Cryptographers and language experts have been baffled by the mysterious Voynich Manuscript since its rediscovery in 1912 by a Polish book dealer. The 15th-Century document contains 240 handwritten pages and it is currently in the possession of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. This manuscript is bizarre and fascinating in many ways. It is written from right to left in a mysterious language that nobody has managed to translate. Moreover, some believe that a code must be broken in order for the language to reveal itself. Some of the best cryptographers in the world, like the Bletchley Park team and Alan Turing have not managed to break it.
However, some experts from the University of Alberta have decided to use a more unorthodox method to try and reveal the book’s secrets: artificial intelligence. Initially, language processing expert Greg Kondrak and student Bradley Hauer thought that the manuscript is in Arabic. However, after using artificial intelligence trained to recognize 380 different languages, the letter frequency seemed to indicate more towards Hebrew. The journal Transactions of the Association of Computational Linguistics has recently published their findings.
Decoding the mysterious Voynich Manuscript
Kondrak says that they were surprised by this discovery. So, if the language was Hebrew, what was the code? They initially thought that the words were actually alphagrams. This means that there are no vowels and the letters are shuffled. Upon unscrambling the first line of the text, they found that indeed, 80% of the words were from the Hebrew dictionary. Because none of them knew Hebrew, they asked colleague and computer scientist Moshe Koppel for help. Upon fixing some issues with the text, they managed to reveal a sentence that didn’t make much sense. Also, a 72-word section included words like “light”, “air” and “farmer”.
They need to work on it more but at the moment, there are some theories regarding what could this book be about. The most common one is that it’s a textbook on women’s health, based on the illustrations of plants and women bathing.
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