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The Voynich Manuscript May Have Been Decoded

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the ask-a-navajo dept.

Encryption 320

MBCook sends word on a possible solution to the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript, which we last visited nearly 6 years ago. "The Voynich Manuscript has confounded attempts to decode it for nearly 100 years. A person named Edith Sherwood, who has previously suggested a possible link to DaVinci, has a new idea: perhaps the text is simply anagrams of Italian words. There are three pages of examples from the herb section of the book, showing the original text, the plaintext Italian words, and the English equivalents. Has someone cracked the code?"

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It Hurts (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296334)

perhaps the text is simply anagrams of Italian words.

Then why does she only offer up a single page of plants as decoded anagrams? What about the other ~199 pages? What about the pages of block text?

More importantly, why does the Voynich Manuscript flip between things derived from plants like gallic acid, oil and then return to naming the plants? Furthermore, I call the labeling of the plants to be absolute complete bullshit. Yes, I said it. I'm not a botanist but I grew up on a farm and I know many of these plants very well and I can't tell any distinguishing characteristics apart from the drawings. This is what a garlic plant looks like [wikispaces.com] . Not like this [edithsherwood.com] . I mean, come on! Did Edith Sherwood ever stop to think that maybe -- similar to numerology in The Bible -- she'd be able to make words out of any strange text regardless of its true origin?

Here's a real gem:

This brief sentence indicated that the use of anagrams should be investigated. This was further supported by reading Wikipedia’s report that anagrams were popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and that some 17th century astronomers, while engaged in verification of their discoveries, used anagrams to hide their ideas.

You found that on Wikipedia? Call Yale University, you've decoded it. Citing Wikipedia for a fact while analyzing centuries old manuscripts? Why you bother to put PhD after you name bewilders me.

This is the game that will be played with the Voynich Manuscript. Every so often people will claim to have 'decoded it' by offering up a small part of the manuscript which very imaginative minds have pulled together 10+ very very flimsy clues that point to some individual. The fact that there are so many coincidences will add weight to it being the real explanation. But it oddly won't work for 99% of the manuscript. Now if the manuscript is ever decoded, a hell of a lot more than two pages is going to make sense. In fact, when someone figures it out, 99% of the manuscript will make sense.

If you want my theory, we're dealing with an unknown autistic artist's work. Someone lost in a period of time where autism was misunderstood and they are forever lost to anonymity except they'll get the last laugh because we'll never understand what message they were trying to get to us. And some of us might go mad spending hours and hours and hours trying to figure this out with no luck.

Re:It Hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296406)

Wow, sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays.

Re:It Hurts (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296706)

But it's Wednesday...

Re:It Hurts (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297348)

It's a really, really bad case of the Mondays.

Re:It Hurts (2, Interesting)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296454)

Well, she does say she doesn't speak Italian ... If this is true then I'm sure someone familiar with medieval Italian will come along and decode the whole thing. As for the labeling, yes of course it's 'bullshit', the manuscript is recognized as being fiction for a long time now.

Re:It Hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296494)

the manuscript is recognized as being fiction for a long time now.

Um, no? Per Wikipedia: "The overall impression given by the surviving leaves of the manuscript is that it was meant to serve as a pharmacopoeia or to address topics in medieval or early modern medicine." (ie, nonfiction)

If you're referring to the argument that the work is a hoax, that's probable, but far from proven.

Re:It Hurts (2, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296744)

Umm... really? The manuscript has still yet to be decoded at all -- how would we go about determining that it is fiction?

Re:It Hurts (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297266)

Simple : the illustrations are clearly not representation of reality.

Though I suppose it could be the same kind of fiction found in the bible or other religious works - in some cases based on reality, but clearly distorted.

Re:It Hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296762)

Yes I'm sure no one familiar with Medieval Italian has taken a gander at this world famous manuscript... Which is why it's so ridiculous that this woman is taking a shot at it. Give me a break.

Re:It Hurts (5, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296476)

Then why does she only offer up a single page of plants as decoded anagrams? What about the other ~199 pages? What about the pages of block text?

She calls for help from people knowing medieval Italian. Apparently she used a reference book on the medieval Italian name of certain plants ot get these hints. She makes the interesting suggestion that this was written by a child, maybe mimicking scientists he knows be drawing "obvious" stuff, i.e. the plants in the garden and in the kitchen, and "hiding" his discoveries using a code used by scientists of the time.

