How do computers help decode inscrutable ciphers?

Back in the 1940s, mathematician Warren Weaver made an audacious suggestion: what if translation was not a feat of literary theory and linguistics, but one of cryptography? Weaver suggested treating a foreign text as if it were a code to be broken. (This theory was the early basis of machine translation, a subfield of computational linguistics.) This metaphor of foreign language as code means that statistics and other tools of cryptography can be used to translate texts from one language to another. Today, it is the basis for programs like Google Translate.

This theory was also recently used to decode the Copiale Cipher, a manuscript from the 1800s. By making a machine-readable version of the text, a team of computational linguistics were able to run the characters through a software program that found patterns in the text, which were otherwise inscrutable. It turns out the manuscript was made by a secret society to explain their initiation rites. There are also portions that include political treatises on the natural rights of man. During the 1800s, secret societies of this sort flourished, and historians still speculate about their role in the French Revolution and the formation of the modern democratic state. The decoding of these documents could be very helpful to historians, as well as to linguists and cryptographers. For an academic explanation of the cryptographers work, see their paper here.

There are many types of ciphers, but the most simple cipher replaces letters of the alphabet with other letters in order. If A is replaced with C, B is replaced with D, and so on. The Copiale Cipher relied on a technique called homophonic substitution, that uses more than the number of characters in the original alphabet to represent the sounds of text.

Of course, another manuscript still defies any code-breaking and translation attempts: the Voynich Manuscript from the early 1400s. Read more about it here.

What do you think of these code-breaking technologies?

Get smart with Brain Quest.(FAMILY)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC) November 16, 2008 Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES With help from Nintendo’s magical handheld system, a new game series teaches kids It’s OK to Be Smart – if they are willing to go on a Brain Quest (Electronic Arts, $29.99 each).

Based on the popular pumped-up flashcard series by Workman Publishing, this fun, educational challenge goes overboard with keeping kids interested in learning.

Two titles, Brain Quest: Grades 5 & 6 and Brain Quest: Grades 3 & 4, contain more than 6,000 questions each and extend the typical trivia format usually mired in multiple-choice possibilities. The games offer a varied style of curriculum-based questions and spice up the action through extra activities and achievements to be unlocked.

Both use the same game mechanics, but a different story line. Let’s first look at the more difficult Grades 5 & 6 title, which is geared to students 10 to 12 years old.

After an introduction to the game’s host, a High School Musical type named Brian, the player is walked through the game’s modes. Those who want to do something more than simply answer questions in the Brain Mode (answer the fastest to collect the most points) can go on a wordy Quest.

The student selects from six extreme tween style areas tied to the subjects math (soccer), history (surfing), science (an auto shop), geography (snowboarding), English (rock music) and a grab bag (skateboarding). Once a venue is chosen, the player converses with multiple characters and, as he keeps reading their trash talk, a challenge eventually is issued. web site goodbye in italian

If near a garage, one might think the player would be in a race game, but no, it’s a series of rounds loaded with questions. He must answer a certain number to earn a collectible and impress the character before moving on.

Brian will explain each question format before the player begins. Questions come in standard multiple choice, fill in the blanks (using a keyboard on the DS’ bottom touch screen), eliminate an answer by drawing an X through it, draw lines to match items, and grab and move answers into the correct order.

The questions are always fresh and taxing. A student might have to match first and last names of famous American composers, solve a complex equation, arrange precious stones from hardest to least hard, or spell goodbye in Italian.

The grab bag adds topics on the arts, literature, nutrition, sports, movies and music.

Success leads to collecting points and unlocking animated stickers. These can be purchased and added to a static scene to offer the student a chance to demonstrate some creativity.

If bored with questions, a deep Sudoku game is also available in 4-by-4, 6-by-6 and 9-by-9 puzzle grids. this web site goodbye in italian

If that still isn’t enough action, a pseudo-multiplayer option provides competitive and cooperative modes as players pass a DS back and forth. Not as great as tapping into two DS units wirelessly using one card, but I appreciate the thought.

