Renowed Zodiac Code Breaker Speaks to PLC Maths Students

You may have recently heard of Dr Sam Blake, a young Australian Mathematician who decrypted a secret code that had baffled police investigators and mathematicians for over 50 years. As part of Maths Week 2021, PLC was lucky to have Sam present his amazing work to our students. 

The backstory to Sam's work is both fascinating, if a little grisly. Zodiac is the pseudonym of a serial killer who terrorised the Californian public between the late 1960s to the early 1970s. He famously taunted police using a series of encoded messages. The most baffling of these was called the Zodiac 340 cipher. Neither amature sleuth nor institutional codebreaker could decode this message until 2020, when a team of code breakers finally succeeded. This team included Sam. 

Sam demonstrated how he used a combination of mathematics and a seriously powerful computer to decode the Zodiac 340 cipher. The amazing feat was celebrated throughout the international press. Who among us can say they've been on the front page of the New York Times?

Students who watched the talk were already aware that mathematics is a rich and beautiful study. They're now also aware that it is also occasionally very useful.