You found that on Wikipedia? Call Yale University, you've decoded it. Citing Wikipedia for a fact while analyzing centuries old manuscripts? Why you bother to put PhD after you name bewilders me.

She referred to Wikipedia as an inspiration to explore an anagram-based lead. Not such a bad thing to do.

If you want my theory, we're dealing with an unknown autistic artist's work.

That was the theory that sounded the most plausible to me too, but these new leads and discoveries call for more investigation, I would say.

Re:It Hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30297284)

One item about the autistic artist theory. In the period of time this is reported to be an autistic child probably would have been sent to an asylum, and never taught to write any letters and surely not given paper, which was relatively expensive in that day LOL

Re:It Hurts (1)

MattSausage (940218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297668)

LOL

wait.. why are we laughing again?

Anyway, the fact you said 'most likely' means even you agree there were times this would not have happened. Especially if the autistic child showed an early and remarkable ability to draw. This was the age of artists, and an autistic savant would be highly valued indeed if one could be found I'm sure.

Re:It Hurts (2, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296522)

If you want my theory, we're dealing with an unknown autistic artist's work.

That's an interesting idea, with the key word being "artist". The almost complete lack of errors and corrections in the text strongly suggest that it's nonsense rather than any kind of encoded message. Considered as a weird kind of autistic art, that might be kind of cool, although by far the more likely solution is that John Dee or one of his associates created the thing as a fraud to bilk gullible aristocrats or royalty (Charles V gets mentioned as a possible target, if I recall correctly.)

Seriously: an error-free exotic MS with bizarre and suggestive (in the broadest sense) drawings that we are pretty sure passed through the hands of known "magicians" at least some of whom almost certainly accepted in their own minds that much of what they sold was fraudulent (many probably at least half-believed in what they were doing, but still...)

Never assume intelligence when venality will do, or something like that.

Re:It Hurts (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296578)

Well, it could just be a randomly generated joke.

Re:It Hurts (5, Funny)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296590)

So she has apparently decoded a manuscript written in a language she does not read (medieval Italian) does not know what a medieval herbal looks like, is not a botanist, a linguist or anything else that would be helpful to decoding a medieval manuscript of any kind .....

For her next trick she will disprove Einstein, and prove the world is flat .....

Re:It Hurts (2, Interesting)

sennyk (1046330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297652)

The world is flat; it only appears to be round, because it is periodic. :)

Re:It Hurts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296608)

Perhaps she referenced Wikipedia because it initially gave her the inspiration, and not because she thinks it is the word of god.

Re:It Hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296830)

I love it when idiots on Slashdot "call bullshit" like it's some great intellectual veto power. Hey moron: you can't "call bullshit" and sit there with a smug smile. Explain why she's wrong and offer up a better theory.

Unless... (5, Interesting)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296846)

Now if the manuscript is ever decoded, a hell of a lot more than two pages is going to make sense. In fact, when someone figures it out, 99% of the manuscript will make sense.

That is, unless the manuscript is using a collection of ciphers (one for each section perhaps?), in which case, one key won't unlock everything.

Just a thought.

Re:It Hurts (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296898)

I grew up on a farm and I know many of these plants very well and I can't tell any distinguishing characteristics apart from the drawings. This is what a garlic plant looks like [wikispaces.com]. Not like this [edithsherwood.com]. I mean, come on!

But maybe the manuscript author didn't. I mean, the whole mystery aside, we all know the level of accuracy of scientific texts of that time. The fact it is hard to decode doesn't mean it is true.

Re:It Hurts (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297346)

Yeah but on the other hand take a look at page 4.
http://www.edithsherwood.com/voynich_decoded/image_list.php?page=4 [edithsherwood.com]
We are lead to believe that these illustrate "Rose bush" (looks like few roses I've ever seen that haven't been trampled on), "illustration" (gee, really? Thanks for telling me that this illustration illustrates an illustration -- I mean, is she serious?) and "oil". Which isn't oil. It may be something that can *produce* oil, but it isn't oil, it's a plant with a name.

This isn't news, this is just someone making a wild guess and pulling out some words from her arse, not many of which make sense.

