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Codes

Classic Proof that two equals one which involves dividing by zeroDNA Code, binary code, Morse Code (now no longer officially used), QR Codes, bar codes, post codes, the Enigma Code, secret codes, machine code, ASCII Code, semiotics, … so many codes!

Even our alphabet and language is a form of code, as is a musical score. Even algebra is a form of code.

A code is designed to convey information, whether or not it is meant to be intelligible to anyone but the receiver.

I hope to share some interesting codes with you here. Together, we will learn a little about how some codes function and you may, perhaps, even solve a mystery or two!

The image at left is QR Code for the Crystal Clear Mathematics website.

 

 

 

A Mind-Blowing Analog Code

Because of quantum mechanics and the nature of the atom, this scenario is not possible.  It is none-the-less a fascinating thing to consider.

Imagine that someone wanted to store/encode the contents of an entire book.  They decide to convert every letter and symbol in the book into a numeric two-digit code.  Lower case a is 00, b is 01 etc.  Then come the upper case letters, digits and punctuation.  A space could be 78, for example, and a period (full stop) could be 83.  In this way, a four letter word could be encoded as an eight digit number.  In fact, all the text in the book could be thought of as a long string of symbols which could be converted to numerals using this method.

Perhaps, this person could encode an entire library like this.

If they then placed a decimal point in front of the number, it would become a decimal between 0 and 1.  The person could then obtain a perfect metre rod and place a mark on it matching this decimal to many thousands of decimal places (I told you this was not possible).  In this way, he/she would have encoded an entire library with just one scratch mark!

Buried Treasure in Virginia ~ A Hoax?

I read this story in OMNI magazine Volume 9 #8 (May 1987), pages 26, 87.

OMNI magazine contained articles on science, parapsychology, and short works of science fiction and fantasy and was published as a print version between October 1978 and 1995.  The first Omni e-magazine was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton, and closed down in 1998.  It appears as though that science and science fiction magazine is creating a presence on the Internet again as OMNI Reboot.

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The bait is buried treasure: a $14.7 million cache of gold, silver, and jewels believed to have been stashed somewhere in the state of Virginia more than 150 years ago. The only clues to its whereabouts: three slips of paper covered with a hodgepodge of 1,901 numbers.

Some say it's a hoax, but the Beale Cypher Association (BCA) isn't ready to give up its quest for the loot. For 25 years the society, whose members range from IBM cryptographers and CIA spooks to metal-detector hobbyists, has struggled in vain to decipher the numbers that could reveal the directions to the cache. One BCA member, convinced that he had broken the code, rushed to the prospective treasure site in Bedford County, Virginia, surrounded it with formidable fences, hired round-the-clock guards, rented a bulldozer, and unearthed—lo and behold—a 1930's car. Other enthusiastic members have sneaked onto private property to dig under cover of darkness but were seen, shot at, and arrested for trespassing.

These setbacks have not deterred the BCA. "I think it is fair to say that this effort has engaged a large number of the best cryptanalytic minds in the country" says Carl Hammer, seventy-three, the former director of computer science at Sperry Univac and a pioneer in using computers to analyze the statistical properties of ciphers. "I myself have spent ten years on these ciphers," says Hammer, "and I'm not through yet."

The man responsible for this madness was Thomas Jefferson Beale, a tall, swarthy, ruggedly handsome adventurer with jet-black eyes and hair who mined gold and silver in Santa Fe and hauled it back to Virginia in the early 1820's. Because he was in trouble with the law (rumor had it that he was seen leaving the room of a woman who was not his wife), Beale hid the gold and silver and disappeared, leaving a locked iron box in the care of Robert Morriss, the respected owner of a tavern in Lynchburg. That summer Morriss received a long letter from Beale, describing unpleasant encounters with buffalo and savage grizzlies and explaining that the box in Morriss's possession contained the coded whereabouts of a buried treasure. Morriss was instructed to break the box open if Beale did not return to claim it in ten years. Beale also promised Morriss that he would receive another letter revealing the key to the code so that he could decipher the papers effortlessly. Needless to say, the promised key never arrived, and Morriss never heard from Beale again. Whether he was massacred by Indians or mutilated by savage animals is only a matter for speculation.

When Morriss pried open the box, he found the three pieces of paper, each covered with numbers, along with a letter from Beale claiming that the three papers encoded the exact location of the treasure, the precise contents of the stash, and the names and addresses of the people who had helped him to mine the gold and silver. For 17 years Morriss tried to break the ciphers but failed to make any headway. In 1863, the year before he died, he gave the ciphers to James B. Ward, a bartender and family man who had accumulated sufficient savings to be able to spend his days contemplating numerical gibberish and searching for elusive treasure.

Ward decoded one of the papers after he discovered that the cipher was a remarkably simple one based on numbering the initial letters of the sequentially numbered words in the Declaration of Independence. To decipher the paper, Ward replaced each number with the corresponding letter in the Declaration of Independence. Thus, 1 stands for W because the first word in the Declaration is When, and 6 represents h because the sixth word is human. Once deciphered, the paper read in part: I have deposited in the County of Bedford about four miles from Buford's in an excavation or vault six feet below the surface of the ground the following articles belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in (paper) number three herewith." The paper also revealed the contents of the treasure (1,921 pounds of gold, 5,100 pounds of silver: and, by today's standards, some $3.35 million worth of jewels) and ended on the tantalizing note that one of the other two messages "describes the exact locality of the vault so that no difficulty will be had in finding it."

