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RE: VMs: Personal Guess

Nick wrote:

> Anything involving abbreviation (as I suspect the VMS to be) is likely to
> be fully recoverable only through close contextual analysis and sheer
> perseverance - so, breaking the (outer) coding system here could well be
> merely the beginning of an entirely different story.
> However, numerous private shorthand systems have (as you know) been
> "cracked" in the past, so there would at least be a reasonable set of
> precedents to such a latter stage. :-)

If you suspect the VMS to be abbreviated (even lightly), I'd like to see
evidence of this.  What do you mean by "abbreviated"?  What statistic
singles out these "abbreviations"?  Usually the purpose of abbreviation is
brevity, something like the 'x' for 'us'.  To fit the 'standard' definition,
it would be reasonable to provide statistics on the single glyphs that act
as "abbreviations", and your rationale behind choosing these above others.

> I believe that the common pairs we observe were simply designed
> around <a->
> and <o-> shift characters - something like Vigenere's Alphabeth
> Northmanique, but with the subtler idea of making <a-> and <o-> look like
> vowels in a simple monoalphabetic cipher. I really don't think
> you need to
> invoke polyalphabeticism or even the 231 Kabbalistic gates to
> explain these.

Oh really?  Hmmm......

> AFA Strong goes: he was an extremely clever guy, but I believe he
> looked at
> the VMS with a specific model of the history of cryptography in mind -
> that, if it wasn't a monoalpha, it had to be a certain kind of
> polyalpha -
> which over-coloured his analysis. I believe that Strong's external
> historical research also coloured his predictions of the content - and
> (FYI) that if he had seen more of the VMS, that he would probably have
> changed his mind.

Fair enough criticism.  You won't mind filling me in on Strong's "specific
historic model"?  Let's see, Selenus and others up to Strong's time covered
a very wide range, including nomenclators and homophonic substitution
ciphers.  Even most of Friedman's critical papers were out (and read by
Strong) by the time he took on the Voynich. As far as "external historical
research", his interest was in late 16th century, early 17th century cipher,
a little later than the Voynich, but not by much on the evolutionary scale.

More than that - According to Strong, he spent over 500 hours of research
(on two pages) before the light broke.  We see from his notes that he
conducted several studies to determine language and other features before
even attempting to decipher.  Possibly not how it would be done today, but
we are talking about a time when people could add, subtract and multiply in
their head without use of a calculator, and performed complex tabulations on
paper instead of endless (and mostly meaningless) computer runs.  Fair
criticism when it's due, but when it's criticism directed at those too dead
to defend themselves, it needs some evidence behind it.

> Generally: you and I both see the VMS as a non-obvious polyalpha system -
> but please accept my caution that I think the VMS author is trying to
> sidestep our feeble post-1912 attempts at cryptology by misdirecting us,
> certainly at the letter level and probably elsewhere as well. For
> example,
> I would be completely unsurprised if the order of the letters within each
> word were transposed in some way - perhaps reversed.

I'm not certain what you mean by "non-obvious".  The very nature of cipher
is to make the solution "non-obvious".  If I think I see something, I go to
the database and pull up the numbers.  If they work in my favor, go a little
further.  If not, rethink it, try something different.  I personally don't
think the VMS author knew or cared about a 'post-1912' world, and certainly
didn't think his manuscript would be the subject of so much discussion.  He
didn't write it to misdirect us, we're doing a good enough job of that all
by ourselves.  He wrote it for his own use, for personal reasons, and
couldn't have cared less about you or me.

> FWIW, I see the VMS' coding system as an ingenious engine made up of
> (probably 10-12) simple components, each designed to remove a separate
> cryptological / statistical artefact.

The only thing "feeble" about our attempts is that we all too commonly come
up with outlandish reasoning without having first tested our opinions to see
if there's anything to them.  Speaking of which, I need to take a break from
the list for awhile so I can follow a few more white rabbits.


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