Science  06 Oct 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5489, pp. 25

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  1. The Secret's Out

    The algorithm is dead; long live the algorithm. After a 3-year competition, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) this week revealed the cryptographic standard that will replace the aging Digital Encryption Standard (DES), the mathematical recipe used to safeguard everything from digital records to communications.

    The new standard will be based upon an elegant algorithm, called Rijndael, designed by Belgians Vincent Rijmen of the Catholic University of Louvain and Joan Daemen of smartcard company Proton World International. Rijndael got the nod because it is fast and compact, and it sets up cryptographic keys quickly, said NIST director Ray Kammer. And it's so secure that even the government spies at the National Security Agency plan to use it.

    Coincidentally, Rijndael also was the only algorithm among the five finalists not to face a potential patent-infringement lawsuit from Hitachi, which earlier this year made broad claims to an array of mathematical techniques used by ciphers (Science, 19 May, p. 1161).

  2. Into the Unknown

    Marine researchers want the U.S. government to send them where no scientists have gone before. A White House advisory panel last week recommended spending at least $750 million over the next decade on a new ocean exploration program that would expand research into uncharted waters.

    It's “easier to get ship time to go back to places we've already been than explore new areas,” says Marcia McNutt, head of the 15-member President's Panel on Ocean Exploration and chief of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. The new program would reverse those priorities by providing scientists with the ships, submarines, sensors, and data banks they need to document unknown ocean ecosystems. Priority targets would include U.S. coastal waters and arctic and antarctic seas.

    The report may help push a marine science initiative into the Administration's 2002 budget request, currently under discussion, says James Baker, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We're trying to make something happen,” he says. The fate of that effort, however, rests in the hands of the next president.