Spear of Destiny




The Holy Lance in the Schatzkammer of Vienna

Hitler's successes as Nazi dictator have given way to a number of occult theories. One of the most common of these is the story of the Spear of Destiny. Also called the Holy Lance, this spear is the name given to the lance that supposedly pierced Jesus's side as he hung on the cross in John's account of his death. Legend has it that whoever possesses the lance will rule the world.




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Biblical References




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

The lance is mentioned only in the Gospel of John (19:31-37) and not in any of the Synoptic Gospels. The gospel states that the Romans planned to break Jesus' legs, a practice known as crurifragium, which was a method of hastening death during a crucifixion. Just before they did so, they realized that Jesus was already dead and that there was no reason to break his legs. To make sure that he was dead, a Roman centurion named in extra-Biblical tradition as Longinus stabbed him in the side.

The phenomenon of blood and water was considered a miracle by Origen (although the water may be explained biologically by the piercing of the pericardial sinus secondary to cardiac tamponade.) Catholics generally choose to employ a more allegorical interpretation: it represents the Church (and more specifically, the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist) issuing from the side of Christ, just as Eve was taken from the side of Adam.

One of the earliest mentions of a relic preserved as the Holy Lance is in the account of the pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza, about 570, who described the holy places of Jerusalem, where he saw in the basilica of Mount Zion "the crown of thorns with which Our Lord was crowned and the lance with which he was struck in the side".

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the presence in Jerusalem of this relic is attested half a century earlier by Cassiodorus and was known to Gregory of Tours.

In 615 Jerusalem was captured for the Persian King Khosrau II; according to the Chronicon Paschale, the iron point of the lance, which had been broken off, was given in the same year to Nicetas, who took it to Constantinople and deposited it in the church of Hagia Sophia.

This lance-point, embedded in an icon, was obtained in 1244 from the Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, by Louis IX of France, who enshrined it with his relic of the Crown of Thorns in the Sainte Chapelle, Paris. During the French Revolution these relics were removed to the Bibliotheque Nationale and then disappeared.

The name of the soldier who pierced Christ's side is not given in the Gospel of John, but in the oldest known references to the legend, the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus appended to late manuscripts of the 4th century Acts of Pilate. The soldier is identified as a Centurion and called Logginus or Longinus (making the spear's "correct" Latin name Lancea Longini).

A form of the name Longinus also occurs on a miniature in the Rabula Gospels (conserved in the Laurentian Library, Florence, which was illuminated by one Rabulas in the year 586. In the miniature, the name LOGINOS is written in Greek characters above the head of the soldier who is thrusting his lance into Christ's side. This is one of the earliest records of the name, if the inscription is not a later addition.

Another "Longinus" is credited with the authorship of the treatise On the Sublime. Roman names held little variety, especially among members of the same family.




Relics Claimed to be the Holy Lance





They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Vatican Lance




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

No actual lance is known until the pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza (570 AD), describing the holy places of Jerusalem, says that he saw in the Basilica of Mount Zion "the crown of thorns with which Our Lord was crowned and the lance with which He was struck in the side". A mention of the lance also occurs in the so-called Breviarius at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The presence in Jerusalem of this important relic is attested by Cassiodorus (c. 485 - c. 585) as well as by Gregory of Tours (c. 538-594), who had not actually been to Jerusalem.

In 615 Jerusalem and its relics were captured by the Persian forces of King Khosrau II (Chosroes II). According to the Chronicon Paschale, the point of the lance, which had been broken off, was given in the same year to Nicetas, who took it to Constantinople and deposited it in the church of Hagia Sophia, and later to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos.

This point of the lance, which was now set in an icon, was sold in 1244 by Baldwin II of Constantinople to Louis IX of France, and it was enshrined with the Crown of Thorns in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. During the French Revolution these relics were removed to the Bibliothque Nationale but subsequently disappeared. (The present "Crown of Thorns" is a wreath of rushes.)

