A few days ago, Australian robotics hacker Marcel Varallo (whose gladiatorial hacks making Roombas fight each other amuse me greatly) very kindly posted up two new scans of the Somerton Man’s Rubaiyat code (along with many megs of his collected Somerton Man stuff) on his blog.

I’ve put the three scans we now have on a Cipher Foundation Rubaiyat Code page, and strongly recommend that people use one of the new scans as a basis for doing any image processing work, rather than the one that has been on the Internet for years.

For example, if you put the three scans’ “Q” shapes side by side and try doing image processing experiments on them…

…what you find is that the so-called “microwriting” (found in the leftmost of the three images) was simply a quantizing artefact introduced when the original JPEG image had its brightness and contrast adjusted. With the new (slightly higher resolution, and generally much smoother) scan, all that nonsense disappears. There is no ‘microwriting’ there at all: The End.

54 thoughts on “Somerton Man – Two New Rubaiyat Scans…

  1. milongal on February 26, 2017 at 9:35 pm said:

    Whodda thunk it, I would never have guessed it…. 😛

    I suppose that means that same writing that mysteriously managed to infect everything from Jestyn’s notes to Felstus’ book was all baloney!

    In other news, the pope is probably a Catholic.

  2. Tammy Should on February 26, 2017 at 11:20 pm said:

    Interestingly timed, given the recent revelation (?) on GC’s pages. AFAIK his ID does not “depend” on the micro-writing etc., but does the debunk (if that’s what it is?) make the subject a less likely candidate?

  3. Marcel is wrong in so many ways, I don’t know where to start. But give me a day or two. Not here though, somewhere a little less strident.

  4. Pete bowes: it’s the evidence that’s important here, attacking the messenger won’t gain you any points. And the evidence says that microwriting is a bust.

  5. Tammy Should: I’ve known about Marcel’s scans for some time, but he only got round to releasing them recently, despite friendly prods from me. If there is anything linking Tibor Kaldor and the Somerton Man, I haven’t yet seen it. The sooner we can move into a post-microwriting era, the better.

  6. Milongal: in other news, a better quality image of the Rubaiyat code turns up… 🙂

  7. Yes, the ‘evidence’ … We discuss this and your unqualified approval of Marcel’s untidy post.
    Not a good career move, Dome old boy, you’ve exposed a flank, and unattractive as it is, we are looking into it.

  8. Pete bowes: Marcel has his opinions, not all of which I agree with, and that’s OK – but the two immediate issues to resolve here are…
    (a) whether or not the new high resolution image contains microwriting (Having carried out some tests, my conclusion is that it doesn’t), and
    (b) whether or not the new high resolution image is genuine (I believe it is, but that’s a matter for separate discussion).

  9. The image Marcel has reproduced is an image of an image of an image that was overwritten with ink.
    This is an impossible scenario.

  10. peteb: without access to the newspaper’s archivist’s library, JPEG scans of a photograph of an overdrawn police photograph are as close as we can get for now.

    What emerged from comparing the levels between scans was this: that the only image we had for a long time had already been processed. And I concluded that the ‘stepping’ (the quantization) that was introduced when stretching the levels to make the JPEG look visually ‘contrasty’ and nice also introduced the numerical artefacts that Gordon wrongly interpreted as blurry microwriting right at the edge of perception.

    And so the new scans – that haven’t already been processed in the same way – give truer and more reliable results when processed. Which is why they don’t exhibit the features that vaguely resembled microwriting.

  11. How could the Rubaiyat code exhibit features that resemble microwriting when the microwriting has been overwritten with ink?

  12. peteb: the “microwriting” Gordon highlighted in the Rubaiyat code seemed to be in the ink used to overwrite the original photograph (e.g. the ‘Q’).

    It would make no sense to conclude from this that the overwritten ink (which was very likely added by SAPOL) itself contained the microwriting, because that would mean it was added long after the Somerton Man had died. My understanding, therefore, was that Gordon believed that the microwriting was on the page itself, peering through the ink. But you’d have to ask him if that’s what he believes now.

  13. Are you contesting a procedure that demonstrates that residue ink is left in the indentations after the overwrite is stripped back?

