Faculty of
Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

05 September 2019

The American Survival Research Foundation offered a reward of $1,000 for cracking one of Thouless’s two codes within three years of his death. It was not claimed. Shutterstock.com

This article was originally published on The Conversation and written by Richard Bean, The University of Queensland

In recent weeks I managed to decrypt a difficult cipher that, despite expert codebreakers’ best efforts, had remained unsolved for 70 years.

The code was created by the late Cambridge professor and scientist Robert Henry Thouless, who passed away in 1984. He created it as a “test of survival” to see if he could communicate with the living after his death. Thouless thought if he successfully transmitted cipher keywords to the living through spiritual mediums and the message was received, this would prove he had survived his death.

In 2019, I was more interested in seeing whether computer speed, storage and networking capabilities had advanced enough to break a code that had outlived its maker. After about five days I had my answer.

The cipher text read:

INXPH CJKGM JIRPR FBCVY WYWES NOECN SCVHE GYRJQ TEBJM TGXAT TWPNH CNYBC FNXPF LFXRV QWQL

The solution:

A number of successful experiments of this kind would give strong evidence for survival.

Read the full article here
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