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AI Encryption Science

Copiale Cipher Decoded 94

eldavojohn writes "The 18th century Copiale Cipher has finally been decoded after a few minor breakthroughs were made by linguists versed in machine translation analyzing the document. From the article, 'Kevin Knight, a computer scientist at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, collaborated with Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University in Sweden to decipher the first 16 pages. They turn out to be a detailed description of a ritual from a secret society that apparently had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology.' The Roman characters and abstract symbols turned out to be a sort of encryption of the German language. The important clues they discovered were that the Roman characters were nulls (misleading junk) and the bogus looking symbols the actual text. Lastly, a colon would mean a duplication of the last consonant. A cipher falls to word-frequency analysis. Perhaps the researchers could start another 'weekend project' and tackle The Voynich Manuscript for us?" Update: 10/25 15:25 GMT by T : eldavojohn adds also a link to the final translation.
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Copiale Cipher Decoded

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @11:01AM (#37831620) Journal
    This link to the New York Times might work better [nytimes.com] for the article and since submitting it I have stumbled on the research page [lingfil.uu.se] and its English translation [lingfil.uu.se].
    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      I was under the impression that Slashdot had cut back on the number of NYT links that it posts per month due to the NYT's limit of 20 articles per free user per month. Even one a day would run up into the paywall.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I was under the impression that Slashdot had cut back on the number of NYT links that it posts per month due to the NYT's limit of 20 articles per free user per month. Even one a day would run up into the paywall.

        There are enough ways around the paywall that anyone in the /. crowd ought to easily get around it with just minor amount of hassle. Especially if one doesn't limit themselves (it's on a referrer basis - other blogs linking to the same article don't count. And if push comes to shove, really, you ca

        • Personally I don't want to go around the paywall. If I see a paywall, I don't want to visit the site. If they want me to go somewhere elso for my news then I'll go somewhere else for my news. I'm certainly not going to give them money when their site is already filled with ads.
        • I honestly don't remember if it was nytimes or not (I *think* it was), but for at least one of the big sites, googling the headline seems to have stopped working for me.. I still get a truncated article.

          (Funny thing was, I saw the "google the headline" workaround mentioned on a local TV show -- "Press Here" -- that I think is syndicated to other stations. I already knew about the workaround, but it was funny that a major media station -- they're NBC owned -- would mention it. The show is basically "Meet t

      • by yuhong ( 1378501 )

        I did a submission where quoting the abstract was enough to make my point even without access to the paywall:
        http://slashdot.org/submission/1167600/shareholder-value-and-agency-theory-at-its-worst [slashdot.org]

    • by Zeio ( 325157 )

      In other news today, cancers, diseases and viruses remain uncured.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        damn straight. lets put those linguists onto biological research where they should be
      • by Anonymous Coward

        So why are you wasting YOUR time posting on /. rather than performing the useful research that you imply everyone must be capable of?

      • For all we know, these secret manuscripts might contain said cure.
        • Probably within those "bogus" roman characters.

          Seriously though. They could indicate reverse/ignore rules like "This phrase is a catch, do not follow its instructions". Or "The following only applies under full moons".

    • by Forbman ( 794277 )

      Let me guess...

      "Poke several holes in the wrapper. Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes, rotate by 1/4 turn, microwave for another 2-3 minutes. Careful, package will be hot. Then, peel away the wrapper, and enjoy the succulent goodness"

    • If there are systems which can help to analyze and decode a text or an ancient language, why are online translation services so horrible at their job?

      Misguided people think good voice recognition is an AI, but a real AI would be able to do full semantic analysis, and turn your words into conceptual models. Translation systems would then output those conceptual models using the grammar templates for the target language.

      Instead, current translation technology seems to be heavily based on word translatio

  • a lone crusader in a cryptic world

  • From TFA: He also hopes to crack the last section of 'Kryptos' - an encrypted message carved into a sculpture at CIA headquarters - and the Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious medieval document.
  • At last! (Score:5, Funny)

    by vlpronj ( 1345627 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @11:07AM (#37831712)
    Upon reading the translation, we've found the source of the kinghts who say *nee*!
  • by Empiric ( 675968 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @11:17AM (#37831868)
    Going by the translated text describing the apparently-ceremonial activity at the end of the summary's linked pdf, and given this is 1800's Germany, it seems much more likely it was produced by a rather more... well-known secret society [freemasonry.bcy.ca] of the timeframe than a mysterious band of rogue ophthalmologists...
    • by Empiric ( 675968 )
      To clarify my post's link, I mean these guys [newadvent.org], who generally used their "eye" references somewhat more symbolically and less literally--consistent with the translated text.

