Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Analysis suggests that the Voynich Manuscript is a hoax
The 500-year-old Voynich Manuscript, kept at Yale University, is a beautiful and mysterious parchment book filled with arcane symbols and coded handwriting. Ever since it was discovered, researchers have been trying -- and failing -- to decipher the text.
Some people suspect the Voynich Manuscript to be the work of a rascal by the name of Edward Kelley, who may have written it in the 16th century to make money. (Here's a good history of the Voynich Manuscript from the BBC.)
Now, an Austrian physicist and software engineer at the Johannes Kepler University reports that the Voynich Manuscript is likely to be a hoax. Dr Andreas Schinner analyzed the text and his findings suggest that it's gibbberish.
This does not prove that the manuscript is a hoax, but it strongly suggests that the hoax theory is correct. If there is meaningful coded material in the manuscript, then either:
* there is only a small amount, surrounded by large amounts of meaningless padding - otherwise the statistics would have come out differently, or
* if there is a large amount of meaningful coded material, then it must have been encoded using a method which just happens to produce the same statistical properties as a quasi-random gibberish generator.
Anything encrypted properly should actually look like random noise.