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Landini’s Challenge

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

An excerpt from Landini’s challenge text (text he generated using an undisclosed method, supposed to replicate the features of the VMs text):

qopchdy chckhy daiin ¬ ½shxam chor otechar okcharain ryly sheodykeyl
sheodykeyl daiin shd okaiin qokain qokal yteoldy otedy qokydy opchedy
otal oldar chor lkeedol eer ol dair chedy daiin ockhdar cpheol chedy
xar qokaiin y chedy kshdy ololdy aiin char y okeey oldar qokaiin lsho
daiin olsheam qoeey chedy dchos pshedaiin shedy d qol key sheol or
cpheeedol qokedy qokaiin daiin cthosy chedy ar aiir chedy teeol aiin
cheey y cheam oky qokaiin daldaiin loiii¯ ar shtchy chedy aldaiin
ydchedy daiin shd okaiin qokain daiin qotcho chedy daiin lchy olorol
otedy qockhor shol daiin paichy chedy ar shdair chedal chedy kchdaldy
chckhy otakar qokedy s qooko chor daiin otcholchy chedy daiin koroiin
qokain qokedy kosholdy ol kchedy kshdy qokaiin ar shaikhy olaldy seees
ar oteodar chedy oteeol shedy daiin key dain daiin keeokechy chedy
lchey ail lchedy sches ol dsheeo otol odaiin qokain daiin sheeod chshy
chedy qoekedy tair sain qocheey aiin cheey chaiin ols shedy sheolol
daiin lcheol chedy daiin pchoraiin oshaiin chedy lchey lor sal aiin
cheey y dsheom shedy todydy cheor saiin shdaldy daiin ofchtar daiin

Here are some thought-provoking results from analysing the text, as suggested by Knox, the VM text, and comparisons with English, Latin, German, French and Spanish. These use a new form of the Genetic Algorithm, described below.


It looks to me like that Landini either generated his text from a transcription of the VM itself, or his algorithm for generating that text is a good emulation of the encoding process used in the VM. In other words the Landini “language” is a good candidate as a plaintext language for the VM, as opposed to the European languages tested.


Here is a table which shows the GA’s efficiency at converting/translating between Voynich, Landini, and the other languages.

(In the table, the best possible score is 1.0 – see below for an explanation)

Asking the GA to translate English to English, or Latin to Latin, etc. results in a high efficiency score, as expected. Note that the Landini to Landini  efficiency is 0.97 – almost perfect.

The GA performs moderately at converting between the languages and the Landini text. But what is most striking (to me) is the good efficiency for converting Voynich to Landini (0.74) and Landini to Voynich (0.89)

Some Notes on the table

To look at this I revised my GA code so that it was more flexible, and I jettisoned the use of separate dictionaries. Here is how the GA now functions. It can convert/translate between any language text samples.

1) Two text files are read in: the “source” text, and the “target” text. This could be, for example, a source file containing Landini’s text, and a target file containing Spanish text, if we want to convert from Landini to Spanish.

2) The text in each file is processed separately, producing two word lists, and two sets of n-Gram frequency tables.

3) The chromosomes are generated with random mappings between the source n-Grams and the target n-Grams

4) The GA evolves the chromosomes by trying to maximise their cost. The difference now is that when a target word is generated from the source text using the mappings, it is looked up in the target word list created in 2) above, rather than in a separate dictionary.

5) After training, the best chromosome can have a maximum cost value of 1.0, which would correspond to a perfect conversion between the source text and the target text (i.e. every word produced from the source text is found in the target text dictionary)

6) So we can feed the GA with two identical texts, and after training the score of the best chromosome should be 1.0, and indeed it approaches that (it doesn’t quite get there because only the top 100 n-Grams are translated, and so some characters in the source text cannot be translated).

7) The word and n-Gram frequency lists are made from the entirety of each text, but (for this exploratory study) the training takes place on only the first 50 “words” in the source text, and uses only the first 100 n-Grams for mapping.  Thus if the 50 words of Voynich chosen contain several rare characters, then for those the mapping will fail because those rare characters do not appear in the n-Gram list, and this will result in a lower score.

8) In all cases the “X->X” score in the table (i.e. the diagonal)  represents the best score possible for that language, and is a normalisation for the other numbers in the table. I should really revise the table and divide out the off-diagonal scores by the diagonal normalisations.

9) An improvement would be to configure the n-Gram list to be, say, 200 long, and use more source (Voynich) words for the training. The downside of this is mainly execution speed.

10) These runs were with n-Grams up to 3: it would be better to go to 4 at least.

11) I think Landini gets good scores because the character set he uses is very small. Knox comments ” A factor must be that the Landini Challenge has built-in frequency matches to any transcription of the VMs. Also, there is no meaningful correspondence in the letter sequence of one word to another in Landini. The difficulty fits what I said the VMs may be.”

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