  14. peteb: that’s not a ‘procedure’, that’s an hypothetical after-the-event explanation for a supposed feature we have no access to at this remove in time (and so cannot test either way).

    If there is microwriting present in one scan, it should also be present in other scans, particularly if those other scans are at higher resolution and with less processing.

  15. Given that Gordon published extensive details of the equipment he used to get his result, where is the hypothesis?
    All it takes to confirm what Gordon has found is for someone to repeat the exercise using the same procedure, it’s not rocket science.
    Then again, given the volatile background to this discussion, maybe it is.

  16. peteb: the hypothesis is that there is microwriting there at all. All Gordon has demonstrated is that if you take a single image – a single observation – and manipulate heavily enough, you can produce blocky artefacts right at the edge of perception that you can interpret as microwriting. Remember, his interpretations and all his speculations are built on the back of a single observation (a single JPEG).

    If he can reproduce the same results – specifically, the same microwriting – from a different scan of the same thing (particularly a higher resolution scan), then he’d be starting to do genuine science.

  17. milongal on February 27, 2017 at 9:45 pm said:

    I’m puzzled by this statement…”How could the Rubaiyat code exhibit features that resemble microwriting when the microwriting has been overwritten with ink?”
    I’ve been asking that for a long time, but GC seems to dismiss this with a “trust me, I was a policeman” – but in any event I don’t really understand how it would matter in one case but not the other.

    My biggest problem with the microwriting is that despite technology that is far, far more advanced, and techniques that can apparently detect this microwriting on a photo of a tracing of pencil most likely on a totally different medium to the original text, we don’t seem to get anything more valuable than “SEGA” – and while I used to love playing Wonder Boy and Alex Kidd, I don’t think they had the same entertainment in the 40’s. So we’re to believe that these people used small writing that they could (presumably) read with yesterday’s technology, yet we can’t actually get anything sensible out of it? If you’re writing in micro, you believe it to be secure, and so the things you write likely wouldn’t be overly cryptic.
    Secondly, I think the very fact that the original text is in pencil points away from microwriting – it’s difficult (I’m tempted to say impossible) to hide microwriting in pencil (you’d notice the lines aren’t perfectly neat) and so I’d struggle to believe the cops at the time wouldn’t have noticed it. Scratching in a texta line is different (or even writing texta over pencil) – stuff like the banknotes, but managing neat undetectable microwriting in pencilled letters just doesn’t work for me.
    Thirdly it just doesn’t make sense. If you’re hiding something “in plain sight”, why would you attract attention to it by having a bizarre code? A bus ticket would be noted but not investigated (it’s an ordinary item to have in a pocket); ditto for a bank note; hell, even a book like the rubaiyat is innocuous enough. Yet we’re to believe that these wily spies who had kept various governments at bay would write micro-code on what is otherwise an incredibly noticeable piece of paper. It simply doesn’t wash – and anyone who says “double blind” is just an idiot. Why? When you have a virtually untraceable method of communication that can be hidden on absolutely any everyday item where nobody would look you’re an imbicile to put it on something that stands out from the crowd and will get heavily scrutinised if ever discovered (and if it is a double-blind, then why in the rubiayat, why not on one of the blank envelopes or pieces of paper?). These are not Hollywood scriptwriters trying to create a story for an audience who will believe in anything (as long as you hide the fishing wire), but (if we believe the Micro idea) seasoned international spies who have had relative success in keeping themselves out of focus.
    Fourthly (and perhaps for me the moment when it went from implausible to bullshit) is the demonstration that it worked on Feltus’ book. To me this absolutely demonstrates that it’s not deliberate microwriting, but rather something that we can find anywhere we look if we play the process enough, and I suspect confirmation bias has played a large but in finding most of the (as yet unreadable) “writing”.

    Of course, whether the microwriting is bull or not, that still doesn’t exclude Pavel. Nor does Tibor necessarily link in either (with or without the codes). My skepticism there is for totally different reasons (the “similarities” between Tibor and SM are easily explained through coincidence, confirmation bias (e.g. choosing what we believe SM’s story to be to line it up Tibor; as for Pavel, we’ve chosen someone who disappeared on the opposite side of the world, looks vaguely similar to SM (personally I think there’s big differences in the two), and had no real reason to end up in Australia – if it’s Pavel, where’s his toothpicks? how common is a toothpick chewer who is also a smoker?).

