'The Root': Can you solve our cipher?

Watch 'The Root: The Birth of Big Brother' and all of 'The Root' episodes HERE

Catch up on the research from segment 1 HERE

Segment 2: William Friedman; Edgar Allan Poe; Solve the Cipher

Friedman

In this segment, Glenn explained how Yardley’s operation was shut down – but the practice of domestic spying wasn’t. By 1929 surveillance, coding and decoding messages were established as a crucial skill to have, maintain, and advance. So, Secretary of State Stimson may have put an end to Yardley’s operation, but Yardley’s files were not destroyed. Instead, they were sent to the desk of one of the most brilliant minds in cryptology – William Friedman.

 

Edgar Allan Poe

Friedman was a pioneer in the field, and as you’ll see in the next segment, inspired the creation of the only known cipher machine to never be cracked. But how Friedman got his start in the field is an incredible tale all its own. Friedman was a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe, and Poe was a big fan of ciphers. In fact, he once bragged that he could decipher anything. Friedman loved deciphering messages, and one of his favorite Poe stories was ‘The Gold Bug’.

The code in Poe’s ‘Gold Bug’ is an example of a substitution cipher, which is a cipher where the letters of the alphabet are replaced by other letters or symbols. Calculating all possible combinations of 26 letters of the alphabet and 26 symbols the possible results are in the trillions. For hundreds of years, substitution ciphers were considered impossible to crack.

The secret to solving substitution ciphers is by analyzing syntax. Languages follow a set of rules. There’s only so many ways you can combine letters so that they form intelligible words. Even though the cipher uses symbols it still has to follow those rules. Pretty soon by looking for these rules we can start to see patterns within the message. All that’s needed is a key.

The foundation for all codebreaking is letter frequency analysis. As Poe's Legrand pointed out in the story, in English the most commonly used letter is the letter E. Locating the most frequently used vowels and consonants is the key to letter frequency analysis. Legrand argued that the letters of the alphabet ordered from most frequent to less frequent looked like this:

e a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z

Read the entire Edgar Allan Poe’s the Gold Bug – it’s a great story.

Here’s the section that contains the cipher and the explanation on how to decrypt it (this is the portion Glenn animated on the program):

Here Legrand submitted the parchment to my inspection. The following characters were rudely traced between the death's-head and the goat:

 

53‡‡†305))6*;4826)4‡.)4‡);806*;48†8 ¶60))85;1‡(;:‡*8†83(88)5*†;46(;88*96

*?;8)*‡(;485);5*†2:*‡(;4956*2(5*—4)8 ¶8*;4069285);)6†8)4‡‡;1(‡9;48081;8:8‡

1;48†85;4)485†528806*81(‡9;48;(88;4 (‡?34;48)4‡;161;:188;‡?;

"But," said I, returning him the slip, "I am as much in the dark as ever. Were all the jewels of Golconda awaiting me upon my solution of this enigma, I am quite sure that I should be unable to earn them."

"And yet," said Legrand, "the solution is by no means so difficult as you might be led to imagine from the first hasty inspection of the characters. These characters, as any one might readily guess, form a cipher — that is to say, they convey a meaning; but then, from what is known of Kidd, I could not suppose him capable of constructing any of the more abstruse cryptographs. I made up my mind, at once, that this was of a simple species — such, however, as would appear, to the crude intellect of the sailor, absolutely insoluble without the key."

"And you really solved it?"

"Readily; I have solved others of an abstruseness ten thousand times greater. Circumstances, and a certain bias of mind, have led me to take interest in such riddles, and it may well be doubted whether human ingenuity can construct an enigma of the kind which human ingenuity may not, by proper application, resolve. In fact, having once established connected and legible characters, I scarcely gave a thought to the mere difficulty of developing their import.

"In the present case — indeed in all cases of secret writing — the first question regards the language of the cipher; for the principles of solution, so far, especially, as the more simple ciphers are concerned, depend upon, and are varied by, the genius of the particular idiom. In general, there is no alternative but experiment (directed by probabilities) of every tongue known to him who attempts the solution, until the true one is attained. But, with the cipher now before us, all difficulty was removed by the signature. The pun upon the word 'Kidd' is appreciable in no other language than the English. But for this consideration I should have begun my attempts with the Spanish and French, as the tongues in which a secret of this kind would most naturally have been written by a pirate of the Spanish main. As it was, I assumed the cryptograph to be English.

"You observe there are no divisions between the words. Had there been divisions, the task would have been comparatively easy. In such case I should have commenced with a collation and analysis of the shorter words, and, had a word of a single letter occurred, as is most likely, (a or I, for example,) I should have considered this solution as assured. But, there being no division, my first step was to ascertain the predominant letters, as well as the least frequent. Counting all, I constructed a table, thus:

Of the character 8 there are 33.

