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Just for fun I'm going to try for an analogy for public/private keys.
Someone who understands them can tell me if I'm on the right track.

Imagine a metal lock box opened with a key, which you send a copy of to
anyone who might receive the box. The box is sent and returned by a courier
whom both parties know and trust.

Inside the box is a compartment opened by another key, the private key,
which only I have. The message can only be placed in there by me using this
private key.

The box is an ingenious design such that when it's opened by someone with
the public key, a few seconds elapses before the lid will open, during
which the message is moved from the inner compartment to the outer one
accessible by the recipient by some clever mechanism, and then the inner
one locked again so that no message can be placed in the inner compartment
by the recipient (or anyone else).

The box is made of special super-tough metal and any attempt to
tamper/drill etc. into the inner compartment will cause a "Mission
Impossible-style" destruction of the mechanism in a way that is obvious to
any observer.

So, the recipient can be certain that the message can only have been put
there by the sender he expects, using the private key.

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