AI used to uncover mystery of ancient manuscript
Toronto: Scientists have used artificial intelligence to decipher the mysterious text in the 15th- century Voynich manuscript, which has plagued historians and cryptographers since its discovery.
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada used artificial intelligence to decode the ambiguities in human language using the Voynich manuscript as a case study.
Their first step was to address the language of origin, which is enciphered on hundreds of delicate vellum pages with accompanying illustrations. The team used samples of 400 different languages from the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" to systematically identify the language.
They initially hypothesised that the Voynich manuscript was written in Arabic but after running their algorithms, it turned out that the most likely language was Hebrew.
"That was surprising. And just saying 'this is Hebrew' is the first step. The next step is how do we decipher it," said Greg Kondrak, professor at University of Alberta.
Resaerchers hypothesised the manuscript was created using alphagrams, defining one phrase with another, exemplary of the ambiguities in human language. They tried to come up with an algorithm to decipher that type of scrambled text. "It turned out that over 80 per cent of the words were in a Hebrew dictionary, but we did not know if they made sense together," said Kondrak.
After unsuccessfully seeking Hebrew scholars to validate their findings, the scientists turned to Google Translate.
"It came up with a sentence that is grammatical, and you can interpret it," said Kondrak.