This teaser, combined with the simplicity of the deciphered code, has spurred on generations of cryptographers. In the 1960's some of the best minds in crypt-analysis formed the BCA to pool their knowledge and resources. Hammer and many of the other BCA members are convinced that the coded message leading to the treasure must have been created by numbering a document like the Declaration of Independence. BCA members have numbered by hand and by computer sections of the Bible, the Magna Carta, the Louisiana Purchase agreement, the Constitution, Shakespeare's plays, and dozens of other texts that Beale might have used. The problem is not just finding the right text but numbering it the right way: Perhaps, they've considered, it's the last letter of a word that counts rather than the first.
Modern cryptanalysts owe all that they know about Beale and his exploits to a pamphlet that Ward published in 1885. Every titillating detail about Beale — that he was tall and swarthy, that savage animals accosted him — comes from Ward. There is no independent confirmation: no corroborating correspondence, no journals, no wills, no references to the treasure whatsoever. If Ward was a prankster, however, he was a damn good one, having pulled off one of the longest-running hoaxes — not to mention one of the most expensive. "These games have cost, in terms of man-hours and computer time, much more than the tens of millions the treasure is supposed to be worth," Hammer says.

Hammer himself ran extensive statistical tests on the distribution of the numbers in the undeciphered Beale papers and concluded, in a prizewinning paper, that the numbers are not random but definitely conceal a message. Most cryptanalysts accept this conclusion, but the mere fact that there is a message, Hammer concedes, doesn't mean that the whole thing isn't a hoax. Who's to say that the message isn't something like, "You're the biggest sucker in the universe, dodo brain?" But as long as there's a chance that the treasure's really out there, Hammer and the others aren't about to give up.

HERE'S YOUR CHANCE

Decode the numbers (below) that lead to the buried treasure ... and buy yourself a shovel. The loot is yours if you can find it. The attorney general of the state of Virginia passed a ruling in the 1960's giving ownership of the treasure to whoever uncovers it, no matter whose land it's on.

71 194 38 1701 89 76 11 83 1629 48 94 63 132 16 111 95 84 341 975 14 40 64 27 81 139 213 63 90 1120 8 15 3 126 2018 40 74 758 485 604 230 436 664 582 150 251 284 308 231 124 211 486 225 401 370 11 101 305 139 189 17 33 88 208 193 145 1 94 73 416 918 263 28 500 538 356 117 136 219 27 176 130 10 460 25 485 18 436 65 84 200 283 118 320 138 36 416 280 15 71 224 961 44 16 401 39 88 61 304 12 21 24 283 134 92 63 246 486 682 7 219 184 360 780 18 64 463 474 131 160 79 73 440 95 18 64 581 34 69 128 367 460 17 81 12 103 820 62 116 97
103 862 70 60 1317 471 540 208 121 890 346 36 150 59 568 614 13 120 63 219 812 2160 1780 99 35 18 21 136 872 15 28 170 88 4. 30. 44 112 18 147 436 195 320 37 122 113 6 140 8 120 305 42 58 461 44 106 301 13 408 680 93 86 116 530 82 568 9 102 38 416 89 71 216 728 965 818 2 38 121 195 14 326 148 234 18 55 131 234 361 824 5 81 623 48 961 19 26 33 10 1101 365 92 88 181 275 346 201 206 86 36 219 320 829.840 68 326 19 48 122 85 216 284 919 861 326 985 233 64 68 232 431 960 50 29 81 216 321 603 14 612 81 360 36 51 62 194 78 60 200 314 676 112 4 28 18 61 136 247 819 921 1060 464 895 10 6 66 119 38 41 49 602 423 962 302 294 875 78 14 23 111 109 62 31 501 823 216 280 34 24 150 1000 162 286 19 21 17 340 19 242 31 86 234 140 607 115 33 191 67 104 86 52 88 16 80 121 67 95 122 216 548 96 11 201 77 364 218 65 667 890 236 154 211 10 98 34 119 56 216 119 71 218 1164 1496 1817 51 39 210 36 3 19 540 232 22 141 617 84 290 80 46 207 411 150 29 38 46 172 85 194 36 261 543 897 624 18 212 416 127 931 19 4 63 96 12 101 418 16 140 230 460 538 19 27 88 612 1431 90 716 275 74 83 11 426 89 72 84 1300 1706 814 221 132 40 102 34 858 975 1101 84 16 79 23 16 81 122 324 403 912 227 936 447 55 86 34 43 212 107 96 314 264 1065 323 428 601 203 124 95 216 814 2906 654 820 2 301 112 176 213 71 87 96 202 35 10 2 41 17 84 221 736 820 214. 11 60 760

For more information on the code or about membership in the Beale Cypher Association, send $1 to the BCA at Box 236, Warrington, PA 18976.

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All three cryptograms can be seen on the Wikipedia article about the Beale Ciphers.  This could be a hoax.  It could be a real, live, treasure hunt!  The ciphers themselves are real.  They actually exist.

If you take up the challenge and find the treasure, please consider giving a donation to help me with the upkeep of this website.

Thank you.

Graeme Base

Thank you very much Sir, I really appreciate how you give clear and insightful instruction to a person who does not speak well English. Thanks to you I now have all A’s in Algebra II and Pre-Calculus. It almost as good as my English being an A+ right now. Thanks to you my GPA is now a 4.71 and my SAT is 2200.
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