; " 26.

4 " 19.

‡ ) " 16.

* " 13.

5 " 12.

6 " 11.

†1 " 8.

0 " 6.

9 2 " 5.

: 3 " 4.

? " 3.

¶ " 2. —. " 1.

"Now, in English, the letter which most frequently occurs is e. Afterwards, the succession runs thus: a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z. E predominates so remarkably that an individual sentence of any length is rarely seen, in which it is not the prevailing character.

"Here, then, we have, in the very beginning, the groundwork for something more than a mere guess. The general use which may be made of the table is obvious — but, in this particular cipher, we shall only very partially require its aid. As our predominant character is 8, we will commence by assuming it as the e of the natural alphabet. To verify the supposition, let us observe if the 8 be seen often in couples — for e is doubled with great frequency in English — in such words, for example, as 'meet,' 'fleet,' 'speed,' 'seen,' 'been,' 'agree,' &c. In the present instance we see it doubled no less than five times, although the cryptograph is brief.

"Let us assume 8, then, as e. Now, of all words in the language, 'the' is most usual; let us see, therefore, whether there are not repetitions of any three characters, in the same order of collocation, the last of them being 8. If we discover repetitions of such letters, so arranged, they will most probably represent the word 'the.' Upon inspection, we find no less than seven such arrangements, the characters being ;48. We may, therefore, assume that ; represents t, 4 represents h, and 8 represents e — the last being now well confirmed. Thus a great step has been taken.

"But, having established a single word, we are enabled to establish a vastly important point; that is to say, several commencements and terminations of other words. Let us refer, for example, to the last instance, but one, in which the combination ;48 occurs — not far from the end of the cipher. We know that the ; immediately ensuing is the commencement of a word, and, of the six characters succeeding this 'the,' we are cognizant of no less than five. Let us set these characters down, thus, by the letters we know them to represent, leaving a space for the one unknown —

t eeth.

"Here we are enabled, at once, to discard the 'th' as forming no portion of the word commencing with the first t; since, by experiment of the entire alphabet for a letter adapted to the vacancy, we perceive that no word can be formed of which this th can be a part. We are thus narrowed into 

 

t ee,

and, going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, we arrive at the word 'tree,' as the sole possible reading. We thus gain another letter, r, represented by (, with the words 'the tree' in juxtaposition.

; "Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, we again see the combination ;48, and employ it by way of termination to what immediately precedes. We have thus this arrangement:

the tree ;4(‡?34 the,

or, substituting the natural letters, where known, it reads thus:

the tree thr‡?3h the.

 

"Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, we leave blank spaces, or substitute dots, we read thus:

the tree thr...h the,

when the word 'through' makes itself evident at once. But this discovery gives us three new letters, o, u and g, represented by ‡ ? and 3.

 

"Looking, now, narrowly, through the cipher for combinations of known characters, we find, not very far from the beginning, this arrangement,

83(88, or egree,

 

which, plainly, is the conclusion of the word 'degree,' and gives us another letter, d, represented by †.

 

; "Four letters beyond the word 'degree,' we perceive the combination

 

­­;46(;88*.

; "Translating the known characters, and representing the unknown by dots, as before, we read thus:

 

th.rtee.

 

an arrangement immediately suggestive of the word 'thirteen,' and again furnishing us with two new characters, i and n, represented by 6 and *.

 

; "Referring, now, to the beginning of the cryptograph, we find the combination,

53‡‡†.

"Translating, as before, we obtain

. good,

which assures us that the first letter is A, and that the first two words are 'A good.'

"To avoid confusion, it is now time that we arrange our key, as far as discovered, in a tabular form. It will stand thus:

5 represents a

† " d

8 " e

3 " g

4 " h

6 " i

* " n

‡ " o

( " r

; " t

"We have, therefore, no less than ten of the most important letters represented, and it will be unnecessary to proceed with the details of the solution. I have said enough to convince you that ciphers of this nature are readily soluble, and to give you some insight into the rationale of their development. But be assured that the specimen before us appertains to the very simplest species of cryptograph. It now only remains to give you the full translation of the characters upon the parchment, as unriddled. Here it is:

'A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death's-head a bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.' "

And that’s how you solve a cipher. Easy, right? We thought we’d give you a little challenge, to see how you stack up against the brilliant cipher minds of history. Using the Gold Bug cipher can you decrypt our code?

