Sunday, 19 August 2012

Mysteriously Yours !

I often delve myself into texts and other forms of expressions that have to do with mysteries or with some hidden message that needs a little more than common sense to unveil. In my tryst, I came across a documentary on Discovery Science based on the most mysterious manuscript of all times - The Voynich Manuscript. Often cited as the most intriguing manuscript of our history, this book has given a lot of pain to all those who made an attempt to decipher its message. Its perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of all times that is waiting to unfold.

A section of the coveted Voynich Manuscript


The Voynich Manuscript is a possibly ciphered piece of text spread over 240 pages. The script is believed to be written somewhere between 14th and 15th centuries as C14 dating of the vellum on which its written asserts this. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, the man who brought it in 1912 and brought the coveted book out of the shelves and welcomed it to a new world of exploration and speculation.


The book before coming to Voynich kept changing its owners with some of them being amateur collectors and some of them being veterans in the fields of cryptology and language.The book primarily contains pictures and text that is written in an alphabet that is unique in its own ways. The manuscript contains images of certain plants and fauna but certain images are believed to represent something else. Some images are so radial that whereas some believe them to be the structure of a flower, others believe them to be a view of some galaxy taken through some telescope.And like this, the interpretations are so varied that a conclusion can only dreamt of being reached. The text contains of something that's written from left to right but due to the unknown language its hard to see if it actually means something.

Although the text is almost non decipherable, there are certain patterns to it. Certain characters reappear after some fixed gaps, certain characters always form the beginning and end of a word or a set of words. Actually, the script is so crude that its even not broken into words, so any possible analysis is done on frequency of individual letters.Punctuation is used to break large chunks of words into paragraphs and separating blocks of text from each other via an asterisk based notation.Some computer mapped representations of the text were made to search for patterns and it was revealed that the language used is very similar to a partially structured language like English.

Due to the nature of the script's language resembling some other languages, some believe that the manuscript was a mere attempt of mapping the alphabet of some language into a set of calligraphic characters which the author had created. This explanation renders the script useless and regards it as a mere piece of art. However, some believe that if this were to be the case, a lot of men who spent entire decades in attempting to decipher it wont have done that. And more astonishingly, these men were top notch cryptologists or language researchers of their times. So if the script were a mere attempt at calligraphic mapping, it should have been noticed by one of these men. However, a scientist who hired some calligraphers and asked them to use a specific pattern to select calligraphic letters from a set of such letters and create a manuscript, was able to generate a similar manuscript in a few weeks.He asked them to randomly fill 600 blocks on a sheet of paper with different calligraphic characters and asked them to choose three of them at a time using a cardboard that had three squares holed in it.This scientist believes that for Voynich himself being an expert at such things, he could have easily made the script in just a few months. However, this, if true, asserts that the results of the C14 dating were manipulated.

So what exactly does the script contain ? Is it a mere attempt at fooling the reader and making him believe that its useful even though its not, or is it a message whose meaning is larger than what we perceive it to be. This has already been a subject of a lot of fiction and research. Some believe that its a mere expression of certain medicinal powers of the plants whose pictures are depicted, whereas some believe that the plants and the text used to describe them contain a meaning of their own. It might be a gateway to our future or it might be a gateway to some properties of plants that can save our lives. It may even be a treasure map as such things often turn out to be or it may be a message that was transmitted from one Kingdom to the other in a form so secure that no one would have thought it to be of any use. Some believe that the script came in two parts and the other part contains the deciphering mechanism to be implemented whereas some believe that the construction of the deciphering mechanism was left as a task for the receiver of the manuscript.

Perhaps with some more powerful and a more intelligent supercomputer in the future, a program could be written to extract any possible meaning(s) out of this text. Till then, all those scientists and researchers who have devoted a hell lot of time to this, would continue to do so. This script, till then, continues to be the most intriguing and the most puzzling piece of text ever written !