Genesis update

By Gordon Rugg

There’s a new article by David Musgrave and myself about textual analysis of ancient texts here:

It’s an expanded version of our previous articles on the topic, including our presentation at the ASOR2012 conference.

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The Voynich Manuscript: Why should anybody care?

By Gordon Rugg

It’s a valid question. Why should anyone care about an undeciphered hand-written manuscript that almost certainly contains nothing more interesting than mediaeval recipes?

There are various answers. One is simple curiosity. Another is the challenge: millions of people do crosswords every day, which involve challenges with even less meaningful content than a mediaeval recipt. A more potent reason is fame – the first person to crack a long-standing problem gets their time in the limelight.

There’s another reason, though, which has much bigger implications. Modern civilisation depends on safe, secure codes – they’re at the heart of the Internet, e-commerce and online banking, among other things. The best modern codes are impressively good, but they’re reaching the end of their shelf life, as increasingly powerful hardware and software make it possible to crack codes that would have been impregnable just a year or two ago. Code-makers are now searching for entirely different approaches to security: types of code based on utterly different principles to anything currently known, that could resist the best modern codebreakers not just for months, or for years, but for decades.

Like, maybe, the Voynich Manuscript.

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New book: Blind Spot

By Gordon Rugg

My latest book was published on April 30th. Blind Spot is the story of an ambitious idea. I wanted to develop a method to spot where experts go wrong when tackling difficult problems. What happened next includes: A mysterious undeciphered mediaeval manuscript; inventing a radically different way to handle online search; new approaches to forensic statistics; a different way of looking at the search for life on other worlds, and much more. None of that was quite what I’d expected…


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Visualizing textual structures in the Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript has been described as the most mysterious book in the world. It’s a book written in a unique script, illustrated with images which are a mixture of the ordinary and the bizarre. It’s never been deciphered.

vms page

This article describes what happened when I used Search Visualizer to look at the distribution of common syllables in the manuscript.

Update: there’s more detail about this work on the Hyde & Rugg website:

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St Patrick’s Day special: The Irish Iliad

As Irish readers will know, Greece isn’t the only country to have national epics; Ireland also has its share of great ancient epics, one of which is informally known as “The Irish Iliad”. It’s not as widely known as it should be, and this article is intended to help remedy that situation.

The epic in question is Táin Bó Cúailnge, usually known in English as The Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin. It tells the story of a war, as famous in Irish legend as the Trojan War is in Greek legend.  Like the Trojan War, the Táin has a queen as a central figure, proud Medb of Connacht. The Táin also has its share of heroes, including Cú Chulainn, Ireland’s answer to Achilles. So, how do the two epics compare?

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Using Search Visualizer for your own searches, plus some background story

We’ve put soft copies of several books of the Bible, plus several Shakespeare plays, and some archival material from the American Civil War, onto the SV site.

They’re useful for learning how to use Search Visualizer to search for information in large documents – one of the documents on the site is over half a million words long.

To search this material:

Go to the main SV site (

Go to the window that says “Entire web” and select the “sample texts” option

Click on “Choose texts” and then select the texts that you want to search.

Click “close” (top right corner) to close the text selection window

Click “More options” so you can tweak the settings to make the images the best size (for big texts, it’s usually better to use the “Smaller squares” option and the “Two results per screen” option)

Enter your keywords.

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The “Genesis death sandwich” story

There’s been a fair amount of media coverage of our work on textual structures in Genesis, with most of that coverage picking up on the informal name of “the Genesis death sandwich” and with a suggestion that it would make a great name for a punk band. (If that ever happens, we’d be grateful for tickets to the first gig…)

This article provides some background to that story, and some answers to questions that are likely to be frequently asked.

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