  18. Have a shot at it yourself then, prove it right or wrong, then we can all move on.

  19. Pete: I’ve already tried to reproduce the microwriting result with the new scans, and didn’t even get close. The features of the original scan that Gordon selectively enhanced through image processing to yield vaguely lettering-like shapes simply aren’t there.

    So: if the new scans are genuine, microwriting is a bust. Or (from Gordon’s perspective) anyone who thinks the new scans are genuine is obvs a muppet.

    Science at its best.

  20. Let’s have a look at the difference in overwriting techniques, the letters R and P. Over my way.

  21. Pete: if the “microwriting” is under the overwriting, why does it matter?

  22. Wrong answer.

  23. Pete: right now, I’ve got bigger fish to fry than wondering whether two or more different SAPOL detectives did the overwriting.

  24. Wrong supposition.

  25. Pete: what next, wrong trousers?

  26. Why not, and lose on three of a kind.

  27. Pete bowes: by the way, your wrong supposition sounds a bit painful. You might need some cream for that.

  28. Four, that’s two pair.

  29. Pete: was there actually a point you were trying to make about the overwriting? e.g. that it looks as though at least two different detectives added it (the first one was very heavy-handed with the laundry pen so it ended up looking blobby, while the second one had a much lighter/smoother touch etc); or that a previous detective seems to have tried using a pencil to overwrite the indentations on the Rubaiyat itself before realizing that this was a completely stupid idea?

  30. milongal on February 28, 2017 at 12:49 pm said:

    @Petey – I can’t prove it wrong, but don’t think it’s right so won’t invest the effort. Perhaps I’ll have egg on my face – I’m ok with that. From my view the whole notion of microwriting doesn’t warrant any effort….

    I think the onus to prove the microwriting is on the proponents who believe in it (and I can see Clive and Gordon have invested significant research into it [and kudos to them for it] – but I remain unconvinced).
    I don’t think SM is Pavel. I don’t think Tibor is related much. I absolutely don’t think there’s microcode on the “code” page. I don’t really thing there’s microcode on Jestyn’s scribbles to Alf. I seriously doubt any microcode on Feltus’ book.

    To be honest, I’m not sure SM was at the Adelaide Railway Station that day. I’m not certain it’s his suitcase. I don’t believe either ticket in his pocket was his. I question a lot of the “known” facts…(as Gordon and Clive do). I think SM must have been incredibly ordinary to have not been noticed, and while I concede that’s what spies are good at, I struggle with the spy theory because there are too many obviously extraordinary things.

    So (assuming it was aimed at me rather than Nick), I won’t have a shot at it – because it simply isn’t a plausible theory to me. It’s like me challenging you to prove the Earth isn’t flat – and forget the pictures from space, that assumes light travels in a straight line; and forget that people (claim to) have sailed around it, it might be some mobius-like shape that our minds can’t fathom.
    No, I think the burden of proof for microwriting is on the people who believes it exists. And the “proof” to date is (in my opinion) not there – and if you think it’s been proven then we will forever disagree.

    I must say I sort of find it odd that we argue over microcode when (as far as I can tell) it isn’t actually related to the likelihood of Pavel being or not being SM…so we’re essentially arguing over an irrelevant detail.

    So (as I’m sure you’ve gathered Petey) I don’t subscribe to the microcode, despite any “proof” on GC’s blog (that doesn’t necessarily make me right, of course, but it’s not for me to disprove what doesn’t make sense when there’s not much evidence to endorse it). I don’t subscribe to Pavel for loads of other reasons (even other than the weak resemblence). Explain to me the toothpicks, and then we can talk Pavel…

  31. milongal on February 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm said:

    NB: whatever your thoughts about Marcel, I do sort of like his idea that the texta is the media trying to make an image that will appear in the papers, not the coppers trying to clarify the text….