Seriously, also on page 4, "mushroom"? OK, you could argue that's like the stem of a mushroom. So why are the very similar figures on previous pages marked "forget" (eh? unless in some medieval italian slang that apparently both dante and da vinci spoke a "forget" was a mushroom of some sort), "waste" (eh? this is the bit of the mushroom, or forget, that you're meant to waste? seriously?), "rapid" (evidently if you eat this particular mushroom, or forget, you rapidly produce waste) or two question marks.

Total nonsense. I quite agree that this hurts.

Re:It Hurts (2, Funny)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297468)

Seriously, also on page 4, "mushroom"? OK, you could argue that's like the stem of a mushroom. So why are the very similar figures on previous pages marked "forget" (eh? unless in some medieval italian slang that apparently both dante and da vinci spoke a "forget" was a mushroom of some sort), "waste" (eh? this is the bit of the mushroom, or forget, that you're meant to waste? seriously?), "rapid" (evidently if you eat this particular mushroom, or forget, you rapidly produce waste) or two question marks

Makes totally sense. Magic mushrooms. Like, dude, if you eat them shrooms, you'll get rapidly wasted and forget about all that shit'n'stuff, like totally, man.

Re:It Hurts (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297586)

You know, you have a very good point. It's classic da Vinci! You need to read it from the back towards the front and then it all makes sense! How could we all have been so stupid for 500 years?

Re:It Hurts (1)

careysub (976506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296970)

... If you want my theory, we're dealing with an unknown autistic artist's work. Someone lost in a period of time where autism was misunderstood and they are forever lost to anonymity except they'll get the last laugh because we'll never understand what message they were trying to get to us. And some of us might go mad spending hours and hours and hours trying to figure this out with no luck.

This is an interesting possibility, but a problem with this hypothesis is that the Voynich Manuscript exhibits a statistical property of natural languages called Zipf's Law ("the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in a word frequency table"). Possibly the postulated artist produced imaginary symbols following this law? It would be interesting to see if studies of work created by autistic individuals commonly possess this property. If this is not a common pattern then this possibility would be much reduced.

Re:It Hurts (5, Insightful)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296984)

It seems like you're being a bit harsh. She seems like an amateur doing amatuerish work that has found something suggestive. It's not like she tried to get it published in a journal or claims to be a some sort of professional. Sure she has a phD after her name but that doesn't mean she is trying to claim he phD applies to Voynich Manuscript. Maybe I'm being naive.

Re:It Hurts (3, Insightful)

reg106 (256893) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297024)

Personally, I like

This picture also depicts the union of a sperm with an ova, indicating an extraordinary insight into human reproduction.

and then

I postulate that Leonardo da Vinci wrote the Voynich Manuscript circa 1460 when he was about 8 years old.

Meanwhile [wikipedia.org] ,

An early microscope was made in 1590 in Middelburg, The Netherlands.

How exactly did a youthful da Vinci figure out what an ova and sperm look like? If Leonardo da Vinci (as a child) could sketch sperm and ova over 100 years before a crude microscope was invented and almost 200 years before Hooke and Leeuwenhoek, then that alone would be an astonishingly significant discovery. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Leonardo would build a microscope, discover cell biology, and not bother to write something up about it as an adult. He was, after all, interested in pretty much everything. The more reasonable conclusion is that Edith Sherwood is willing to interpret images very "liberally" (meaning here, without much evidence), without making even simple checks for logical consistency. This is a single example, but the carelessness calls the rest into question. (As you have already indicated)

Re:It Hurts (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297316)

Hey! I rather fancy the idea of an 8-year-old getting sperm and egg donors for his research.

Er...

Re:It Hurts (4, Interesting)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297326)

Since you're not a botanist (nor am I) how do you know what garlic looked like 600 years ago? When corn was first cultivated, it looked like what we call "baby corn" today. It wasn't until centuries of selection and cross-breeding that we got the much larger corn that everyone knows.

That said, I agree with your premise that this is a shaky "solution", but I wouldn't rule it out based on that evidence.

Re:It Hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30297562)

+1 Insightful. It's easy to forget how drastically centuries of selective breeding have changed wild plants. The "heritage" varieties are no exception.

I just cracked it! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296342)

Using my botnet, I finally cracked the message! It's just the same phrase over and over again...

Drink More Ovaltine

Anyone have a clue what it means?

Re:I just cracked it! (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296466)

It means the Visitors are trying to poison us all.

