The Voynich Bombe

How would Alan Turing approach The Voynich?

Alan Turing Sculpture

Photo by joncallas

Would he come up with a logical Bombe, like he did for the Enigma? A metaphorical brute-force attack, this time machined into software? Would he try to formalise all problems and develop a Voynich Test, maybe to be held annually, where every year we would see theory after theory fail the test..

I’m afraid there won’t be an actual machine readily cracking The Voynich Code for us. Rather we are looking at a Voynich Complex with a Voynich Blackbox in the center, all of which seem rather unquantifiable.. unless we had some good AI (wishful thinking).

It may be a little acknowledged fact that while Turing devised a generalised approach and greatly improved the concept, the Bombes’ original inventor is yet another genius named Marian Rejewski of the Polish Cryptography Office. Examining the Enigma’s patterns he found a cryptological weakness that enabled him to reconstruct the apparatus. His “Bomba Kryptologiczna” successfully cracked the Enigma model of 1933.

Marian Rejewski Sculpture

Photo by Pete Reed

The Bombe represents a fascinating concept. It is a reverse engineered reconstruction of the Enigmas inner workings, an approach that could prove useful in attacking The Voynich. While this has already been facilitated in the past (see Hyde and Rugg) with promising results it seems that a more generalised approach keeping the larger picture of The Voynich in mind would be required.

The British & US Bombes were sophisticated electro-mechanical devices that developed together with the problem they were designed to solve, the Enigma. They only made sense when deployed in large number. Rejewskis undertaking sounds more rustic:

A machine called the “bombe” is used to expedite the solution. The first machine was built by the Poles and was a hand operated multiple enigma machine. When a possible solution was reached a part would fall off the machine onto the floor with a loud noise. Hence the name “bombe”.1

A different version goes that Rejewski named his baby after a certain ice cream creation sold in vicinity of his office.

Read more on the history of the Enigma and the Bombe.