Dr Paul Ashton: Near Zero Inc – a sadly prophetic company name

From NZSeptic: Between August 2006 and May 2007, 490 investors (many from NZ) put $5.3m into NearZero Inc, a US-based company set up to develop and sell software written by Nelson man Philip Whitley, who claimed to have developed a revolutionary data compression algorithm. In May 2007 Near Zero was put into liquidation, and in February 2010 Philip Whitley went on trial in Nelson for fraud. This whole saga should not have happened. In 2001, Assoc Prof Tim Bell from the University of Canterbury, someone with international standing in the data compression field, tested the software and concluded “I had clear evidence that the system did not function, and could find no evidence at all that it was able to do what was claimed”. This talk will give a quick introduction to data compression, discuss tests done on Whitley’s software (and their flaws), and give a brief history of various efforts to develop the software.

Paul Ashton was a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Canterbury from 1987 to 2000. Since 2000 he has been a Software Developer in Christchurch. He is also Secretary of the NZ Skeptics Inc.

Click below for Dr Ashton’s presentation to the New Zealand Skeptic Society conference held August 13 – 15, Auckland, New Zealand