Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014
Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students and researchers at Aston University's Centre for Forensic Linguistics (UK).

Their research also challenges the claim that Dorian S. Nakamoto is the main author of the paper, an assertion made in Newsweek last month that has been strongly denied by Mr Nakamoto.

The study, nicknamed 'Project Bitcoin', was undertaken by a team of 40 final-year forensic linguistics students led by Dr Jack Grieve, Lecturer in Forensic Linguistics at Aston University. It looked at linguistic similarities between the Bitcoin paper and the writing of eleven other individuals that are regularly referred to as possible authors: Dorian S. Nakamoto, Vili Lehdonvirta, Michael Clear, Shinichi Mochizuki, Gavin Andresen, Nick Szabo, Jed McCaleb, Dustin D. Trammel, Hal Finney, Wei Dai, and Neal King, Vladimir Oksman & Charles Bry.

Bitcoin is an internet-based virtual currency which allows users to buy goods and services online. The payment system, introduced in 2009, is supposedly easier and safer than sending money via more traditional means. Using Bitcoin to pay for items also means avoiding credit card, foreign exchange or cash handling fees.

Dr Grieve said: "The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo's writing and the Bitcoin paper is uncanny, none of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match. We are pretty confident that out of the list of people regularly referred to as possibilities, Nick Szabo is the main author of the paper, though we can't rule out the possibility that others contributed.

"Our study adds to the weight of evidence pointing towards Nick Szabo. The case looks pretty clear-cut. Szabo is an expert in law, finance, cryptography and computer science. He created 'bit gold', a precursor to Bitcoin, and was looking for collaborators in 2008. Did Nick Szabo create Bitcoin? We're not sure, but we think he probably wrote the paper so it's certainly worth a closer look."

The results showed that of the eleven Szabo is by far the closest match, with a large number of distinctive linguistic traits appearing in both the Bitcoin paper and Szabo's blogs and other writings. This includes the use of: the phrases "chain of…", "trusted third parties", "for our purposes", "need for…", "still", "of course", "as long as", "such as" and "only" numerous times, contractions, commas before 'and' and 'but', hyphenation, '-ly' adverbs, the pronouns 'we' and 'our' in papers by a single author; fragmented sentences following colons and reflexive (-self) pronouns.

In total hundreds of documents written by the eleven possible authors were considered, including over 40 academic papers written by Szabo which are available on his personal website.

The study also questioned why the most-cited textual feature of the Bitcoin paper is the fact that it contains double spaces after full stops. The Bitcoin paper was drafted using Latex, an open source document preparation system. Without the base .tex for the Bitcoin paper, which is not available, researchers are unable to tell if the author double spaces between sentences. However, the study noted that Szabo uses Latex for all his publications.

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grondilu
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2014
The last paragraph says a lot about how silly this study is. LaTeX is a ubiquitous in academics and two spaces after a period is the standard in English typography and IIRC that's how TeX/LaTeX renders it.
nkalanaga
not rated yet Apr 18, 2014
Agreed. I was taught to double-space after periods in high school typing class 40 years ago - on a manual typewriter. It can't be a rare practice even today.
Squirrel
not rated yet Apr 19, 2014
Neither of the two above comments in spite of stating the use of a double-space after a period mark is ubiquitous and "can't be a rare practice" actually make their comments with a single rather than a double spacing.
grondilu
not rated yet Apr 19, 2014
I'm pretty sure I did use two spaces. I guess the message is post-processed by phys.org. PS. Just checked. It is.
britton_beckham
not rated yet Apr 20, 2014
Wow, this is funny.

First of all, there is no post processing on this site to remove double spaces from your sentences, I know because I checked that page source and your double spaces are there. The problem is your understanding of how spaces are rendered in a browser.

Because HTML (a markup language) can contain white space by definition and as part of the structure, the rendering rules of HTML take all contiguous white space and condense it into a single space. For example, I will put 20 space between the next two words: one two. These words still look like there is a single space when rendered in the browser. However, if you go look at the source code, there are 20 spaces.

Secondly, the practice of double spaces after a sentence is way outdated. I'm 32 and I was actually, just like you, taught this technique. But it is no longer taught and hasn't been for a long time. Most people do not use double spaces, and I also have discontinued the antiquated practice.