  32. How I love your supercilious bullshit, Nick, you have the ability to command a majestic flow of nonsense that appears to make sense on the first read, but then deconstructs into a puddle of homemade definitions and shady comparisons. Lovely stuff, I suppose your deep background in computer games gives you the edge here.
    Not to forget your standout successes with the VM and those various coded notes left by sundry rapists and murderers.
    My advice: get something behind you, son, even a small success, something you can back yourself with when the going gets tough.
    Remind me … what exactly have you achieved over the last seven years? I’ve been reading Cipher Mysteries that long and have seen no successes.

  33. petebowes: I’ve learnt some very wonderful things about ciphers over the past few years.

    Just not from you.

  34. I’ve never passed myself off as a teacher, Nick, I’m just ordinary folks.

  35. milongal on February 28, 2017 at 11:44 pm said:

    “How I love your supercilious bullshit….”

    From the condescending guy who shuts down any discussion on his own site that doesn’t agree with his point of view through increasingly aggressive taunting, and insists anyone who doesn’t agree with him is stupid, not thinking properly etc, etc, etc…..

    Source: comments in almost any post on tomsbytwo

    NB: I assume pete you’re getting so angered you’re forgetting which profile to use? or are some of the replies (the peteb ones) someone pretending to be you (if it is their apery is pretty good)?

  36. No need to involve yourself Milongal, Nick and I have an understanding. I’d rather see your thoughts discussed without any personal bias.

  37. Tammy Should on March 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm said:

    @Pete … it’s a public forum and you’re happy to use it for dick-waving and ad hominems, so while there’s “no need” for anyone to “involve” themselves: why shouldn’t they? Especially when they’re right.

    Over at your place the day was, apparently, early. We were to expect updates. All gone very quiet now though, except for the white noise that Milongal points out.

    It’s almost as if you’ve got nothing to say.

  38. Pete: If you’re not gettin any, bites that is, try a little more milk in your porridge, works for me almost all the time.

  39. milongal on March 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm said:

    It’s funny Pete, I’d much prefer to read through others’ speculation (no matter how out there) than the personal shit too – I wonder who started it?

  40. milongal on March 1, 2017 at 9:57 pm said:

    Let’s get back to the toothpicks.

    Pavel was a toothpick chewer. Where are the toothpicks? None on SM, and none in the suitcase. Plenty of smoking paraphernalia, though – cigarettes and lighter. Is it normal for a toothpick chewer to smoke (I would have thought it would be rather hard and you’d have to get rid of the toothpick ) – in fact I sort of thought that chewing toothpicks was a habit people take up to REPLACE smoking (but that might be more recent).

    According to the internet (which of course never lies) toothpick chewing is something that seems to have appeared in the mid 1940’s – at least in our Westernized world (perhaps Russia was big on it before then). While we associate it with “tough-guys”, the likely origin (I think a couple decades earlier again) is that toothpicks were often available at expensive restaurants and so chewing a toothpick outside such an establishment gave the impression of opulence (because clearly you had just eaten there). But we digress…

    IMO Pavel’s nose, ears, eyebrows and chin look different; SM’s shirt appears worn higher up the neck and the tie looks a different knot. All of those things individually may be explained away (the features could be misleading because of the photos, or because one is post mortem; the clothes might be a result of being moved (or even put on) post mortem by someone else or may look strange because of what the body’s been through), and even collectively I’ll admit there’s a hint of plausibility still there….but where are the toothpicks? Did he stop chewing because he’d lost important teeth? Did someone steal them to mask his identity (shouldn’t there be more in the suitcase?)? How is it someone who is so reluctant to simply discard a used bus ticket has absolutely no trace of any toothpicks (used or otherwise) on his person?
    If this guy is Pavel, where are the damn toothpicks?

  41. The offer is there old son, you’ve been part of the Somerton furniture for a long time …. the thread is all yours. I’m banned from comment once you make an appearance.

  42. milongal: I’m here for you. The toothpicks, you asked ‘where were they?’
    I humbly propose that an agent with such a peculiar habit would be known by it. Perhaps he was known as the Toothpick Man around the traps.
    Would it make sense for the individuals who stripped him of ID to take the toothpicks as well?
    Are we moving on here, milongal? Is this acceptable?
    … and by the way, there is only one me, though I can ape myself some days.

