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Self-Taught Programmer Solves MIT Cryptographic Puzzle 15 Years Earlier Than Expected

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists thought it would be 35 years before anyone could solve their cryptographic puzzle. But a self-taught programmer from Belgium figured it out 15 years ahead of schedule.

The school says Bernard Fabrot has been working on the puzzle, which involves squaring a number about 80 trillion times, for the past three-and-a-half years.

Another group led by former Intel executive Simon Peffers is "nearing completion" on a solution, just two months after starting computation.

The puzzle was supposed to take more than three decades to complete because it's designed to thwart attempts at parallel computing to speed things along. But puzzle founder and MIT professor Ron Rivest says that thanks to hardware and software advances since the puzzle's release in 1999, "the resources required to do a single squaring have been reduced by much more than I predicted."

Related: Students Cover MIT Dome With Captain America's Shield

To celebrate, the school's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will open a time capsule designed by famed architect Frank Gehry that's filled with artifacts from computer science pioneers, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The capsule ceremony is planned for May 15 at MIT.

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