Voynich-Flowers-bar

Several Voynich Manuscript experts have published statements about the alleged Voynich Manuscript solution by Kondrak and Hauer. Here’s a summary.

There’s one important difference between the Voynich Manuscript solution suggested by Kondrak and Hauer and dozens of other alleged Voynich solutions: the Kondrak/Hauer work was published in a renowned scientific magazine, while almost all other decipherments never made it through a peer-review.

Considering that the Kondrak/Hauer work passed the litmus test of a peer-review, there seem to be only two possibilities: either the solution makes sense, or the reviewers did a bad job. However, as I explained in one of my last posts, I believe that this time neither the one nor the other is the case. Instead, the Kondrak/Hauer solution is just an experimental add-on to a serious scientific work, described in the last chapter of a research paper. It is based on the assumption that the text in the Voynich Manuscript was created using a MASC encryption with anagrammed words – an assumption that is probably wrong. However, the two authors are aware of this, and they don’t claim that they really have solved the mystery.

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It should be noted that Kondrak’s and Hauer’s paper is already two years old. Apparently, the two have not advertised their finding in the Voynich scene, which is further evidence that they consider their decipherment more an experiment than a real solution.

If you want to read my thoughts about the Kondrak/Hauer work in German, I recommend an interview I have given to the German skeptics society GWUP (being a member of this organisation, I also recommend looking at other GWUP web pages; it’s worth it).

Other Voynich Manuscript experts have commented on the Kondrak Hauer solution, as well.

 

René Zandbergen’s statement

René Zandbergen, a Dutch engineer and language genius living in Germany, is in my view the world’s leading Voynich Manuscript expert.

Rene-Zandbergen

René’s Voynich Manuscript website is a must-read for everybody interested in this topic. Especially, I recommend the page, on which René describes his personal believes about the Voynich Manuscript.

The latest text on René’s site is a statement about the Kondrak/Hauer work. This statement gives a very good summary of the paper – ideal for everybody who has trouble understanding the original, which is quite technical.

Like me, René doesn’t think that Kondrak and Hauer have solved the Voynich Manuscript. In addition to mentioning the assumptions (MASC with anagrammed words), which are far from compelling, he writes:

The Voynich MS has a number of features that are not addressed in the paper. The most important one is that the character bigram entropy is anomalously low. The only way that this could happen in the proposed scenario is that this is the result of the anagramming, but earlier experiments in this direction have not been successful. The bigram entropy, which is associated with peculiar word patterns in the Voynich MS text, is simply too low.

Moreover, René notes that Kondrak’s and Hauer’s results are dependent of the transcription used (there are several transcriptions of the text in the Voynich Manuscript; they differ in many respects).

 

Nick Pelling’s statement

Nick Pelling, London-based Voynich Manuscript and cipher mysteries expert, has published a blog post about the Kondrak/Hauer decipherment, too.

Pelling

Already in Nick’s headline, “Have Kondrak and Hauer finally revealed the Voynich Manuscript’s secrets? (Errrm… no, not really, sorry. But…)”, you get a taste of his British humor.

In his article, Nick explains why the Kondrak/Hauer decipherment is not correct. In addition, he explains that many others have had similar ideas before. So, it would have made sense for Kondrak and Hauer to add a “related work” chapter to their paper. It can certainly be criticised that they didn’t do this.

 

Jürgen Hermes

Jürgen Hermes, a linguist and Voynich Manuscript expert from Cologne, has an interesting website (TEXperimentales) with several voynich Manuscript articles (in German). He recently commented on the Kondrak/Hauer paper.

Hermes

Like René Zandbergen, Jürgen criticises that Kondrak and Hauer ingore imporant properties of the Voynich Manuscript text. In addition, Jürgen suggests that a text created with the method the two linguists write about (MASC-encrypting and anagramming Hebrew text) should be compared with other Voynich text creation methods described in the literature – certainly a good idea.

