An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Since its discovery over a hundred years ago, the 240-page Voynich Manuscript, filled with seemingly coded language and inscrutable illustrations, of has confounded linguists and cryptographers. Using artificial intelligence, Canadian researchers have taken a huge step forward in unraveling the document's hidden meaning. Named after Wilfrid Voynich, the Polish book dealer who procured the manuscript in 1912, the document is written in an unknown script that encodes an unknown language -- a double-whammy of unknowns that has, until this point, been impossible to interpret. The Voynich manuscript contains hundreds of fragile pages, some missing, with hand-written text going from left to right. Most pages are adorned with illustrations of diagrams, including plants, nude figures, and astronomical symbols. But as for the meaning of the text -- nothing. No clue. For Greg Kondrak, an expert in natural language processing at the University of Alberta, this seemed a perfect task for artificial intelligence. With the help of his grad student Bradley Hauer, the computer scientists have taken a big step in cracking the code, discovering that the text is written in what appears to be the Hebrew language, and with letters arranged in a fixed pattern. To be fair, the researchers still don't know the meaning of the Voynich manuscript, but the stage is now set for other experts to join the investigation. The researchers used an AI to study "the text of the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' as it was written in 380 different languages, looking for patterns," reports Gizmodo. Following this training, the AI analyzed the Voynich gibberish, concluding with a high rate of certainty that the text was written in encoded Hebrew." The researchers then entertained a hypothesis that the script was created with alphagrams, words in which text has been replaced by an alphabetically ordered anagram. "Armed with the knowledge that text was originally coded from Hebrew, the researchers devised an algorithm that could take these anagrams and create real Hebrew words." Finally, "the researchers deciphered the opening phrase of the manuscript" and ran it through Google Translate to convert it into passable English: "She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people." The study appears in Transactions of the Association of Computational Linguistics .
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