As for the larger portion of the lance, Arculpus claimed he saw it at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around 670 in Jerusalem, but there is otherwise no mention of it after the sack in 615. Some claim that the larger relic had been conveyed to Constantinople sometime during the 8th century, possibly at the same time as the Crown of Thorns. At any rate, its presence at Constantinople seems to be clearly attested by various pilgrims, particularly Russians, and, though it was deposited in various churches in succession, it seems possible to trace it and distinguish it from the relic of the point. Sir John Mandeville declared in 1357 that he had seen the blade of the Holy Lance both at Paris and at Constantinople, and that the latter was a much larger relic than the former.

Whatever the Constantinople relic was, it fell into the hands of the Turks, and in 1492, under circumstances minutely described in Pastor's History of the Popes, the Sultan Bayazid II sent it to Innocent VIII to encourage the pope to continue to keep his brother and rival Zizim (Cem) prisoner. At this time great doubts as to its authenticity were felt at Rome, as Johann Burchard records, because of the presence of other rival lances in Paris (the point that had been separated from the lance), Nuremberg (see "Vienna lance" below), and Armenia.

In the mid 1700s Benedict XIV states that he obtained from Paris an exact drawing of the point of the lance, and that in comparing it with the larger relic in St. Peter's he was satisfied that the two had originally formed one blade. This relic has never since left Rome, where it is preserved under the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica, although the Roman Catholic Church makes no claim as to its authenticity.







They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Echmiadzin Lance




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

The lance currently in Echmiadzin, Armenia, was discovered during the First Crusade. In 1098 the crusader Peter Bartholomew reported that he had a vision in which St. Andrew told him that the Holy Lance was buried in St. Peter's Cathedral in Antioch. After much digging in the cathedral, a lance was discovered. This was considered a miracle by the crusaders who were able to rout the Muslim army besieging the city and decisively capture Antioch. Some Early Modern scholars (e.g. [[Odorico Raynaldi in Annales ecclesiastici and the Bollandists) believed that this lance afterwards fell into the hands of the Turks and was in fact the lance that Bayazid II sent to Pope Innocent and is now in the Vatican.







They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Vienna Lance (Hofburg Spear)




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If you've got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

The Holy Roman Emperors had a lance of their own, attested from the time of Otto I (912-973). In 1000 Otto III gave Boleslaw I of Poland a replica of the Lance at the Congress of Gniezno. In 1084 Henry IV had a silver band with the inscription "Nail of Our Lord" added to it. This was based on the belief that this was the lance of Constantine the Great which enshrined a nail used for the Crucifixion.

In 1273 it was first used in the coronation ceremony. Around 1350 Charles IV had a golden sleeve put over the silver one, inscribed "Lancea et clavus Domini" (Lance and nail of the Lord).

In 1424 Sigismund had a collection of relics, including the lance, moved from his capital in Prague to his birth place, Nuremberg, and decreed them to be kept there forever. This collection was called the Reichskleinodien or Imperial Regalia.

When the French Revolutionary army approached Nuremberg in the spring of 1796 the city councilors decided to remove the Reichskleinodien to Vienna for safe keeping. The collection was entrusted to one "Baron von HŸgel", who promised to return the objects as soon as peace had been restored and the safety of the collection assured.

However, the Holy Roman Empire was officially dissolved in 1806 and von HŸgel took advantage of the confusion over who was the rightful owner and sold the entire collection, including the lance, to the Habsburgs. When the city councilors discovered this they asked for the Reichskleinodien back but were refused. As part of the imperial regalia it was kept in the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) in Vienna and was known as the lance of Saint Maurice.

During the Anschluss, when Austria was annexed to Germany, Adolf Hitler took the lance. It was returned to Austria by American General George S. Patton after World War II and was temporarily stored in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Currently the Spear is held in the Schatzkammer.

Dr. Robert Feather, an English metallurgist and technical engineering writer, tested the lance in January 2003.[8] He was given unprecedented permission not only to examine the lance in a laboratory environment, but was also allowed to remove the delicate bands of gold and silver that hold it together.