      Hmm... have I just been trolled?
      • From the parts of the document I read I assumed it was about the Free Masons and only after reading some of the other pages did I see the assertions about ophthalmology.

        I didn't continue reading to see if they had eliminated the Masons as the responsible party, but if they did there are quite a lot of similarities to the Masons (even loosely to the symbols used) and maybe the people involved with this society were also associated with the Masons as well.

        • by clintp ( 5169 )

          Of course, by oath, a Freemason wouldn't be able to confirm or deny if this document contains a description of a Masonic ritual.


          • Then it's a good thing I'm not a Mason, though from what I've seen they seem to be a good group of people. I found most of my father's family was involved and I enjoyed reading about and meeting a number of Masons locally.

            In any event, reading about the decryption process was really interesting.

  • I see that the page for this cipher was just created today. I also see that credit for cracking it goes to a retired soccer player...
  • They turn out to be a detailed description of a ritual from a secret society that apparently had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology.

    Secret societies like this were relatively common in the late 1700's and most of the 1800's. But it's Freemason-like style, it's focus on sight, the timing, and the choice of German as the language suggests that it could be connected with the original Bavarian Illuminati.

    Or not. That's the hard part about figuring out the history of this kind of thing - they're all secret.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not just style - direct references to other branches of Masonry - the "maitre eccossois" (hmm, there's some French in there too, transliterated). Looks like an early glimpse into the Scottish Rite.

      Back in the day, if you wanted something kept a secret, you didn't write it down, even if your crypto would hold up for 250 years. Well done, author of page 95.

    • But it's Freemason-like style, it's focus on sight

      it's == it is. I think you meant its.
  • Any chance of breaking the Indus valley [wikipedia.org] script? It is probably 3000 years old. Or the word frequency analysis works only for familiar variants of European languages?
    • Word frequency works for any language *if* you have a corpus of text that spans common usage big enough to use as a reference.

      • by v1 ( 525388 )

        Even a short glance at the article shows frequency analysis isn't going to work well. Most letters had more than one symbol that could map to them - common letters like vowels had numerous variations, "E" had 7 symbols that mapped to it. So even a short word could be written several different ways. A long word could easily be unique in a passage of this size even if it occurred statistically frequently. That's a really good idea when you think about it, and is probably the reason why this has gone undec

    • Any chance of breaking the Indus valley script? It is probably 3000 years old. Or the word frequency analysis works only for familiar variants of European languages?

      Not a chance. The total known corpus is only about 20,000 symbols, and it's likely that many of the known inscriptions are names rather than meaningful texts.

  • ...led in and to the table of the chief [Stargate Earth symbol], who asks him:

    First, if he desires to become [mouth symbol].

    Secondly, if he submits to the rules of the [dotted circle] and without rebelliousness suffer through the time of apprenticeship.

    Thirdly, be silent about the [pentagram] of the [dotted circle] and furthermore be willing to offer himself to volunteer in the most committed way.

    The candidate answers yes.

    The chief [Stargate Earth symbol] then shall lead the candidate and the assembled [mouth symbol]s through a series of ordeals, then proclaim the candidate a fellow [mouth symbol]. He shall then remind the new [mouth symbol] of the ancient and secret traditions of the order, then urge the [mouth symbol]s to celebrate the new [mouth symbol]'s initiation with [beer stein symbol] and [ping-pong paddle symbol].

  • by squidflakes ( 905524 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @11:42AM (#37832162) Homepage

    Come on, really? With so many old school gamers on Slashdot, you can't figure out the Voynich Manuscript?

    Pages and pages in what could be a constructed language containing drawings of plants that don't exist, maps of stars and constellations that have no analog to our own Earthly observations, bullet point lists, recipes that reference the drawings in other sections of the book, and copious drawings of naked women...

    Yeah, it's a source book, or perhaps a player's guide to some Medieval role playing game.

    • Obligatory (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
    • That doesn't really matter till we know what the system is like so we can bitch about the rules and write up our own Medieval RPG heart-breakers.
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      The text of the Voynich Manuscript lacks the statistical entropy to be a real language. Either the whole thing is an elaborate fake, (perhaps likely given the source), or combined with the illustrations it's a quite clever excercise in steganography. I was convinced of the steganography at one point, confusing the purported author Roger Bacon with Francis Bacon, who was clever with that (including steganography using drawings of plants, IIRC) - oops. But I don't think anyone belives it was actually a "lo

    • by Dabido ( 802599 )
      Nothing to translate for those of us who can read original Klingon.
    • Yeah, it's a source book, or perhaps a player's guide to some Medieval role playing game.

