German Secret Society's18th Century Code Unraveled by Modern Algorithms
By using modern applications (statistical translation techniques) computer scientists from the United States and Sweden have decoded a German Secret Society's 105 page manuscript, dated between 1760-1780, that has kept its secrets since being discovered in the East Berlin Academy after the Cold War, according to news reports. (Jesse Emspak, Discovery News)
The Copiale Cipher, the nickname of the original document, was written in a combination of elaborate symbols and Roman letters and was signed by a "Philipp in 1866". (Jesse Emspak, Discovery News) It had been kept in a private collection and previous attempts to break open the cipher had failed because it was more sophisticated than most codes.
However, this year, "University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering computer scientist Kevin Knight — an expert in translation, not so much in cryptography — and colleagues Beáta Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University in Sweden, tracked down the document, transcribed a machine-readable version and set to work cracking the centuries-old code." (Mark Brown, Wired, UK)
Isolating the Roman and Greek characters, thinking they would hit pay dirt, Knight and his colleagues used a home-made translation project that took them through eighty different languages and yielded up unfathomable nonsense and gibberish. "Complete failure,” said Knight in a press release. Then Knight and his team realized that the Roman characters were deceptions designed to lure away the reader from discovery.
It was the abstract symbols that held the message. (press release) Knight and colleagues then applied their "hypothesis that abstract symbols with similar shapes represented the same letter, or groups of letters." (press release) After trial and error, understandable words of German emerged: "Ceremonies of Initiation," followed by "Secret Section." (press release)Continued on the next page