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USC scientist, Swedish researchers decode 18th century document of German secret society

USC scientist, Swedish researchers decode 18th century document

Breaking the code on the Copiale Cipher revealed rituals and political views of a secret German society and its fascination with ophthalmology. Peers say the team's effort has led to new techniques.

[TD] [Image: 65661193.jpg] The Copiale Cipher was found in East Berlin after the end of the Cold War, and no one had been able to decode it.

By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times October 26, 2011

Thousands of characters letters and obscure symbols filled the more than 100 pages of a centuries-old text that had been located in East Berlin after the end of the Cold War. No one knew what the text meant, or even what language it was in. It was a mystery that USC computer scientist Kevin Knight and two Swedish researchers sought to solve.

After months of painstaking work and a few trips down the wrong path, the moment finally came when the team knew it was on to something. Out of what had been gibberish emerged one word: ceremonie a variation of the German word for ceremony. Knight said they figured out the rest from there.

Breaking the code on the document known as the Copiale Cipher revealed the rituals and political observations of an 18th century secret German society, as well as the group's unusual fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology.

But the larger significance of the team's work wasn't necessarily the discovery, it was how they arrived at it.

Knight said he was driven by a puzzle that required him to outwit a centuries-old group's quest for secrecy. He was also inspired by the fact that many others had tried and failed to decipher it. "I defeated their security!" he said.

"For me, the fun is in cracking the code," he said. "It has passed through a lot of hands, but you persevered and could read what other people couldn't."

In January, Knight began working with Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University in Sweden. In April, they had it figured out.

"You start to see patterns, then you reach the magic point where a word appears," he said. It was then, he said, "you no longer even care what the document's about."

The team ran statistical analyses of 80 languages, initially believing that the code lay in the Roman letters between the symbols that dotted the pages. Using a combination of brain power and computer wizardry, they broke the code by figuring out the symbols.

Fellow computational linguists and computer scientists said the work of Knight and his team has led to some new techniques to break codes that have long stumped them, such as the Voynich Manuscript, a medieval document, or the last section of "Kryptos," an encrypted message carved into a sculpture at CIA headquarters.

Graeme Hirst, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, said Knight's work reminded him of that of Alan Turing, the English computer scientist and mathematician who cracked German codes during World War II. "Kevin and his team are channeling their inner Turing," he said, "except they are faster and better because of all that we've learned."

The project may have been a joint effort between man and machine, but Hirst said this was evidence that the cunning and nimble researcher was the key to solving the code not a computer's ability for statistical analysis.

"This is something humans did," he said, "not something computers did."
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
I'm at a loss for words.

This perhaps is the antidote for the sophomoric efforts sometimes turned in by the the great secrecy surveillance military banking control Octopus.

By decoding the original, they gain a big leg up on the competition and can institute new programs (or enervate and re-invent old ones) to keep us on-edge, glued to our chairs, unable to speak.

Perhaps some day there will be a publication known as "The Copiale Papers". Ten years later, one of our children's children will document painstakingly how the instrument and the cipher were knowingly mis-handled, mis-interpreted, obscured in the subsequent commissions examining it, and a large sub-industry that generates and supports further argument, deception, investigation, and analysis.

It will run on its own as a sub-program of Wurlitzer 5.0.
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

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