Scientists in California and Sweden said they have used computer translation techniques to solve a 250-year-old mystery by deciphering a coded manuscript written for a secret society.
The University of Southern California (USC) announced on Tuesday that researchers had broken the Copiale Cipher, a 105-page, 18th-century document from Germany.
The handwritten, beautifully bound book didn’t contain any sort of “Da Vince Code,” but rather a snapshot of the arcane rituals practiced by one of the many secret societies that flourished in the 1700s.
It also recorded rites for some apparent sects of Freemasonry that showed political leanings.
“This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies,” USC computer scientist Kevin Knight, who was on the deciphering team, said in a statement. “Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered.”
The handwritten Copiale Cipher was discovered in East Berlin after the Cold War and is now in a private collection. Most of the book was written in a cipher of 90 characters that included abstract symbols and Roman and Greek letters.
Knight and Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Sweden’s Uppsala University went to work cracking it earlier this year. They used a computer program to automate a key code-breaking procedure — tallying the frequency and grouping of the letters and symbols — then automated the process of comparing the cipher to known languages.
It’s a method used by many automated translation programs.
The researchers tried the Roman letters first, comparing them to about 80 languages.
“It took quite a long time and resulted in complete failure,” Knight said.
Eventually, they determined that the abstract symbols, not the unaccented Roman letters, bore the message. The first words deciphered were German for “ceremonies of initiation” and “secret section.”
The initiation rites were for an “ocular society” that used a lot of eye-based symbolism.
Knight is working on cracking other ciphers, including one that San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer used in messages to police during his spree; the last section of Kryptos, a coded sculpture at CIA headquarters, and the Voynich Manuscript, a famous work from the 1400s.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable