For this assignment, I listened to “A Killer on the Loose: The Zodiac Ciphers,” a podcast by a Vanderbilt student about the story of the Zodiac killer and the cryptography involved in his crimes. This story first explained the Zodiac killer’s crimes and murders, then delved into the story of how he contacted the press with ciphers that supposedly contained his identity. The podcast explained what kind of ciphers these were, how they were cracked, what information was uncovered, and what is still unknown.
What I found most interesting about this episode was purely the topic of discussion and the story. I think the creator of this podcast did an amazing job of picking an intriguing topic through which to educate people about cryptography. Cryptography itself may not be so interesting, but the story of a serial killer using obscure symbols and concealing his identity is enticing.
I think that the producer of this podcast made it interesting by matching the presentation of the information with the information being presented. In other words, she was telling the story of a serial killer, and she matched this by presenting the information in an eerie way. She used spooky cliffhangers, used gunshot sound effects, and had an ominous music playing in the background the whole time. This drew the listener in emotionally to the story.
Admittedly, this producer could have done a better job of making the technical aspects accessible. Someone with no cryptography experience would not come away from this podcast with an understanding of what a transposition cipher is or what a Caesar cipher is. Still, I think the producers did a good job of interjecting cryptography knowledge as an important part of the story, which held the listener’s attention.
I think it would be really interesting for me to do a podcast on how cryptography is portrayed in movies. There is such a grand spectrum of how accurate or inaccurate code-breaking is in the movies, and I think it would be interesting to investigate why some movies fudge the details of cryptography more than others. Technically, I also think this would be interesting from a production standpoint as I could intereject the podcast with dialogue from the movies.