USC Cracks Copiale Cipher, the Code of a Secret Society Obsessed with Eyeballs

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Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 11:04 AM

click to enlarge Copiale Cipher: the eye was the key to knowing
  • Copiale Cipher: the eye was the key to knowing
Cool news from USC: a computer team led by a professor who has been trying to crack the Zodiac Killer's weird hieroglyphics has instead cracked the dense Greek and Roman code in the Copiale Cipher, a 105-page manuscript of a secret society obsessed with ... eyeballs.

City News Service reports that the 18th Century doc was found in East Berlin after the Cold War. Computer scientist Kevin Knight's team at Viterbi School of Engineering unlocked the ancient patterns used by the strange Eyeball Society that was deep into eye surgery and ophthalmology -- in the 1700s. Sounds painful.

According to City News Service:

``This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and

the history of secret societies,'' Knight said.

``Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered."


  • A cipher created by the Zodiac Killer
n fact, some of the secrets within the Copiale Cipher are political leanings and beliefs, not just eyeball talk, according to USC.

And that's fascinating because the 18th Century was known as the Enlightenment, when the French and American revolutions shook the world and philosophy and science got a major foothold in Europe.

The Brits started the Industrial Revolution in 1750 by inventing the steam engine, and parts of Austria and Germany were political, philosphical and scientific hotbeds challenging the old ways.

click to enlarge The Enlightenment: it wasn't just about fancy legwear
  • The Enlightenment: it wasn't just about fancy legwear
Maybe the Eyeball Society saw itself, and the human eye, as the center of all this. It was not to be.

The USC team tried using some 80 languages to decipher the code, but Knight says, ``It took quite a long time and resulted in complete failure," Knight said.

In fact, the possibilities with a new code are nearly infinite, so the team turned to the computer to do the "grunt work," he says.

click to enlarge The Zodiac Killer's uncrackable "340 Cipher."
  • The Zodiac Killer's uncrackable "340 Cipher."
Knight is still working on one of his more daunting projects: trying to unravel the ciphers sent by the Zodiac Killer, who murdered many people in San Francisco area and remains at large (or possibly has died of old age).

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