Artificial Intelligence May Have Cracked Freaky 600-Year-Old Manuscript

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The Vonyich manuscript (Image: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University)

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.


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