 

Conclusion

All in all, it is absolutely clear that Kondrak and Hauer have not deciphered the text in the Voynich Manuscript. Their “solution” is the result of an experiment based on probably wrong assumptions. However, as the authors regard their Voynich decipherment as an experiment, too, there is not much to be criticised.


Further reading: Has the Voynich manuscript been deciphered by Russian scientists?

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Kommentare (10)

  1. #1 Thomas
    6. Februar 2018

    Klaus:
    If Kondrak and Hauer are right, the index of coincidence of the VM must be identical to the IoC of 15th century Hebrew, because neither MASC nor anagramming influence the IoC. Has this been tested? But, as Jürgen Hermes pointed out, their approach isn’t consistent with other statistical properties of the VM.
    BTW: What is the current state of Hermes’ hypothesis that there could be an underlying text generating method similar to Trithemius’ Polygraphia III? Has there been further research after his doctoral dissertation?

  2. #2 Jürgen Hermes
    6. Februar 2018

    Thank you for your nice summary, Klaus! And of course Thank you for mentioning me in a line with two VoynichMS-luminaries like Renè Zandbergen and Nick Pelling! Both explain better than I do and much more in detail what we should know about the “AI-approach” in deciphering the manuscript.

    Just to briefly summarize my points in English:

    1) If you have an algorithm that determines the most similar substituted-anagrammed natural language compared to the VoynichMS, you have gained nothing if the VoynichMS is not a substituted-anagrammed cipher (and there is a lot of evidence that it is not).

    2) The generative capacity of anagram decoding – especially for written languages without vowels – is extremely high. If you additionally make “some spelling corrections” and after that use of Google translate, because the deciphered text makes no sense for you, I’m sure that you will get a meaningful English sentence on the base of each character sequence, regardless of whether you found it in the VoynichMS or not.

  3. #3 Jürgen Hermes
    6. Februar 2018

    @Thomas
    I havn’t done any further research on the PIII-hypothesis because in the meantime I have passed Occham’s razor to Torsten Timm. His hypthesis (which I’ve called autocopist theory – see https://texperimentales.hypotheses.org/1076) explains in a simpler way how the Voynich manuscript could have been created. I still don’t think that my PIII-hypothesis has been disproved, but I decided to defer it for the time being.

  4. #4 Patric Hausammann
    Basel
    6. Februar 2018

    I agree with Mr. Pelling’s opinion, quote: ” Errrm… no, not really, sorry. But…” 😉

  5. #5 René Zandbergen
    Darmstadt
    6. Februar 2018

    I also went to search for the source texts used by the authors: the 380 versions of the UDHR. They refer to:

    Guy Emerson, Liling Tan, Susanne Fertmann, Alexis Palmer, and Michaela Regneri. 2014.
    Seedling: Building and using a seed corpus for the human language project. In Workshop on the Use of Computational Methods in the Study of Endangered Languages, pages 77–85.

    which can be found online. This gives the source:

    http://unicode.org/udhr/d

    The file names include a 3-character language code in accordance with ISO-639-3, which is defined here:
    http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

    For each text, there is already a file with the character frequency counts.

  6. #6 Nikolai
    6. Februar 2018

    There is a key to cipher the Voynich manuscript. The manuscript was not written in Hebrew.
    The key to the cipher manuscript placed in the manuscript. It is placed throughout the text. Part of the key hints is placed on the sheet 14. With her help was able to translate a few dozen words that are completely relevant to the theme sections.
    The Voynich manuscript is not written with letters. It is written in signs. Characters replace the letters of the alphabet one of the ancient language. Moreover, in the text there are 2 levels of encryption. I figured out the key by which the first section could read the following words: hemp, wearing hemp; food, food (sheet 20 at the numbering on the Internet); to clean (gut), knowledge, perhaps the desire, to drink, sweet beverage (nectar), maturation (maturity), to consider, to believe (sheet 107); to drink; six; flourishing; increasing; intense; peas; sweet drink, nectar, etc. Is just the short words, 2-3 sign. To translate words with more than 2-3 characters requires knowledge of this ancient language. The fact that some symbols represent two letters. In the end, the word consisting of three characters can fit up to six letters. Three letters are superfluous. In the end, you need six characters to define the semantic word of three letters. Of course, without knowledge of this language make it very difficult even with a dictionary.
    If you are interested, I am ready to send more detailed information, including scans of pages showing the translated words.
    And most important. In the manuscript there is information about “the Holy Grail”.
    Nikolai.

