Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Hiding messages using fonts

A new computer technique has been developed that uses subtle changes to a document’s fonts to encode secret messages and data.

Using Columbia University’s FontCode system, however, users can hide messages within unrelated text via virtually-invisible changes to the displayed letters.

Developed by a team led by associate professor of computer science Changxi Zheng, FontCode works with commonly-used fonts such as Times Roman, Helvetica, and Calibri, plus it’s compatible with most word processing programs. Additionally, the hidden messages are retained even when the document is printed on paper or converted to a different file type.

The video at the link explains very nicely how this works. The technology has some excellent potentially positive applications, such as providing a method of finding out if an original document has been modified. It also carries with it a great potential for misuse because of its ability to hide information unobtrusively in a written document.

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


  • Dick Eagleson

    This seems to be an interesting cross between steganography and the font definition work of Donald Knuth.

  • MarcusZ1967

    And this will make even easier for one time pads or obscure books to pass messages……

  • Laurie

    If something is hidden in plain sight, one need only look to distinguish it. The privacy aspect of such schemes is found in the obscurity of algorithm particulars, not in algebraic complexity. I think the potential for anti-tampering (or some signature/authentication scheme) has utility but, again, with caveats.

  • Laurie

    Following up briefly: as the article points out, message privacy relies upon use of a (symmetric) key, so the advantage lies in concealing the very fact that a message is being transmitted (at all).

  • Ted

    This is amazing technology. It also scares the hell out of me. Can you imagine the possibilities of encoding top secret documents and files and shipping them everywhere and anywhere and no one would know just by looking at them? Mary had a little lamb = destruct sequence code is 1A2B. Since you currently need a smart phone to see the real message or a computer to see it what about Google glasses or a type of 3D gaming viewer. The rest of the world goes on unknowing while a select few….

    A number of years ago there was a sci-fi show where messages were somehow encoded into billboards and large signs on buildings. Yet wearing a special set of glasses the true message was revealed.

    I admire the engineering, the development etc but the far reaching implications are frightening.

  • MarcusZ1967

    John Carpenter’s They Live (1988).

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *