Popular works of fiction claim that after breaking the Enigma in Bletchley, some sophisticated mathematics or statistical techniques were used to hide this fact of breaking (not necessarily by the same people). This may have included at looking at probabilities of certain war time events, and probabilities of their chance intervention, to estimate whether some acquired information could be acted upon and by whom. Popular history writing is filled with anecdotes of sending spy-submarines regularly to "spot" the already known locations or sending letters to fake spies for blame.

Are the stories of sophisticated or even simple data analysis or model building for this purpose at some level of british intelligence for these reasons a myth? Or are some historical details known on this (these kind of historical materials are assumedly very difficult to preserve due to their sensitive nature)? It has been given a surprisingly specific form in popular fiction writings.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you provide references for where you've heard these stories? $\endgroup$
    – Jack M
    Feb 12, 2015 at 10:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Really based on works of fiction only. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson, 1998) has a whole plotline that is developed on this, and the recent film The Imitation Game, had a very specific unnecessary frame where they wanted to build a mathematical method to make these decisions. Both works have a fair bit of background in historical materials, however I don't know their sources directly. The information on how much historical background these had should be not too far out there though. $\endgroup$
    – puslet88
    Feb 12, 2015 at 12:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/26729/4524 $\endgroup$
    – a06e
    Feb 12, 2015 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ Perfect, Becko! Now all we need is someone to answer. :) I am more curious about the nature of the system that they may or may not have invented, whoever did it. It is not important now that for example Turing be involved. However the techniques may be very interesting for that time, as they would have had to use some explicit data and methods to perform such large-scale analyes. Nowadays you can have these in any computer game of course, but how they would have done it during WW2 is the question. Our questions nicely complement each other, if anyone answers your's, send them over to mine too! $\endgroup$
    – puslet88
    Feb 12, 2015 at 13:13


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