  43. Pete: Don’t be too hard on yourself son, we’re all capable of acting like monkeys at times.

  44. Speak for yourself John Sanders … you have yet to make sense of what you post.

  45. Pete: And to think I’ve been accused of aping you, so what your saying about me must therefore make sense. Didn’t realise I was so dumb, there you go but at least I have’nt been called a conceited, egotistical clown for the better part of a week so I’ve got some catching up to do eh.

  46. milongal on March 2, 2017 at 9:33 pm said:

    Well Pete, it’s the only explanation I can come up with (that someone took the toothpicks knowing they’d link him), yet it doesn’t really satisfy me. I’m not a toothpicker, but I sort of would’ve expected toothpicks in his luggage too – I sort of assume you take one (or a few) with you, but leave any packet somewhere else. I also would sort of expect someone to notice something when they’re checking the teeth (I don’t know, little bits of wood or something). Aaaand, I’m still unsure about a smoker being a toothpicker (I sort of assumed a reformed smoker might chew toothpicks, but it seems an incompatible habit with an active smoker (I’m sure someone will correct me on that)). We know SM was a smoker – he had smokes on him, including one (or two, depending on which account you read) that he’d smoked as he died, and apparently significant enough staining for someone to conclude he was a cigarette smoker not a pipe smoker.

    So I take your point that the absence (or presence) of certain items doesn’t necessarily reflect what he would normally have on his person, but I remain stubbornly unconvinced we can explain those toothpicks away so easily.

  47. Make a contribution, John, even a little one, that would be much better than being just a chirrup in the background noise.

  48. milongal, you said you thought that the tickets in his pocket weren’t his, so perhaps the person who put them there lifted the toothpicks. And we may not be dealing with ‘wily spies’ so much as self-taught individuals doing some spying business who were caught out by wily spies.

  49. Pete: My contribution & just a little one. I’m thinking it was the toothpick fairy, who also may have grabbed his hat, soiled his spare undies for spite and made off for fantasy land. Though admittedly I could be clutching at straws…chirp chirp.

  50. milongal on March 6, 2017 at 12:34 am said:

    That’s true Pete – I do question whether the tickets were his – and I guess if I’m insistent that the contents of his pocket were meddled with (and I can see no other explanation for the absence of a wallet (or at least some money) and the presence of tickets), then I have to concede that someone could have pinched his toothy picks. But I don’t like it, one bit.
    To accept it was Pavel (and I can’t see much similarity in the photos – I’d be inclined to say the Mikkelsen picture is a better match, if the pesky little bugger didn’t have a well documented alternative demise), the total absence of toothpicks suggests (at least) one of:
    1) There is more luggage (or at least posessions)
    2) The suitcase at the station is not his
    3) The suitcase at the station was deliberately placed to appear to be his (this requires either a lot of forethought, or some manipulation and social engineering).

    So I think this is one of those “you won’t convince me and I won’t convince you” scenarios that people sometimes wage internet wars on. Perhaps I’ll end up with egg on my face if someone conclusively proves it was he – but the beauty of semi-anonimity on the internet is that when I’m proved wrong I can just become “lagnolim” or some other identity and pretend it never happened.

  51. I won’t be the bloke chucking eggs, Milongal, too many have come my way. But I do like the internee angle, especially since SAPOL didn’t appear to bother with them in their investigation. Perhaps their records were off the state police campus, so to speak.
    I googled lagnolim once, Pfizer had it for sale as a medicinal skin conditioner.

  52. milongal on March 6, 2017 at 9:21 pm said:

    googling lagnolim now I see that someone else already uses that name (possibly more than one people). Must’ve been a popular skin conditioner.

  53. “I’ve seen some pretty amazing images in pen skips, completely coincidental, but that does look like it might be something, numbers perhaps?”

    Taken from Voynich Ninja, written by JKP – Amarius – he’s looking at the letter Q.

  54. Pete: sure, and when JKP finds the higher-resolution images, he’ll also realize what a load of pareidolic nonsense the microwriting stuff is.

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