The Grades 3 & 4 title offers the same extras and a wildlife motif as students converse with park rangers and go on quests to help animals. The questions are almost as difficult: One asked me to put in order, by age, the female stars of Little Women. I asked a couple of fourth-graders to perform the feat and their jaws dropped.

I warned in a previous column that the DS could make curriculum-based, casual gaming an enjoyable reality. Well, the time has arrived and students stand to gain a wealth of knowledge and feel great about their accomplishments thanks to Electronic Arts’ Brain Quest series.

Game Bytes Here’s an abbreviated look at some multimedia titles for the pixie fan in the family.

*Disney Fairies: Tinker Bell (For DS, Disney Interactive Studios, $29.99) – Peter Pan’s loyal friend twinkles in this third-person adventure co-starring the inhabitants of Pixie Hollow.

The deep, delightfully designed adventure has the player control Tink (she follows the stylus dragged on the touch screen and trails pixie dust behind her) as she explores the fantasyland’s 16 areas and helps other fairies prepare the seasons.

Action takes full advantage of the DS’ capabilities. Take the cleaning and repairing of items, a specialty of the tinkering star. Blow dust off of a pot by actually blowing into the DS microphone, or repair cracks to it by applying glue and hammering it into place (use the stylus to spread the patch and tap to set it).

Options in the action include use of a real-time clock (seasons change to match a player’s world); starting fashion trends with customizable costumes; making, collecting and wearing loads of accessories; cute timed minigames; and conversing with new friends including Chipper, Rosetta, Silvermist and Queen Clarion.

Girls, especially younger gamers, will really enjoy their visit to Pixie Hollow (once they get used to navigating around terrain) while parents will appreciate the sharing and friendship aspects of the game.

Disney’s online community, DGamer, is also available through the DS WiFi option to chat with other players and share items.

*Clickables’ Fairy Game (Techno Source, standalone unit, uses three AAA batteries, included, $19.99) – Disney is pushing hard to give Tink and her pals the same pop-culture status as those pesky princesses. Techno Source helps with the ambitious Clickables system that combines a software download, a members only Web site, and a set of standalone toys that easily connect to a Windows XP/Vista/2000 PC. The result is an interactive universe dedicated to Pixie Hollow that gives female fans a handheld unit to play games and collect rewards.

In the case of the Fairy Game, it’s a purple, tulip-shaped, palm-size device that contains five challenges. The player navigates with a directional pad and buttons through the bare minimum of graphical presentations (a 1-inch LED screen). She performs tasks such as pounding dents out of pots and keeping flowers in full bloom.

It’s simple, repetitive gaming at its finest. However, the action is worth it thanks to collecting points. Easy to amass, they can be downloaded to the online Pixie Hollow site (www.pixiehollow.com) to buy butterflies that will hang out with a customized fairy.

Better yet, the points are transferable to other friends with Disney Fairies Clickables’ items (such as a bracelet or charms) by simply touching the metallic sensors of each together. It’s pretty slick tech and actually works.

Research and Markets Offers Report: Customer Service Representative, Professionalism

Wireless News November 11, 2010

Wireless News 11-11-2010 Research and Markets Offers Report: Customer Service Representative, Professionalism Type: News

Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Customer Service Representative, Professionalism” training to its offerings.

In a release, Research and Markets noted that report highlights include:

The Customer Service Representative, Professionalism training bundle consists of the following three courses:

(1) The Customer Service Representative (CSR) (2) Support Center Services and Work Environment (3) Team and Customer Relationships

Each course is broken down further into a series of lessons as follows:

(1) The Customer Service Representative (CSR)

Overview/Description It costs a business much more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. So it makes sense that a business must do everything it can to support and satisfy existing customers. Handling complaints effectively and efficiently can result in increased customer loyalty. Today’s Customer Service Representatives (CSR) and support centers have a vital role to play in ensuring customers’ needs are addressed in an effective, efficient manner. This course will familiarize the individual with the basic role of the CSR and the environment in which he performs his duties, including typical roles of the CSR in a support environment, basic tasks accomplished by the CSR, the support center and customer’s role in a support environment, how the support center has evolved, and company and support center best practices. This course prepares individuals interested in the CSR certification, which is targeted at individuals wishing to qualify for work in a customer support center or help desk environment.