This would explain a lot about Ohio politics. (3, Funny)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296348)

Oh, that was Voynich Manuscript...that's different. Never mind.

obMST3K (1)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296370)

The link is at least more likely than to Leonardo da Gary Indiana.

Re:obMST3K (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30297406)

Or Leoardo da Oxnard

Re:obMST3K (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297716)

The link is at least more likely than to Leonardo da Gary Indiana.

or Leonardo da Ninja Turtle

Important texts are ultimately communicated (1, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296392)

A message is encoded with the ultimate goal of its being decoded and transmitted. A message that is not decoded is a failed message. This means that someone has the key, if one exists.

A code that has no key is a joke or a puzzle. It has no important information to convey.

Fermat once wrote "I have discovered a truly remarkable proof which this margin is too small to contain." If he did indeed discover such a proof, he would have written it down somewhere else. This was a joke.

So too is a whole book written in an undecipherable code. Whatever the roots of this manuscript are, there is no doubt that it was the work of a prankster (or team of pranksters) playing a trick on posterity.

Re:Important texts are ultimately communicated (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296508)

But they did go on to prove Fermat's theorem. So maybe he did write down the proof somewhere else. Maybe it was just lost. I'm sure paper's have been lost before, it wouldn't be the first time. The proof took a long time to be proved, and was quite a long one, but that's not to say that it's impossible that Fermat actually had a proof. For sure it wouldn't have fit inside the margin of that text. Maybe the person who the Voynich manuscript was meant for did decode it, and it completed it's point. Maybe it wasn't meant for the entire world to get the message, but just a small group of people who have since passed away.

Re:Important texts are ultimately communicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296516)

Many medieval works on alchemy, necromancy, and other forbidden or secretive topics were written in obscure codes, such that we're not sure if some texts on alchemy are works of philosophy or coded recipes.

Something encrypted with a one-time pad is also "undecipherable". That doesn't mean it's a hoax.

Not xor (1)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296864)

Back then, with the Great Chain of Being still lurking in the background, and the influence of 'as above, so below' mysticism (which, admittedly, had a good influence on Newton and everyone else deciding that universal 'laws' [no inverted commas for them, though] guided the universe), it is quite possible that they believed that understanding the nature of base metal and the process whereby base it could be changed to gold would be the very image of understanding that whereby the soul could reach an higher level of being.

I don't hold with that---whenever a guru, however called, starts to invoke q.m. to justify her latest outrage against sense I reach for my notional Browning---but (as indicated parenthetically super) it does seem to be a phase in getting toward a less particularist point-of-view: maybe we _have_ to go through a 'life is like the stars are like chymistry' phase before we can advance (yes, I still believe that some things are better than others) to 'there is no intrinsic difference between the motion of the stars and planets and those down here on Earth' to '...between organic and inorganic chemistry' to 'it's all basically physics'.

(Did I mention I was a physicist?)

Re:Important texts are ultimately communicated (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296662)

Neither was a joke, firstly theorems often take pages to prove even though they glisten lke a perfect jewel in the mind and you can't squeeze that into a margin. Secondly it seems to be a code that still puzzles cryptographers because they are far too constrained. We might need a clueless blogger to figure it out after all.

Re:Important texts are ultimately communicated (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296772)

Regarding Fermat's last theorem, the usual story on that is that Fermat had what he thought was an extremely elegant proof in mind. The trouble was that his proof was wrong.

Re:Important texts are ultimately communicated (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297374)

What actually helps persuade me about that version of events is that he evidently *did* write it down somewhere -- and realised his mistake and burned it in the fire.

Re:Important texts are ultimately communicated (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297014)

Fermat's theorem was that, given a tantalizing-enough hint, mathematicians will spend centuries trying to discover a proof that does not exist. I'd say he was right.

Really now (5, Insightful)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296396)

I know nothing about this manuscript except what is written in this article, but if it's anagrams, a simple analysis of the letter frequency would have revealed that.

Re:Really now (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296442)

I wouldn't say that necessarily. It's a very old manuscript, and modern Italian letter frequencies won't necessarily hold. It also appears that many people were laboring to decipher it under the assumption that it is encoded English.

But someone a little more thoughtful is obviously going to need to take a crack at it.

Re:Really now (1)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296512)

Given that NSA cryptographers have had a bash at it in the 50s (as have many other experienced linguists/cryptographers/... in the last 400 years or so), I suspect they may have considered that the decrypt wasn't in english and that they would have looked at letter frequencies of languages at the time of the authorship of the work. The wiki (font of all true facts, I know) mentions that the best fit of the language structure is something from the orient, even.

