There it is Red Murray said


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. (…)

“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.

{ LA Times | Continue reading }

photo { Darren Almond }