Some people will go to any length to read a book. Kevin Knight, a senior research scientist and fellow at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California (USC), was intrigued by an 18th century document known as The Copiale Cipher. He was curious about it because no one can read it.
Named for one of just two non-coded inscriptions in the document, this mysterious manuscript is 105 pages long and is bound in gold and green brocade paper. The manuscript consists of roughly 75,000 characters. These characters are handwritten very neatly but consist of a perplexing mix of upper- and lower-case Roman letters, along with a large assortment of more abstract symbols (see sample pages). In total, the Cipher contains 90 distinct characters, including 26 unaccented Roman letters. Adding to the confusion is the lack of spacing between words.
Dr Knight, who primarily conducts research in computational linguistics and machine translation, doesnít have much experience in cryptography. But undeterred, he began collaborating this year with two Swedish linguists, Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University, with the goal to decipher The Copiale Cipher.
After a few dead-ends, the team realised that the Roman characters designated spaces between words whilst the abstract symbols contained the actual information. They also discovered that a colon indicated that the previous consonant is duplicated. After they predicted that the Cipher was an encryption of the German language and then subjected the Cipher to a word-frequency analysis, things quickly fell into place. The team could finally read the text of the Cipher.
Dr Knight and his colleagues found that The Copiale Cipher describes the rituals and some of the political ideals of a German secret society from the 1730s. They also learned that this society was fascinated by eye surgery and ophthalmology, although none of its members were practitioners.
But why should we care about a dusty old book that no one could read that was written by members of a German secret society?
"This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies", says Dr Knight. He cites several modern examples of challenging ciphers, such as the communications from the still-unidentified Zodiac Killer to the California police in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Kryptos sculpture, located on grounds of the C.I.A. headquarters in the United States, which has been only partly decoded.
Dr Knight also points out that there are other such ancient enciphered texts, particularly the famous Voynich Manuscript, a 240-page volume that has confounded cryptographers for centuries. This document was recently dated back to the early 1400s.
"There are these books and ancient languages of real historical value that contain historical information that we just canít get out yet, and thatís of interest to a lot of people," Dr Knight explains in the video interview embedded below. For example, historians think that secret societies played a role in revolutions, but their importance is not known at this time because so many documents are enciphered.
Stephen Hawking: humanity needs to live in space or die out, physicist warns via hologram 2015-04-28 3:05
Humans should go and live in space within the next 1,000 years, or it will die out, Stephen Hawking has warned.
"We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity," Mr Hawking said. "I don't think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet."
Hawking issued the warning during one of two talks at the ...
What's wrong with the Swedes - and so many other Whites? 2015-04-28 3:14
Another in the unending list of suicidal behavior by Swedes, this one by Cecilia Wilkstr√∂m, a Member of the European Parliament for the center-right (!) Liberal Party, who is concerned about the recent drownings in the Mediterranean of Africans attempting to invade Europe. Note that, once again, the Holocaust is front and center stage as a paradigm requiring Westerners to ...
Scenes of Chaos in Baltimore 2015-04-28 2:20
A largely peaceful protest over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody, gave way to scattered scenes of chaos here on Saturday night, as demonstrators smashed a downtown storefront window, threw rocks and bottles and damaged police cruisers, while officers in riot gear broke up skirmishes and made 12 ...
MSNBC Guest: "You Don't Have to Have a White Person Around to Have White Supremacy Play Out" 2015-04-27 22:36
What makes the academic study of ‚Äúwhite supremacy‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúwhite privilege‚ÄĚ so perfect for racialists is that it requires absolutely no parameters of study. There are no standards of proof. There is no way any claims can be vetted in peer-reviewed journals because the ‚Äúevidence‚ÄĚ can be explained by other factors. Anything and everything can be pointed to as being ...
Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs 2015-04-27 22:23
Immigration - Global humanitarian reasons for current U.S. immigration are tested in this updated version of immigration author and journalist Roy Beck's colorful presentation of data from the World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau. The 1996 version of this immigration gumballs presentation has been one of the most viewed immigration policy presentations on the internet.
Presented by immigration author/journalist Roy Beck