I haven't finished Cryptonomicon yet. But there are a few things that have been on my mind.
Firstly, I want to complain about the continual (ok, it happened twice) reference to numbers as the product of primes. If the author doesn't end up “figuring out” (by the end of the book) that all composite numbers can be expressed as the product of primes I'm going to be pissed. There are a few other isolated technical points that pissed me off too. At least with the 73, 37 primes reference he said *two* primes.. meh.
Anyway, what I wanted to mention here is something that clicked with me a while ago, and has sort of been chewing at my brain for a few months. That is obviously the whole “blogging” thing. Different people want different things from their blogs. A lot of the blogs I read are “professional” blogs, some chump from XYZ Corp. posts technical material. You can see how carefully constructed their messages are, etc.
I like to think of my blog more as a scrap book for my thoughts and learning. Basically a tool for learning, thinking and remembering. The really cool thing about it being accessible (i.e. by you) is that others can comment, or even just think about what I'm thinking about.
I like anonymity. Not because I care about being anonymous per se, but I get a real kick out of seeing some complete stranger post something on my blog. Who cares who they are, I only care about what they have to say.
In the same way, I like to post 'anonymously' to other peoples blogs. I'm not trying to advertise anything other than my contribution to the topic. I like having something to say, and thinking about things with others, but who I am really makes no difference. It's like getting into a conversation at a pub with the dude next to you. You don't know who he is, you don't really care either, but it's fun to exchange ideas.
This is very much like the 'hive-mind' idea spoken about in Cryptonomicon. I like the idea that my blog is a part of a 'hive-mind'. It forms a small part of a collective consciousness. I think that's cool.
But most numbers aren't expressable as the product of only two primes. More importantly (and more or less by definition), numbers that are the product of two primes can't be broken into smaller factors, so when they're used for encryption (a subject whose relevance is surely not coincidental), there's no chance of easily breaking down a ten digit factorisation into a, say nine digit one simply by dividing by dividing by eleven (or any other small number).
The 37, 73 example mentioned earlier obviously had a lot more to it than just being a product of two primes - what was the other one?