In the opinion of Feather and other academic experts, the likeliest date of the spearhead is the 7th century A.D. - only slightly earlier than the Museum's own estimate. However, Dr. Feather also stated in the same documentary that an iron pin - long claimed to be a nail from the crucifixion, hammered into the blade and set off by tiny brass crosses - is "consistent" in length and shape with a 1st century A.D. Roman nail.

According to Paul the Deacon, the Lombard royal line bore the name of the Gungingi, which Karl Hauck and Stefano Gasparri maintain identified them with the name of OdinÕs lance, Gungnir (a sign that they probably claimed descent from Odin, as did most of the Germanic royal lines) Paul the Deacon also notes that the inauguration rite of a Lombard king consisted essentially of his grasping of a sacred/royal lance.

Milan, which had been the capital of the Western Roman Empire in the time of Constantine, was also the capital of the Lombard kings Perctarit and his son Cunipert, who became Catholic Christians in the 7th century. Thus it seems possible that the iron point of the Lombardic royal lance might have been recast in the 7th century in order to enshrine one of the 1st century Roman nails that St. Helena was reputed to have found at Calvary and brought to Milan, thus giving a new Christian sacred aura to the old pagan royal lance.

If CharlemagneÕs inauguration as the King of the Lombards in 774 had likewise included his grasping of this now-Christianized sacred or royal lance, this would explain how it would have eventually become the oldest item in the German imperial regalia. We might also note that the Iron Crown of Lombardy (dated to the 8th century), which eventually became the primary symbol of Lombardic kingship, takes its name from the tradition that it also contains one of the holy nails.

Alternately, since Gregory of Tours in his Libri Historiarum VII, 33, states that in 585 the Merovingian king Guntram designated his nephew Childebert II his heir by handing him his lance, it is possible that a royal lance was also a symbol of kingship among the Merovingian kings and that a nail from Calvary was in the 7th century incorporated into this royal lance and thus eventually would have come into the German imperial regalia.







They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Other Lances




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Another lance has been preserved at Krakow, Poland, since at least the 1200s. However, German records indicate that it was a copy of the Vienna lance. Emperor Henry II had it made with a small sliver of the original lance. Another copy was given to the Hungarian king at the same time. The story told by William of Malmesbury of the giving of the Holy Lance to King Athelstan of England by Hugh Capet seems to be due to a misconception.




Modern Legends




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Richard Wagner:




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

In his opera Parsival, Richard Wagner identifies the Holy Spear with two items that appear in Wolfram von Eschenbach's medieval poem Parsival, a bleeding spear in the Castle of the Grail and the spear that has wounded the Fisher King. The opera's plot concerns the consequences of the spear's loss by the Knights of the Grail and its recovery by Parsifal. Having decided that the blood on the Spear was that of the wounded Savior - Christ is never named in the opera - Wagner has the blood manifest itself in the Grail rather than on the spearhead.

In the Wagner opera Parsival, Klingsor was a despicable adversary of the Knights of the Holy Grail. The fiend sought to capture the Spear of Destiny from them and use it in his practice of black magic. In history, no figure was more feared than the black magician Landulph II of Capua. He, too, was obsessed with the power of the Spear of Destiny.

Hitler identified the similarities between Wagner's character and the magician. He saw their struggles as parallel to his own quest for the holy icon. To Hitler, the blood purity of the Grail Knights and the maniacal quest of Klingsor and Landulph for the spear was the blueprint for world conquest by Nazi power. Hitler believed he would one day fulfill a historic destiny. How he would do this was not clear until he was 21.

While in the Hapsburg Treasure House in Vienna, Austria, Hitler heard the words which he said were to change his whole life. A museum tour guide stopped in front of a display of an ancient spear and told of a legend that whoever possessed it would hold the destiny of the world. The guide said the spear was supposedly the one which a Roman Centurion thrust into the side of Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion. After the group departed, Hitler stepped forward for a closer look.

"I knew with immediacy that this was an important moment in my life, and yet I could not divine why an outwardly Christian symbol should make such an impression on me," he said later. After his initial experience with the Spear of Destiny, Hitler studied the history of the ancient relic. He was intrigued and amazed at its incredible story.

