In the late 1960s and early 1970s, residents of Northern California were terrorized by the infamous serial killer only known as the Zodiac Killer.
During the Zodiac’s reign of terror, in which he murdered at least five people and claimed to have killed 37, he sent a series of letters to the local Bay Area press, taunting police with four ciphers he said contained his identity. Only one has been solved. Since 1969, the California Department of Justice has maintained an open case file on the Zodiac murders. Though suspects have been named in the case, the Zodiac’s identity still remains a mystery due to lack of evidence.
Now, decades later, technology may be the key to identifying the Zodiac. Keven Knight, an expert in artificial intelligence, cryptography, and code breaking from the University of California’s Information Science Institute has programmed a supercomputer named CARMEL to think like the cryptic serial killer.
The artificial-intelligence software has already decoded the Copiale Cipher, a handwritten manuscript from the late 18th century, so Knight and a team of code-breaking researchers are hoping it will help them solve the Zodiac’s most impenetrable cipher, the Z340. But wait, there’s more.
All of the Zodiac’s known writings are programmed into CARMEL, which not only allows it to think like the killer, but to write like him too. Through this online tool, CARMEL generates poetry based on whatever words and topics you choose, and the results are as freaky and weird as you might expect.