Target Audience Individuals interested in the Customer Service Representative (CSR) certification

Expected Duration (hours) 3.5

Lesson Objectives

The Customer Service Representative (CSR)

-recognize the Customer Service Representative’s (CSR) contribution to business

-identify why the Customer Service Representative (CSR) is valued by modern businesses go to website customer service representative

-apply the skills of the Customer Service Representative (CSR) in a given scenario

-recognize examples of the phases in the CSR call process

-apply the ethical standards expected of a Customer Service Representative in a given scenario

-determine which ethical guidelines have been followed in a given scenario

-recognize the benefits of the support center for the customer and the company

-identify examples of where the support center serves its purpose to the customer

-identify examples of purposes served by the support center for the company

-identify examples of a support center’s responsibilities to the customer

-identify the support center’s responsibilities to the Customer Service Representative

-recognize the different phases of the support center evolution

-apply the CRM methods employed by the support center in a given scenario

-recognize the benefits of adhering to support center policies and best practices

-identify the purpose of organizational policies

-recognize the benefits of adhering to organizational policies

-match topics featured in a support center policy to examples

-determine the support source most suitable in a given scenario

(2) Support Center Services and Work Environment

Overview/Description This course is intended to introduce the learner to the basic levels of service commitments and attitude expected of customer service representatives. Best practices, personal accountability, enhancing the image of the organization, and the work environment are covered.

Target Audience Individuals interested in the Customer Service Representative (CSR) certification

Expected Duration (hours) 3.0

Lesson Objectives

Support Center Services and Work Environment

-recognize the characteristics of good customer support

-recognize the importance of an ethical approach to customer support go to web site customer service representative

-match customer support best practices to examples

-identify what role managers play in encouraging Customer Service Representatives to follow best practice guidelines

-identify company actions/policies that represent a commitment to a high level of customer support in a given scenario

-apply methods of ensuring Customer Service Representatives take personal responsibility

-recognize how commitment to customers is demonstrated in given scenarios

-recognize how to protect the good image of the organization while supporting customers

-recognize the benefits of having a positive service attitude

-recognize examples of customer support provided with an excellent service attitude

-identify personal methods of projecting an excellent service attitude

-identify the factors involved in creating an effective customer support work environment

-create a collaborative and supportive work environment in a given scenario

-identify employee programs that help create a supportive work environment

-identify the benefits of a collaborative and supportive work environment

-identify the benefits of providing Customer Service Representatives with shared workspaces

-identify the problems associated with shared workspaces

-identify the advantages of private workspaces

(3) Team and Customer Relationships

Overview/Description This course will familiarize the learner with the underlying benefits and skills needed to establish team and customer relationships. Teamwork is a critical component of a support center. This course looks at the individual responsibilities of each team member, as well as the team as a whole. It also addresses the role of strong leadership in building and maintaining successful teams. In a support center, customer relationships are everything and communication is king! Many customer problems are caused by communication breakdowns. This course explores how to avoid communication breakdowns by involving customers in problem solving, and being able to communicate effectively in the global community, where cross-cultural issues abound.

Target Audience Individuals interested in the Customer Service Representative (CSR) certification

Expected Duration (hours) 3.0

E-learning course feedback:

e-learning has dramatically increased the scope, range and availability of training & development to all Equant employees. No other solution could possibly have achieved this in such a short timescale, particularly given the geographical dispersement of our workforce and the commercial realities of our business. Peter Mansell, Head of Training Centre of Excellence, Equant

Where e-learning is concerned, I used to be a complete agnostic. But, twelve months on, I’m totally converted. Now that we have experienced such measurable benefits, I would have no hesitation in giving e-learning a 100 percent recommendation to any organisation. John Guthrie, Head of International Management Development, Hilton International

“Based on our experience to date there is no doubt that e- learning will have an increasingly vital role to play as the company continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of its customers. Karl Gunner, Aspire Support Consultant, Intelligent Finance

Other E-learning Course Clients Include:

-American Express

-Blue Cross Blue Shield



-Chesterfield County, Va.