Re:Really now (1)

Skreems (598317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297552)

From glancing through the article, it appears they're contending that DaVinci had some peculiar letter substitution habits of his own (substituting 'on' with 'cc', 'ove' with 'x', etc). I don't know the source of this claim, but if it's true, it seems reasonable that medieval Italian plus a single individual's personal shorthand might be enough to throw broad language-based frequency analysis off track.

Re:Really now (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296712)

Philologists know the progression of Italian going all the way back to latin pretty darn well (which is all really quite interesting). letter distribution is either known, or can be very reliably extrapolated for just about any year you want.

Re:Really now (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296602)

The article itself doesn't seem to claim it's anagrams. In fact, it's not clear it claims anything at all, besides "cc" standing for "on" wherever it appears (or maybe only some of where it appears). The main thesis seems to be that if you squint at it, read it as sloppy handwriting, replace a few letter-pairs with something else they cipher for, and ignore words that don't fit this scheme (assuming they were thrown in to confuse), it might make sense. But that's a pretty ad-hoc hypothesis, and not much is shown to explain how well it works.

Re:Really now (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296618)

Oh, oops, I was reading the wrong one of her articles (the 2nd one linked). The first one does indeed claim it's anagrams. Which, indeed, don't explain the strange letter-frequency and word-length-frequency distributions (or at least don't by themselves explain it).

Rather poor. (1)

Walterk (124748) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296416)

According to the linked(!) wikipedia article, they've been trying to decode it since 1629, which is nearly 400 years, not just 100. One of the big mysteries seems to be how old it exactly it. Why has no one tried carbon dating this book yet?

Anagrams and ciphers (1)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296418)

If it were just anagrams, that shouldn't have stymied people trying to crack it as a cipher---symbol-frequencies aren't screwed-up by changing the ordering....

Hmm... (5, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296422)

Wasn't Voynich Manuscript already solved by Randall Munroe? [xkcd.com]

Who's "Munroe's Law" is it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296528)

...that states, 'Whoever first cites an xkcd comic in favour of their argument wins,"?

Re:Who's "Munroe's Law" is it... (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297404)

Just a wild guess, but is it Munroe's?

Not far in fact (2, Funny)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296888)

In fact, the working hypothesis of TFA's Author is that the manuscript may have been written by a young - still child - Leonardo, playing around with anagrams and trying to make an imaginary book out of common plants.
Not that far from children playing "Druids & Dicotyledon 1st Edition"

Where's the oblig xkcd? (-1, Offtopic)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296430)

Someone's slacking off here. Oh wait, it's me.

Re:Where's the oblig xkcd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296738)

I'm not slacking off - my code's compiling. Oh wait - wrong xkcd.

I have a theory too. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296436)

The key to discovering the secrets of this manuscript are to be found by first finding Wilfrid Voynich's Bacon Factor.

Re:I have a theory too. (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297016)

Clever, but you have to RTFA so no one will get it.

I cracked the code years ago. (5, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296446)

It says:

Pound pastrami, can kraut,six bagels--bring home for Emma."

Re:I cracked the code years ago. (2, Funny)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296490)

It also says:

Form eyeball-size pieces from the dough
Roll in the powdered sugar
And say the Magic Words:
"Sim sala bim bamba sala do saladim"

Re:I cracked the code years ago. (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296782)

Presto, Eggs of Satan!

Re:I cracked the code years ago. (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296828)

And NO EGGS!

Re:I cracked the code years ago. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296506)

Mod parent up for best literary reference.

--
BMO

Re:I cracked the code years ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30297542)

He's saying that because the line "Pound pastrami, can kraut,six bagels--bring home for Emma" is from a book called A Canticle for Leibowitz which is a science fiction novel about a post-apocolyptic era where a monk discovers a scrap of paper that is considered a sacred relic because it says Pound pastrami, can kraut,six bagels--bring home for Emma and nobody can figure out what it meant. So the OP is making a joke. Just letting you know.

Re:I cracked the code years ago. (2, Funny)

donaggie03 (769758) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296536)

It says:

Pound pastrami, can kraut,six bagels--bring home for Emma."

