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Another chapter in the story of the world’s most mysterious book

April 17th, 2007

Gordon Rugg’s work showed that the Voynich Manuscript could have been hoaxed. Whether or not the manuscript actually was a hoax was another question. A key problem was finding a suitable type of statistical analysis.

A breakthrough comes with the publication in Cryptologia this April of an article by Austrian researcher Dr Andreas Schinner, a theoretical physicist and software engineer at the Johannes Kepler University. Schinner analysed the text of the manuscript using specialist statistics capable of handling quasi-stochastic distributions, and found that the manuscript’s statistical properties were consistent with a hoax consisting of meaningless gibberish produced using Rugg’s method or a similar quasi-random method.

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.

Further work will be needed to provide a definitive answer, but Schinner’s article shows how the problem can be tackled. This may not be the final chapter in the story of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, but it may well be the start of the closing section.

Some online articles

Wissenschaft.de: Das Geheimnis des mysteriösen Voynich-Codes
Wired 12/09: Scientifc Method Man
BBC Features: Voynich Manuscript
Scientific American: The Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript
Nature: World’s most mysterious book may be a hoax

Some links about my work

A short overview
A more detailed description
FAQs about my work
Some common misunderstandings of my work (short) (pdf)
Some common misunderstandings of my work (detailed) (pdf)
Statistical issues relating to my own work on the manuscript (pdf)

 

 

Related Online Articles

Gordon Rugg

Voynich Manuscript

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