-Del Monte Foods


-e-Learning for Kids

-Environment Agency (UK)


-Hitachi Consulting



-JPMorgan Chase

-Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

-Lloyds TSB


-National Audit Office (UK)




-Rural Payments Agency (UK)




-Thales Australia


-Virgin Media

-Wessex Water

-Young & Rubicam

Report information:


  1. QWERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVBNM -  November 3, 2011 - 8:10 am

    O.K. Thanks

  2. Vikhaari -  November 1, 2011 - 12:42 pm


    However, who’s in the brain of “pal”, computer, or machine original source to decode? It’s creator. The real “pal’s” PAL and perhaps without relizing it’ll be that HAL….
    Thank you as usual great article.

  3. Nari -  October 31, 2011 - 9:56 am

    … Sumun try to make a entire book wit these binary chodes.

  4. Lyric is the name they gave me -  October 31, 2011 - 9:55 am

    This is a very interesting article, people are always tryna decipher what a person is saying jus out of misunderstanding, and as a metaphorist I always feel misunderstood so I speak in explanatory terms all day(metaphorically speaking) but for the people who don’t fully know why I speak or act the way I do they either take everything I say the wrong way or say they understand when they really don’t fully understand what I’m saying!!! I am deeper than words so I cannot be deciphered because English is my primary language but english is nothing but lamens terms for many put together foreign languages, i.e USA is nothing but a melting pot!!!

  5. Computer as translator « Perennial Student -  October 29, 2011 - 3:34 pm

    [...] a lover of language and languages, I was intrigued but bothered by the opening lines of an article I read this week at The Hot Word (dictionary.com’s blog). “Back in the [...]

  6. kadafi -  October 27, 2011 - 9:45 pm


  7. Tori A. -  October 27, 2011 - 5:10 pm

    ok……..im glad computers can do that stuff for us cuz other wise i would go crazy. i barely understand wht i just read!

  8. TheDumbo -  October 27, 2011 - 4:12 pm

    Wow…..That scares me a whole lot…….

  9. Xavier -  October 27, 2011 - 3:18 pm

    Nice article.Does anyone know if there’s anyway you can save Dictionary.com’s articles like this on to your own profile or soemthing like that?.

  10. Michael Panamero -  October 27, 2011 - 2:52 pm

    Awesomeness!!!! This article is almost as good as my fixies!! My favorite is purple and red and orange and white and blue and green and yellow and aqua and gold and pink and black! YEA!!!!!!

  11. sherryyu -  October 27, 2011 - 2:37 pm

    kool i think im begining to fell in love with dictionary.comy LOL!!:)

  12. xMarinex666 -  October 27, 2011 - 2:08 pm

    im here cuz of work.. theres nothing else to do here.. lol

  13. Tim -  October 27, 2011 - 1:13 pm

    I find this article to be quite fascinating. However, people should always keep in mind, logic can only be used so long as there are facts to be based off of. If something is abstract, such as an idea, it can not be argued about logically because there is no fact basis for it. Everyone will have different ideas. That’s all.

  14. Sadie -  October 27, 2011 - 1:06 pm

    Would everyone who is just typing nonsense please find a chat room away from here to type and submit your punctuation-less, misspelled material? You should spell everything correctly when submitting comments to a page on a DICTIONARY’S WEBSITE, for goodness’s sake!

  15. GirlKota -  October 27, 2011 - 11:59 am

    @KOTABRAND twitter

  16. mad hater -  October 27, 2011 - 11:44 am


  17. Michael -  October 27, 2011 - 11:29 am

    Secret Society= Illuminati

  18. Malik -  October 27, 2011 - 10:49 am

    ok… so what? This isn’t very informative…

  19. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  October 27, 2011 - 10:29 am

    But, How deep does this–rabbit hole–go…?

    I read the article, and followed the link to KRYPTOS,
    (The game of operating card-numbers to equal one),
    and noted one of two misspellings is possibly a clue:
    whereby Q transliterates, via Biblical Hebrew, to NC;

    So, What should we do with the other, misspellings–

    Thus far we have Q for missing NC and missing E….