NO NO NO! Whoever heard of "A Canticle for Voynich" ?? It just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Hypothesis testing (5, Insightful)

PopeOptimusPrime (875888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296470)

Hypothesis: The manuscript is anagrammatic Italian.
Corollary 1: The manuscript should contain appropriate letter frequencies for said language.
Corollary 2: The manuscript should contain all relevant letters.
Conclusion: Neither Corollary 1 nor 2 are true, thus hypothesis is rejected.
...
???
...
Add to the annals of the internet.

Re:Hypothesis testing (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297466)

Only if the amount of words is large enough to have said letter frequencies and said relevant letters. I find the examples given very, very convincing. That doesn't mean that other examples are unconvincing, nor that most examples simply aren't given. But there may just be an explanation for that. As in: written in another language, or using another method of obfuscation.

Re:Hypothesis testing (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297572)

So...

Tactic to decoding any encrypted or otherwise obfuscated work:

1) Pick an arbitrary set of words
2) Perform an arbitrary map from those words to the Latin alphabet
3) Play a quick game of anagrams
4) Declare those words deciphered

5) Pick another arbitrary set of words
6) Declare these words encrypted with a simple shift algorithm
7) Declare the results anagrammatic and play games
8) Declare those words deciphered

9) Rinse and repeat for any arbitrary sets of words and arbitrary encryption mechanism you like until the entire work says what you want it to say
or
9) Rinse and repeat for any arbitrary sets of words and arbitrary encryption mechanism you like until you get bored and decide that leaving illustrations labelled "illustration" is good enough for government work and go home for a happy wank

Oh Crap! (2, Funny)

AnotherBrian (319405) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296472)

Like we need another lame Dan Brown book+movie.

Also, http://xkcd.com/593/ [xkcd.com]

Debunked almost a year ago (5, Informative)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296498)

Re:Debunked almost a year ago (3, Informative)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296634)

I said the same thing when this was still in "recent". If there's been genuine cryptanalysis on it, and there has, an anagram cipher would show up immediately. I can't find any information on who this edith sherwood (Ph.D!) is, but a simple google search on her name popped up with that informative link.

Re:Debunked almost a year ago (1)

yerktoader (413167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297596)

One of the posters above read the article rather than Slashdot's headline. She is apparently postulating medieval Italian. Would cryptanalysis reveal that? Because I am otherwise inclined to agree and write her off as another Zecharia Sitchin [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Debunked almost a year ago (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297332)

I dont know why people cant accept that this thing is just a fun little hoax from 500 years ago. 16th century people had senses of humor and mystery too. Someone concocted it for shits and giggles or perhaps from a serious mental illness. Its a shame this person isnt around today to hear these tales of connections with da vinci, aliens, etc. Shame, for now it just brings out the "Dan Brown is the realz" crowd and other conspiracy nutters.

Re:Debunked almost a year ago (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297454)

Hey, quit projecting your pompassitude.

How do you know who does and who doesn't think the Voynich manuscript was a hoax? You haven't heard what I think about it.

And I call your Dan Brown and raise you an Umberto Eco.

And it says... (5, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296530)

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Duis ut nibh et nunc scelerisque vestibulum non ac diam. Sed porttitor mauris a lorem tempus faucibus.

This is a test of my new pen."

It's a cook book! (2, Funny)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296554)

It's a cook book!

So there is no "unbreakable" code? (1)

cpscotti (1032676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296582)

This is NOT funny in many ways.. I used to amaze people around me with the story of the never solved, very old, famous manuscript. I was really happy living with this "mistery"... now what.. I'll have to go back talking about the origin of "guy"/Fawkes again? no... I'll skip this solution and continue with the Voynich!

Possible hoax,,, (1)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296586)

I know it seems outlandish for something of that time period, but isn't it even remotely possible that someone could have created this document just for the purposes of confounding scholars? Perhaps it started as a joke for a collegue and got out of hand, or just happens to be the work of a mad man. Perhaps there is nothing to decode.

Re:Possible hoax,,, (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296728)

Forget scholars. Confound the laity and the common man.

Make up a fancy book that you can claim to read, practice fortune telling or medicine! Earn a living through fraud.

The only mystery is how you would get someone with a practiced hand and good penmanship to slog through helping you.

Re:Possible hoax,,, (1)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296966)

Or even more likely, confound the rich nobleman with a taste for shiny objects. Take a couple of months to whip up something that looks like a rare lost book, then offer it for sale and get years worth of money. Though admittedly, even if it was totally made up, it is still an amazingly beautiful work of art.