For more than 1,000 years, the spear had been a symbol of power to the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. Century after century, the legend of the Spear had been fulfilled for good or evil. Constantine the Great claimed the spear guided him through providence. The Frankish General Karl Martel used the spear in battle. Emperor Charlemagne lived and slept within reach of the spear, and attributed 47 battle victories to its powers. In all, 45 emperors over 1,000 years claimed the Spear of Destiny as a possession. Hitler decided he had to possess it.

Over the next three years, he made countless trips to the museum to gaze in awe at the spear. He recalled that one day as he stood in front of the display, he went into a trance. "I slowly became aware of a mighty presence around it -- the same awesome presence which I had experienced inwardly on those rare occasions in my life when I had sensed that a great destiny awaited me."

In 1933, when Hitler rose to power, his 25-year obsession to possess the spear could be realized. In April, 1938, he marched his army into Vienna and took possession of the spear and took it to Nuremberg. One year later, he invaded Poland. On April 30, 1945, the same day Hitler supposedly killed himself, the American army invaded Nuremberg and took possession of the spear.

In the months that followed, America unleashed the most destructive force ever known to man: the atomic bomb. While in possession of the Spear of Destiny, America became the undisputed ruler of the world. The spear now once again resides in the Hapsburg Treasure House Museum in Vienna.







They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Trevor Ravenscroft:




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

The "Spear of Destiny" is a name given to the Holy Lance in various stories that attribute mystical powers to it. Many of these have originated in recent times and several popular New Age and conspiracy theory books have popularized the legend of the spear. Trevor RavenscroftÕs 1973 The Spear of Destiny (as well as a later book The Mark of the Beast) claims that Adolf Hitler started World War II in order to capture the spear, with which he was obsessed. At the end of the war the spear came into the hands of US General George Patton. According to legend, losing the spear would result in death, and that was fulfilled when Hitler allegedy committed suicide.

Ravenscroft repeatedly attempted to define the mysterious powers that the legend says the spear serves. He found it to be a hostile and evil spirit, which he sometimes referred to as the Antichrist, though that is open to interpretation. He never actually referred to the spear as spiritually controlled, but rather as intertwined with all of mankind's ambitions. Despite publishing his findings in a supposed non-fiction book, Ravenscroft successfully sued James Herbert, claiming Herbert's 1978 novel The Spear infringed on Ravenscroft's copyright. This case is similar to the Dan Brown and Holy Blood, Holy Grail case.







They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

Dr. Howard A. Buechner,




They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside   Wired - November 20, 2012

For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun. The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidates eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidates eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the masters amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg.

Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic "sight-restoring" ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least thats what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.

For years, Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock would meet regularly at an Italian bistro in Berlin. He would order pizza, and she would get the penne allarrabbiata. The two philologists-experts in ancient writings-would talk for hours about dead languages and obscure manuscripts.

It was the fall of 1998, and Schaefer was about to leave Berlin to take a job in the linguistics department at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm. Hock announced that he had a going-away present for Schaefer.

She was a little surprised-a parting gift seemed an oddly personal gesture for such a reserved colleague. Still more surprising was the present itself: a large brown paper envelope marked with the words top secret and a series of strange symbols.

Schaefer opened it. Inside was a note that read, "Something for those long Swedish winter nights." It was paper-clipped to 100 or so photocopied pages filled with a handwritten script that made no sense to her whatsoever.

Arrows, shapes, and runes. Mathematical symbols and Roman letters, alternately accented and unadorned. Clearly it was some kind of cipher. Schaefer pelted Hock with questions about the manuscript's contents. Hock deflected her with laughter, mentioning only that the original text might be Albanian. Other than that, Hock said, she'd have to find her own answers.