  20. Jean'cyer Mcully -  October 27, 2011 - 9:53 am

    VERY DIFFRENT. I cant belive this WOwy

  21. CRaZy -  October 27, 2011 - 9:49 am

    is anyone else on this because of school xD

  22. Bob wall -  October 27, 2011 - 9:26 am


  23. Lizzy marie -  October 27, 2011 - 9:25 am

    wow!!! Very cool article!!! Thanks guys!!! ;)

  24. Trizzle -  October 27, 2011 - 8:53 am

    That’s actually pretty cool. Me and my brother use binary digits so that our parents can’t figure out what we are saying in the note.

  25. nny -  October 27, 2011 - 8:19 am

    thats a very interesting note but i dont think that its a message that were tryin to look for i think that its a symbolic picture that is tryin to be shown but humans just tey to flip the unknown around to what they want it to be but who knows ????????????????????

  26. CIPHER#MORE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  October 27, 2011 - 8:07 am

    [...] ‘Cipher’ pounds more or less the dollar value of the Yuan against the Euro. — It always adds up to interpretation of another Voyniche musical Zoro. — The gibberish we think we say is oft missed interpretative — to cipher one plus one is two is quite remarkably Demonstrative. — If there is no code to break nor reason to be hiding, — it’s only Somewhere or someplace else that the answers are residing. –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DEMOCRAZY, DICTCOMHOTWORD, L.T.Rhyme and tagged Democracy, LT, LTRhyme, the HOT WORD by admin. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  27. Greg -  October 27, 2011 - 8:00 am

    Some of you people are missing the point. A computer doesn’t have to figure out the connotations or the figurative meanings to translate the words and grammar.

    That’s what the human reader is for.

    A computer isn’t gonna translate Homer’s Iliad the same way Chapman did. But if Chapman had a computer handy, he could maybe have finished his version in a fraction of the time.

  28. Evan -  October 27, 2011 - 7:27 am

    The article today looks like it was taken from a New York Times article about the same subject that was online Wednesday.

  29. Abberube -  October 27, 2011 - 7:11 am

    A language cannot be understood without a context. Take this simple English sentence: “I can fish”. It can be understood in many ways, from “I put fish in cans” to “I know how to catch fish”. How can you know without context? Now challenge Google Translate to translate it. It returns something like “I am able the fish” (“Je peux le poisson.” in French; “Posso pesce.” in Italian; “我可以鱼” in Chinese). Read some funny translation errors at http://www.ojohaven.com/fun/translation.funnies.html

  30. Aaliyah -  October 27, 2011 - 7:02 am

    i dnt really get it. . well mainly because i didnt bother to read it all . . ahaa

  31. Rico KG -  October 27, 2011 - 7:02 am

    I think this is kool

  32. AL-ANON -  October 27, 2011 - 6:52 am

    The Voynich is my friend! Oh well. Man, you can;t take 2 steps on the internets these days without someone crying about “tolerance” ROFL

  33. Amiel -  October 27, 2011 - 4:47 am

    I’m feeling it sometimes,making computer games,Yes we are using 0s and 1s.

  34. dbatrivka -  October 27, 2011 - 4:00 am

    In paragraph 2, line 2, shouldn’t that be “a team of computational linguists”?

  35. pedanticprickurgoin2lern2like -  October 27, 2011 - 1:50 am

    Wow. Look at all these people who know how to spell. It’s a miracle. I’m home now. I don’t even care about the cipher article. ah.

  36. Hayley -  October 27, 2011 - 12:24 am

    Wow~ That’s amazing! Thanks for the facts! I finally found a way to pass the O.C test!! :D

  37. Clear -  October 26, 2011 - 11:40 pm

    cool I am trying to create my own code that possibly no machine can read: nonsense!!

  38. asdf -  October 26, 2011 - 10:28 pm


  39. GetSome -  October 26, 2011 - 10:27 pm

    Interested in creating a NEW LANGUAGE? All ideas are welcome! Just call 1-800-_ _ _-_ _ _ _ for more information. All new ideas about words related to sex will be rejected: I will be making those personally. :)

  40. Myschtifiet_unt_Konfuscht -  October 26, 2011 - 10:12 pm

    Vhat du I zink oaf zese kode brrreakink-unt/oarh enterrrink- teknologeeze?
    Yuh zay yuh vant du gnow vhat I zink oaf …nine, yuh doughn’t. Belief yuh me, zhem.