Re:Possible hoax,,, (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297564)

It's certainly possible, but it's incredibly long and detailed to be a hoax.

I'm reminded of a scene from Star Trek DS9 when Dr Bashir is trying to cure an engineered disease and has the following exchange with Jadzia (paraphrased):

Bashir: "There is no cure. The Dominion saw to that. These people have been suffering with this disease for hundreds of years and I arrogantly thought I could cure it within a week.".

Jadzia: "Maybe that was arrogant, but it's even more arrogant to think that there is no cure just because YOU couldn't find it one."

I've always thought that little bit of dialog held wisdom, and applies to us on a generational level and even as a species. Just because we haven't been able to crack it doesn't mean it's a hoax.

While we're speculating though, I've always though that it may just be in a made up language that was then ciphered. Even in high school some friends and I had a very basic "language" of maybe a few hundred words that we would use to talk about things without others knowing what were were talking about. I can't remember most of the words know but mixing that with English just as a trivial little game we were able to communicate decently. Someone (or group) with more time and motivation could do much better. Heck Klingon and Tolkein's Elvish are remarkably well fleshed out for fictional languages. Such a move would prove difficult to crack indeed.

Re:Possible hoax,,, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30297660)

Hey, next time could you be reminded of something a bit more pathetically nerdy? Star Trek's a bit too mainstream for me.

Anonymous Coward (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296612)

C'mon, this article can't be serious. Anyone with a bit (and I mean a BIT) of knowledge about cryptography knows this can't be true, for all the motivations that many have already posted above.
And, I'm Italian, and we study Italian literature for 10 years in school, and I can swear that the italian language wasn't that different than the actual one 700 years ago. I mean, a letter frequency analysis would have already solved this.

FFS... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30296616)

Da Vinci was Leonardo's address, not his name. Sort yourself out.

Re:FFS... (1, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297226)

In those times it wasn't uncommon that your address - at least the town - was also your name. Godfroi de Bouillon, John of Gaunt, von Blücher.

 

It seems highly repetitive (2, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296652)

Hypothesis: Leonardo Da Vinci had a son (perhaps named Bartolomeo). As punishment for Bart's mischief, Leonardo ordered him to write 300 pages' worth of "Non rivelero il segreto di mio padre" using Da Vinci's secret script in mirror image.

What the heck? It's that time of the year... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296694)

besuretodrinkyourovaltine

security through obscurity (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296796)

Doesn't work, you would think he would have been smarter.

I've had this great idea... (1)

iapetus (24050) | more than 4 years ago | (#30296876)

We take an infinite number of monkeys, and an infinite number of parchments, and eventually one of them will write a new play by that Shakespeare fellow...

what (3, Insightful)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297008)

How did it not occur to this dipshit that if the "code" were just Italian anagrams, Italians would've figured it out a long time ago?

Re:what (1)

gregarican (694358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297402)

They got stuck because they were too busy talking with their hands and saying "Heyyyy!"

Re:what (1)

Rod Beauvex (832040) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297630)

*points at you while driving by on his scooter* Caio!

Boring... (1)

joh (27088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297268)

Have you ever looked at that book? Look at the pictures and you'll know that there's nothing to decode. It's just phantasizing, all made up. There's no reason to waste any time with the text, especially since many people have tried and nobody found any kind of sense in it.

It's still beautiful, mind you.

Re:Boring... (1)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297712)

Yeap.. it's probably some background work for an early Italian role-playing-game written in the old equivalent version of 'Klingon'...

Leonardo, not daVinci (2, Informative)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297680)

Let's try to stay well clear of pot boilers. Art historians refer to the renaissance polymath as "Leonardo," not as "Mr. Da Vinci." Sidmilarly, Dante, rather than "Mr Alligheri" wrote the Divine Comedy.

I happen to be a linguistics major (2, Interesting)

Naznarreb (1274908) | more than 4 years ago | (#30297742)

I happen to be a linguistics major, and I don't want the manuscript to ever be decoded. To me, the manuscript is a symbol of the complexity of language and the depth of human ingenuity and creativity. The fact the best minds of the last 100ish years haven't cracked it reminds me that there is always some further mystery waiting to be solved and that we should be leery of anyone who claims to have all the answers.
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