      You explained it so well, but you draw the false conclusion. It's obviously an old-style DRM ... Please enter the 22 word in paragraph 4 on page 215 to continue

  • by danlip ( 737336 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @11:45AM (#37832202)

    "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Who controls the British Crown? Who keeps the metric system down?
    We do. We do.

    Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?
    Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
    We do. We do.

    Who holds back the electric car?
    Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
    We do. We do.

    Who robs cave fish of their sight?
    Who rigs every Oscar night?
    We do. We do.
  • So when are we going to see this up on wikileaks? I'm pretty sure that this is something that was supposed to remain hidden!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The translation seems very much like what Apple asks from it's users.


  • by nomorecwrd ( 1193329 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @12:10PM (#37832516)
    Not actually a ciphered text , but.

    Any chance to use these techniques to finally be able to read the only written language of the Polynesia? (rongorongo from Rapa Nui)

    The ability to read these "tables that speak" was lost due to the slavery of the Wise Elder that had the knowledge.
  • The content of the 105 pages is, well, sad. It is by all means like something out of Daniel Brown's or Umberto Eco's books

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Da_Vinci_Code [wikipedia.org] or the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prague_Cemetery [wikipedia.org]

    Yet it contains no higher truths really, really interesting or useful for mankind. A secret society for divine powers? Hmm. How non-erudite isn't that?

    Still, brilliant decipher work!

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      Hey, I didn't know about Prague Cemetery. I really liked Name of the Rose, and liked (but didn't love) Foucault's Pendulum. His other novels I could take or leave, mostly leave. How's the new one?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Encode your payload with Roman characters. Make up a ritual from a secret society, and interleave it using bogus looking symbols. Researchers will stop searching when they find the ritual, and your payload is safe.

  • I have to commend the authors for their deft handling of page layout - inserting those strange squiggly characters inline with the text and integrated into graphs and figures is pretty neat. LateX, do you think?
  • I think I saw a a Stargate address in the translated text. I definitely saw the home symbol...
  • So long and thanks for all the fish
  • by Anonymous Coward

    on page 99:

    wie erging es dann diesem köstlicheN leichnam

    I thought the Surrealists invented the cadavre exquis not earlier than 1918, and the expression was the product of a random word generator? Is there an esoteric backstory to cadavre exquis that I'm not aware of?

  • The cipher letter + [dagger] was still unknown,
    appearing in partially deciphered words like
    We tried substituting each of the letters A-Z for
    +, but this did not yield valid German. However,
    we found GESELLSCHAFLT in a German
    dictionary, so we concluded that + stands for
    SCH. This opened the door for other multi-
    plaintext-letter substitutions.

    Seriously? They could have just shown the three near-complete words to a German speaker. SCHNUPFTUCHS and GESELLSCHAF[F]T are immediately recognizable, no need for a brute-force attack plus the sheer luck of finding a word with a typo in a dictionary.

  • Apart from the technical feat of decoding the manuscript, I got the impression that the content had little esotericism and too much ritual - based on 18th century FreeMasonry.
    In that way, it is very disappointing. Almost proving that the Masons had very little esoteric knowledge, the ultimate foundation of a hidden society.

    • But, the ritual itself is an encoding of esoteric knowledge. Or, at least, that's how all secret society ritual I've studied is. That's the point... the ritual is easy to remember and pass down to future generations. It acts as a mnemonic device for the knowledge itself. It may not be obvious or explicit in the ritual, but in theory one should be able to glean the knowledge solely from study of the ritual and its related symbolism.

      The esoteric knowledge would never be committed to writing in explicit

      • by drwho ( 4190 )

        Once more to the well...in his father's coat, for sins of the earth do multiply. Make yourself one with the path, and the journey will lead you to eternity. If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, then the meal was cooked a long time ago.

      • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

        Well yes, it is. Ritual is esoteric, and understanding the symbolism of the ritual helps to understand the esotericism behind it, which would be passed from lip to ear or by example or by analogy - like 'As Above, So Below'.
        I was just hoping for more :(

        • Well, we can keep our fingers crossed for the Voynich manuscript... maybe that one will prove to be juicier. Or, maybe Shakespeare's first folio... I hear there's something funky in the typefaces in that one.
          • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

            I'm hoping too. I have this suspicion that Western knowledge has effectively died out. Victoria LePage's "Mysteries of the Bridechamber" examines the concept that true dyadism between a 'married' couple wasn't just for making babies, but had a much greater purpose that Jesus taught. This knowledge is now gone. No-one remembers it, even the High Catholic Church has a limited concept of this.
            There are other examples of this sort of thing.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"