  7. #7 Thomas
    6. Februar 2018

    Holy Grail? Sure, the VM is the Holy Grail of cryptology.

  8. #8 anderer Michael
    20. Februar 2018

    What a happy circumstance .
    Next weekend I would have time to take care of this problem.

  9. #9 D.N.O'Donovan
    5. Oktober 2018

    I cannot consider the lack of “peer review” any criticism of the book, since there are no ‘peers’ who could review it. Rene Zandbergen has a well-earned reputation as someone who for two decades has assiduously read, collected and collated such information from others’ research as he felt was sensible and worth mentioning. If you were speaking of the language, imagery or codicology, however, I consider the experts to be formally qualified persons in each of those disciplines. For example, the ‘Voynich expert’ still active in the area of analytical linguistics is Emma Smith, whose blog is called ‘Agnostic Voynich’. Similarly, I value the observations made by a first-rate scholar who is a specialist in both eastern and western botanical and medical manuscripts. We hear far too little of his opinions, because they contradicted some determinedly-held theories. However, the Voynich manuscript is not a unicorn in every sense and if genuine specialists in manuscript, languistics, codicology and iconographic analysis were not immediately deterred by the determined hostility they meet if their research denies pet theories, then the manuscript’s study could be much further advanced than it is. Beinecke MS 408 is just one minor manuscript among the thousands of late medieval manuscripts we have – and not just European ones. There are genuine specialists in relevant fields who might rapidly locate and provenance the manuscript correctly, but even if they were willing to involve themselves, any ‘peer review’ would be conducted by persons actually their peers: fellow specialists in comparative linguistics, or iconographic analysis or a broad range of medieval history: including (for example) economic history.

    That few able to do so will touch this study is because it is now well known that amateurs are prone to oppose them not by information and discussion but by efforts to besmirch the specialist’s personal and professional good name. Add this to the absence of any true ‘peers’ engaged in the study and it is clear that right, or wrong, the authors could not expect any ‘peer view’ from Voynichland unless, perhaps, the script had been written in a cipher.

    This is the core problem today; the public arena is dominated by persons unqualified to form the sort of views which will bear scrutiny among the adequately qualified, and the very lack of sufficiently qualified persons means that there can be little genuine scholarly give-and-take between specialists in the several necessary areas of specialisation.

    The problem with the book you mention seems to be not only a problem with their interpretation of the written part of the text, but this same larger problem: a myopic focus on some theory and a total lack of peers (in Voynich studies) who might adequately comment on it. What does a specialist in comparative study of Hebrew scripts and manuscripts have to say about how the imagery or the codicology or the scribal hand suits that theory? Has there been any effort made to ask whether or not the style of drawing is commensurate with that of Hebrew manuscripts made within the appropriate date-range? No Voynichero, as far as I know, could be deemed a ‘peer reviewer’. And who else would want to become involved? Not since Stolfi was attacked and demeaned – about 20 years ago.

  10. #10 Klaus Schmeh
    13. Oktober 2018

    @D.N.O’Donovan
    Thanks for your interesting comment. I agree that it is a major problem that Voynich Manuscript research is mainly conducted by amateur scientists, many of which simply don’t have the expertise that would be necessary. Many real experts are reluctant because they don’t want to publish research papers in a field that is littered with pseudoscientific publications.

    >I cannot consider the lack of “peer review”
    >any criticism of the book
    Sorry, I don’t know which book you are talking about.