    Ust reat mine mindt. Der code is alrrrreaty brrrokunt verr yuh. Brrroker zen der 10 Kommanmenze.

  41. Joe -  October 26, 2011 - 9:36 pm

    its binary code, a code that bases of the number 2

    000000000010 is 2
    000000000101 is 5
    try to figure out how i did that

  42. Danny -  October 26, 2011 - 8:20 pm

    Now I know how to better translate the movie Matrix!

  43. lxz1883 -  October 26, 2011 - 7:42 pm

    It’s an amazing work!

  44. lxz1883 -  October 26, 2011 - 7:41 pm

    It’s a amazing work!

  45. Mehrdad Vahdati Daneshmand -  October 26, 2011 - 7:32 pm

    Just Great. Yet a long way ahead. How could feelings and senses, let alone several symbolic connotations of artistic creations be deciphered?

  46. Tobias Mook -  October 26, 2011 - 7:11 pm

    How did language form? That would be an awesome blog :3!!!!!

  47. Clare -  October 26, 2011 - 7:01 pm

    Error:please type a comment

  48. rob -  October 26, 2011 - 6:47 pm


  49. bagel -  October 26, 2011 - 6:40 pm

    they are very grate

  50. Kuro -  October 26, 2011 - 6:34 pm


  51. DictionFan -  October 26, 2011 - 6:02 pm

    That’s interesting! I always had trouble making codes and ciphers myself.

  52. Mark -  October 26, 2011 - 5:50 pm

    Actually, judging that i made a website in 5.5 minutes and was slightly intoxicated really gives you guys the benefit of the doubt.

  53. Mark -  October 26, 2011 - 5:49 pm

    Understandable, actually not really, judging that i made a sight in 5.5 minutes and was slightly intoxicated.

  54. Mark -  October 26, 2011 - 5:48 pm

    Sorry wrong email^ i completely agree though.

  55. Mike -  October 26, 2011 - 5:46 pm


  56. Hylton -  October 26, 2011 - 5:21 pm

    That is very cool good work to all the scienctist

  57. J-Wu -  October 26, 2011 - 4:45 pm


  58. Tedi -  October 26, 2011 - 4:01 pm


  59. Jay -  October 26, 2011 - 3:11 pm

    An aside from the subject; the christian mythos was thrown out of France during and after the revolution. Ancient knowledge? Conspiracy? The Masons? If you research it look to a “Supreme Being” and TOLERANCE of other religions!
    Interesting perspective to apply code breaking applications to codes. I like it.

  60. nigga niggaa niggaa -  October 26, 2011 - 3:07 pm

    ahahahahahaha farts

  61. Doug Argabright -  October 26, 2011 - 2:53 pm

    Awesome Article! :)

  62. Alvin Perez -  October 26, 2011 - 2:35 pm

    Imma chode

  63. sally -  October 26, 2011 - 2:10 pm

    who knows eminem!?

  64. sally -  October 26, 2011 - 2:09 pm

    isnt that the binary number thing?
    u know,where u use only 0s and 1s

  65. Martin C. -  October 26, 2011 - 1:25 pm

    whoa!! this is very impressive, this makes me understand the cryptographer from the recent batman games better!!

  66. de z a z -  October 26, 2011 - 1:24 pm

    secret societies ,hmmm

  67. Eric -  October 26, 2011 - 12:53 pm


  68. Arinda -  October 26, 2011 - 12:52 pm

    It seems complicated, but extremely interesting. I need to stop taking Google Translate for granted.

  69. Alvin Gongora -  October 26, 2011 - 11:52 am

    Grammar lives on the fuzzy edges of the logic/poetic divide. If a text is produced with a structure in mind it lends itself to be readable following a mathematical sequence. However, I still wonder if non human decoding could be successfully applied to the translation of creative writing, or to translating those spontaneous human situations and interactions.

  70. pancho -  October 26, 2011 - 11:48 am



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