Dave Oranchak’s site ZodiacKillerCiphers.com features a new article about Zodiac theorist Gareth Penn and math and science writer Martin Gardner, the author of the column Mathematical Games for the magazine Scientific American. The article, titled Gardner and Penn, Jekyll and Hyde, focuses on Penn’s writings and Gardner’s opinions regarding Penn’s theories about the Zodiac ciphers and other material.
Oranchak discovered a collection of Martin Gardner’s correspondences and notes at Stanford University which reveals that Gardner was not impressed with Penn’s work. Notations written by Gardner regarding Penn read, “He must be mad,” and refer to Penn’s findings as “nonsense.” FBI experts had examined Penn’s work and concluded that his interpretation was “based on speculation and a multitude of assumptions” and his results were “forced.”
In the early 1990s, I began corresponding with Gareth Penn. While I was initially intrigued by his claims and theories, I eventually discovered that Penn’s work could not withstand scrutiny. His interpretations of the Zodiac writings were interesting, to say the least, but most of his conclusions were questionable, at best, if not ultimately unsound. Most troublesome was the fact that one of Penn’s most prominent claims proved false– his theory that two of the crime scenes formed a radian angle deliberately designed by the Zodiac. Penn’s so-called “radian theory” became infamous and even inspired other Zodiac theorists such as Raymond Grant and Steve Hodel, who both used the erroneous theory to support their own “solutions” to the Zodiac mystery. In addition to my study of Penn’s work, my own communications with Penn, and his “suspect” Michael O’Hare, left me convinced that Penn’s take on the Zodiac case was wrong. In the years since, Penn has defended his theories and work, and, he even became a suspect himself when a former “follower” accused him of conspiring with O’Hare and others to commit the Zodiac crimes. Ironically, Penn’s accuser used much of the same erroneous and already-debunked material which Penn had used to accuse O’Hare as the Zodiac.
Martin Gardner’s conclusions cast further doubt on Penn’s theories and, as Oranchak wrote, serve as “another reminder to be wary about the foundations that we build in our minds.“
[NOTE: Thanks to Dave Oranchak for obtaining and sharing the collection of Gardner documents.]
Copyright 2013 – Zodiackillerfacts.com/Michael Butterfield
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