Information warfare is all around us. With government spying scandals and attacks on financial and news websites, the past year has done nothing if not show the importance of making, breaking, and stealing secret codes. But humans are not unique in our dependence on codes. In fact, we’re a few billion years late to the party.

In this issue, we took the thread of secret codes and tugged at it. We found computer hackers and made-up languages, machine learning and medical data. But the string kept running, unspooling deeper into nature and further into the past: molecular signaling, genetics, even other universes. We found ourselves considering James Gleick’s observation that “information is what our world runs on: the blood and the fuel, the vital principle.”

If information is indeed what our world runs on, then should we be surprised that protecting and promulgating information is the first order of business, for everything from neurons to nebulae?

Welcome to “Secret Codes.”