A few days later, on the train to Uppsala, Schaefer turned to her present again. The cipher's complexity was overwhelming: symbols for Saturn and Venus, Greek letters like pi and gamma, oversize ovals and pentagrams. Only two phrases were left unencoded: "Philipp 1866," written at the start of the manuscript, and "Copiales 3" at the end. Philipp was traditionally how Germans spelled the name. Copiales looked like a variation of the Latin word for "to copy.î Schaefer had no idea what to make of these clues.

She tried a few times to catalog the symbols, in hopes of figuring out how often each one appeared. This kind of frequency analysis is one of the most basic techniques for deciphering a coded alphabet. But after 40 or 50 symbols, sheÍd lose track. After a few months, Schaefer put the cipher on a shelf.

Thirteen years later, in January 2011, Schaefer attended an Uppsala conference on computational linguistics. Ordinarily talks like this gave her a headache. She preferred musty books to new technologies and didnÍt even have an Internet connection at home. But this lecture was different.

The featured speaker was Kevin Knight, a University of Southern California specialist in machine translation - the use of algorithms to automatically translate one language into another. With his stylish rectangular glasses, mop of prematurely white hair, and wiry surfer's build, he didn't look like a typical quant. Knight spoke in a near whisper yet with intensity and passion. His projects were endearingly quirky too. He built an algorithm that would translate DanteÍs Inferno based on the user's choice of meter and rhyme scheme. Soon he hoped to cook up software that could understand the meaning of poems and even generate verses of its own.

Knight was part of an extremely small group of machine-translation researchers who treated foreign languages like ciphers - as if Russian, for example, were just a series of cryptological symbols representing English words. In code-breaking, he explained, the central job is to figure out the set of rules for turning the cipherÍs text into plain words: which letters should be swapped, when to turn a phrase on its head, when to ignore a word altogether.

Establishing that type of rule set, or key, is the main goal of machine translators too. Except that the key for translating Russian into English is far more complex. Words have multiple meanings, depending on context. Grammar varies widely from language to language. And there are billions of possible word combinations.

But there are ways to make all of this more manageable. We know the rules and statistics of English: which words go together, which sounds the language employs, and which pairs of letters appear most often. (Q is usually followed by a u, for example, and "quiet" is rarely followed by "bulldozer.") There are only so many translation schemes that will work with these grammatical parameters. That narrows the number of possible keys from billions to merely millions.

The next step is to take a whole lot of educated guesses about what the key might be. Knight uses what's called an expectation -maximization algorithm to do that. Instead of relying on a predefined dictionary, it runs through every possible English translation of those Russian words, no matter how ridiculous; it'll interpret as "yes," "horse," "to break dance," and "quiet!" Then, for each one of those possible interpretations, the algorithm invents a key for transforming an entire document into English - what would the text look like if meant "break dancing"?

The algorithm's first few thousand attempts are always way, way off. But with every pass, it figures out a few words. And those isolated answers inch the algorithm closer and closer to the correct key. Eventually the computer finds the most statistically likely set of translation rules, the one that properly interprets as yes and as quiet.

The algorithm can also help break codes, Knight told the Uppsala conference - generally, the longer the cipher, the better they perform. So he casually told the audience, "If youÍve got a long coded text to share, let me know."

Funny, Schaefer said to Knight at a reception afterward. I have just the thing.

M.D., professor of medicine at Tulane and then Louisiana State University, wrote two books on the spear. Buechner was a retired colonel with the U.S. Army who served in World War II and had written a book about the Dachau massacre. He claims he was contacted by a former U-boat submariner, the pseudonymous Capt. Wilhelm Bernhart, who claimed the spear currently on display in Vienna is a fake. "Bernhart" said the real spear was sent by Hitler to Antarctica along with other Nazi treasures, under the command of Col. Maximilian Hartmann.

In 1979 Hartmann allegedly recovered the treasures. Bernhart presented Buechner with the log from this expedition as well as pictures of the objects recovered, claiming that after the Spear of Destiny was recovered, it was hidden somewhere in Europe by a Nazi secret society. After contacting most of the members of the alleged expedition and others involved, including Hitler Youth Leader Artur Axmann, Buechner became convinced the claims were true. Read more...





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