If you plan to be near MIT (specifically Building 32, Room D463) on September 23rd 2009 (3pm-4pm), here’s something you’ll probably enjoy: a lecture on the Voynich Manuscript by Kevin Knight. According to the blurb:-

“I will describe the document, show samples, explain where it may have come from, and present some properties of the text and experiments with it.”

Attendance is free – no need to register. For more information contact Marcia Davidson, 617-253-3049, marcia@csail.mit.edu

Here are some slides KK used for a 2007 Voynich talk: back then, his particular angle seemed mainly to revolve around using the EM (“expectation-maximization“) algorithm with a bit of Viterbi magic (don’t ask, I’d have to shoot you) to decipher unknown languages, which (in turn) seems to be based on hunting for consonants & vowels within language-like datastreams (though it apparently stumbles on Latin “i”, because if functions as both a vowel [‘i’] and a consonant [‘j’]).

Naturally, given that the Voynich ciphertext “vowels” linguists loved so much are (I am certain) inherently deceptive, my own “maximized expectation” here is that this approach would crash and burn abysmally when pointed at the VMs: and the attempted automatic Latin decoding presented (“quiss squm is ONUM pom quss hates s qum hatis“) is hardly likely to persuade anyone. Though, to be fair, KK does conclude “too many [Voynichese] letters can’t decide if they are vowels or consonants“, which would seem to be an academese way of saying “though my algorithm plainly doesn’t work on this particular text corpus, I published the results anyway“.

I look forward to finding out what his 2009 angle on the VMs will look like – if you attend, please let me know! 🙂

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