Hi-tech trek – Untangling the web (2008)

Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop deconstructs the complexities of the internet.

Watch time: 37:03
A still from the 2008 CHRISTMAS LECTURE
Credit: Royal Institution

Lecture 4 – Untangling the web

The impact of computers increased dramatically when they were connected together through the internet. But how does information make its way across the internet, through hundreds of computers to the right destination?

In his fourth Lecture, Chris Bishop untangles some of the mysteries of the web. He reveals one of the most surprising results in computer science, and will show how it is used to make web pages secure.

Discover ways of scrambling information to stop eavesdroppers from reading it, and find out how quantum physics can provide us with a totally secret way to transmit data over the internet.


In this series of CHRISTMAS LECTURES, Chris Bishop invites us on a journey into the high-tech world of computer technology.

From the origin of the microprocessor to the development of the internet, the field of computer science has literally changed the way in which we live our lives.

But the world of computers is vast and complicated, ranging from the architecture of microchips to the use of quantum mechanics for data encryption – it's not always easy to know what exactly is going on inside the box.

So how do computers work? How is so much information stored within a single hard-drive and how do computers communicate with each other over the internet?

Across five lectures, Chris Bishop sheds light on some of these questions by tracing the evolution of the modern computer.

Along the way he explores the many technologies which have developed as a result of the computer revolution; including the interconnected world of the internet, the use of software to control hardware and the challenges involved in creating artificial intelligence.