Michael Cole has a great recent post on his site concerning the flood of web traffic again generated by the interest in Corey Starliper’s debunked claim of a solution to the 340-character cipher. Michael’s indictment of shoddy journalism is spot on.
If Corey Starliper walked into your office and announced that he had cured cancer, would you write the story: “Tewksbury Native: I’ve Cured Cancer” without seeking input from a medical professional? If he walked in and claimed to have solved one of math’s currently unsolved problems, would you write the article without doing something to evaluate the validity of his claim? I hope the answer to those questions is “No.” But, for some reason, if he walks in and says he’s solved a cipher that’s remained unsolved for the last 40 years, the Tewksbury Patch has no problem publishing an article without doing anything in terms of evaluating the probability that his solution is actually correct. His solution is garbage, pure and simple. Point me to one person with real cryptographic expertise who endorses Starliper’s solution. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you cannot because I’m fairly certain one does not exist.
Those of us who have definitively shown Corey’s solution to be incorrect are often criticized for being “jealous” of him for solving the code, or for not having a solution that is better than his. What those critics fail to understand is that I would be among the first people to celebrate a real solution to any of the unsolved Zodiac ciphers, no matter who comes up with it! To be rid of another long-standing mystery would be a great relief to us all. In the meantime, there is no reason to sit back and accept unsubstantiated claims without evaluating their merit.