another code to break ... why settle for crummy old Pizza?
Mike, you certainly earned the usual Pizza for cracking the Yobbo Intercept.
But now that you've amazed the Solar System with your Code-Breaking Skills, maybe you'd like to try for a prize that's worth a little more than Pizza.
Bedford County, Virginia must be a very odd place. My guess is it has more holes dug in it than any comparable region on Planet Earth.
Elmer Elevator's Discount Prep offered two Get-Rich-Quick schemes. I'll skip the first one for now -- programming a championship computer Go program -- because if you can do that, all you get for your hard work is a cheesy U$1,000,000 prize offered by a dead Taiwanese millionaire.
The second Get-Rich-Quick scheme seems right up Mike's alley.
For many years, the standard history and technical reference for codes was Kahn's "The Codebreakers." It's been superceded by a more up-to-date book, "The Code Book," by Simon Singh. (Click on his website and hose up £10,000 by solving some "easy" codes.)
Singh says something very interesting about The Beale Ciphers.
Maybe they're the key to a fabulous buried treasure.
Maybe there is no treasure.
But historically, that's not why the Beale Ciphers are important. It's not about the fabulous buried treasure.
Since around 1880, trying to solve/decode Beale's coded Document 1 (the precise location of Beale's fabulous buried treasure) has been the inspiration for every kid who went on to become an important professional (government, secret, NSA, university, academic, etc.) cryptographer.
Every important professional cryptographer read about the Beale Ciphers and the Buried Treasure, and started by devoting months or years to trying to crack the Beale Ciphers.
By the time they finally gave up in frustration -- they were world-class code experts! With a job, a security clearance, a university chair, health insurance and a reserved parking space.
Beale's Treasure may be total bullshit.
But trying to decode Beale's Document 1 has turned out to be of immense value to the evolution of the entire science of cryptography. For more than a century, Beale's real buried treasure has been the growth, power and sophistication of this fascinating branch of logic and mathematics.
But then there's always that buried fortune in gold and precious jewels ..............
With an independent air
You can see the ladies stare --
"He must be a millionaire!"
You can see them sigh and wink an eye
And to wish that they could die
For The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carrrrrrrlo!
Merci to Didier K., an actual French guy, for correcting my spelling of Bois de Boulogne.
The Beale Ciphers
Okay okay in 1817 a guy from Virginia named Thomas J. Beale put together an expedition of about twenty fellow adventurers and went to explore the American wilderness west of the Mississippi. Somewhere in what's now New Mexico they stumbled upon a cave with enormously rich veins of silver and gold. They took it back to St. Louis in wagons, exchanged some of it for more portable precious jewels, then took the treasure to Bedford County, Virginia, and buried it in iron pots in a vault within four miles of Buford's Tavern (whose foundations still exist). They went back West the next year and did it all over again.
Beale wrote three documents in code:
1. The preci$e location of the trea$ure.
2. A detailed description of the treasure.
3. A list of all the expedition members (shareholders in the treasure).
Here's the start of Document 1, just to give you a taste:
Beale used to stay in a hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia, and became friends with the innkeeper. When he went off on another expedition into the wilderness in 1822, he left the three coded documents with the innkeeper. He never returned.
Toward the end of the Civil War [1861-1865], the innkeeper passed the coded documents to a friend, James Beverly Ward, who spent decades, and finally got lucky and inspired and figured out that the key to Document 2 was The Declaration of Independence. Using the Declaration, he decoded Document 2.
If Beale was telling the truth, the buried treasure is worth around
in today's money.
No one has ever decoded Documents 1 and 3 !!! (Not that anyone really cares about 3.)
But the Coded Text -- long lists of numbers -- has been carefully copied and circulated for years. You can get it all at
no you can't, that link is long dead,
but check this very cool link!
Slobber. Drool. Well. Here we are again.
Those of you who don't believe this outlandish story; or who can't program a computer; or are sure they can never crack the Beale Ciphers; or who think it's too much of an effort ... well, just Go Away.
and don'tcha come back
no more . . .
* * * * * * *
Now a word about Secret Codes ...
In "The Gold Bug," Edgar Alan Poe wrote that any Code one mind could devise, another astute, determined mind could eventually break. Poe was a brilliant pioneer in Cryptography, and computed the tables of most frequently used alphabet letters in English writing. Such tables (different for different languages) remain invaluable in Cryptography to this day.
Poe was Absolutely Right for all the most important secret codes in the world -- things like the Japanese Purple and German Enigma codes of World War II -- well into very recent times. The earliest electronic digital computers were invented in secret to crack these codes, and were so successful that it seemed obvious that powerful Supercomputers would always stay one step ahead of any new secret code. (For more about the fascinating world of Secret Codes, read Kahn's The Codebreakers. It's a book. There's nothing to click on. Go to the bookstore or the library, okay?)
Then in 1978, Things Changed. Using large Prime Numbers, S. Pohlig and M. Hellman invented a type of code called "trap-door" or "one-way encryption," the basis for Public Key Cryptography, which computer communications use today. The best theories are (almost) absolutely certain that the world's most powerful supercomputers will take centuries to break these Large-Prime-Number codes!
But ... Beale made his codes in the early 19th century, and if the methods he used for Document 2 are those he used for Document 1, these are fairly primitive, crude codes. The reason they haven't been broken is that you need to figure out what book or document Beale used as the Key -- the way he used the Declaration of Independence for Document 2.
It probably has to be:
* a standardized document -- that is, something which has almost exactly the same wording and spelling no matter what the edition
* a widely-circulated, widely owned document in the early 19th century, like the King James Bible.
[I also think another good candidate would be Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress."]
Oh. I forgot. You'll need to buy a shovel and rent a big truck.
By the way ...
Just what, exactly, will you do with your $1,000,000 Ing Prize, or your $22,000,000 Beale Treasure?
The Three Stages of Get-Rich-Quick Fantasy are:
* Anticipation, Slobbering & Drooling
* The Magic Touch-the-Money Moment
* The Spending Spree
Please e-mail me your plans for these Huge Sums of Filthy Lucre. Please don't tell me you're going to invest it all in safe low-yield money-market or mutual funds for your old age. I don't want to hear that. I'll list your more imaginative fantasies, and your name (or not, your call) here.
Mine involve unimaginably fast English motorcycles (there's a New Triumph!!! I've seen and touched it!), lobsters, and n beautiful, intelligent, friendly, fun-loving young women (where n > 1 ) who like to wear stuff from Frederick's of Hollywood.
elmer says hi