letter of the key was revealed. Having the key revealed, I gained eagerness to continue; I began writing these letters above the text of the cipher to unveil the message. My excitement was growing while each word was appearing to complete the meaning of the text that perhaps remained impregnable for years in the past.
This sequence of casual puzzling or sometimes high-level one made me stop and imagine myself solving world class puzzles. I imagined myself the only one in the world solving the famous MIT Time-Lock puzzle or the unbreakable Voynich manuscript. I was euphoric about such thoughts not for the acknowledgment I'd have but for the fill of my X with new puzzles.