 

 

Solve the Cipher

 

1(68†95* ]5) 6*).6(8† 2: 8†35( 5005* .‡8 5*† 28-598 5 95);8( -(:.;5*50:); ;48 38(95* 8*6395 95-46*8 ]5) †8-6.48(8† 2?; 1(68†95*) *8¶8( ]5) 6; ]5) -5008† )63525 ;‡ ;46) †5: *‡ ‡*8 8¶8( )?--8))1?00: †8-(:.;8† ;48 598(6-5* )63525 95-46*8

 

Write out the cipher on a piece of paper leaving enough space in between each line. You’ll need the space to write your solutions underneath. (example below)

1(68†95* ]5) 6*).6(8† 2: 8†35( 5005* .‡8 5*† 28-598 5 95);8( -(:.;5*50:); ;48 38(95* 8*6395

95-46*8 ]5) †8-6.48(8† 2?; 1(68†95*) *8¶8( ]5) 6; ]5) -5008† )63525 ;‡ ;46) †5: *‡ ‡*8 8¶8(

 

)?--8))1?00: †8-(:.;8† ;48 598(6-5* )63525 95-46*8

 

Count out the times each symbol/number is used in the cipher and write the results on a table ordered most to least frequently used. You’ll start to see that one of the symbols/numbers clearly stands out from the rest. This is your first and biggest clue and is most likely the most commonly used letter in the English language...E. Write in that letter next to each symbol in the cipher. (example below)

 

character 8 = 10 times

character ; = 5 times

character 4 = 2 times

 

Now we have, as Legrand said, “the groundwork” for more. Look for recurring combinations of symbols to try and guess words. Legrand identified the word THE as the most commonly used word. After that the most frequently used words in order are: OF, AND, TO, IN. Once you’ve spotted all the THE’s then you’ve discovered 2 more letters. Write them down on your table accordingly. Each new letter you decipher leads to more fragments of the message you’ll uncover. Eventually you’ll get the entire message decoded.

 

As technology progressed machines and advanced mathematics made these ciphers more and more complex. Amazingly the same principles that Poe’s Legrand used to break the Gold Bug cipher still apply today.

Good luck! If you successfully solve it, email the answer to goldbug@theblaze.com and the first responders will get a message from Glenn!

Note: This article originally said to send answers to goldbug@glennbeck.com. Please re-send to goldbug@theblaze.com

On the morning of Aug. 15, Asma was a free woman in Kabul. She wore Western clothes. Traveled safely alone. Attended college in a neighboring country with the money her parents had saved. By that evening, her entire world had changed.

For the first time in her life, Asma was confronted with the reality of the Taliban. The horror stories she heard growing up were no longer the nightmare of her parents' generation. They were hers, too. Faced with the impossible decision to stay with her family and risk imminent torture or death, she chose to live, and take on the Taliban face-to-face.

Asma's bravery also led to the rescue of over 150 Afghan college women. She tells Glenn she was willing to die before she let the Taliban take her or the other women. But she didn't do it alone. Her sister Azada, helplessly watching the horror unfold from the U.S., quickly turned to her father's contact list. What follows is a miracle evacuation story that ends with a sisters' reunion and hope for a new future. These brave Afghan sisters have a message for those in their home country still trapped, for the leaders of this country, and for the men and women in uniform (and their families) who may believe the American sacrifices for Afghanistan were in vain.

Finally, a note about the other heroes in the rescue story. The movement of the seven buses of college women into the Kabul airport was a chain with about 8-10 links. Had any one of those links not been present or broken, the young women would not have made it into the airport for evacuation, and three young women taken by the Taliban would not have been recovered.

Glenn and his team would like to give a special thanks to Francisco from Arcis International, Wade and Jim from Commercial Task Force, Blaine from E3 Ranch Foundation, Michael and his crew from Kam Air, No One Left Behind, Samaritan's Purse, and Charmaine, Chris, Geno, John, Lori, Rob, Rudy & the Ground Team from The Nazarene Fund.

Watch the full episode of "Glenn TV" below:

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There's been a lot of talk about the idea of a (peaceful) "national divorce" as the Left continues to abandon everything that made America what it is. Well, this week's guest on "The Glenn Beck Podcast" is all for that divorce. Michael Malice is the author of "The Anarchist Handbook" and host of the podcast "Your Welcome." He joined Glenn to talk about how an anarchist would peacefully take on America's greatest challenges — with a smile.

"My rights are not up for discussion," Malice told Glenn. He explained why his version of America will save America, and why, in spite of anxious talk of "national divorce," he has so much hope for the future.

Watch the video clip below or find the full episode of "The Glenn Beck Podcast" here:


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There are new curriculum standards being implemented into schools throughout the nation for health classes that not only go far beyond what's appropriate for young children, but are entrenched in clear political biases, too. Under the standards, third-graders are taught about hormone blockers and endless gender identities, and topics get shockingly graphic for kids as young as 11. Some schools are even teaching their teachers and kids to ignore what parents have to say about these topics. And the worst part may be that many parents are completely unaware what their children are being taught.

Tina Descovich, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, joined "The Glenn Beck Program" to explain exactly what you can ask at your next school board meeting to ensure this "horrifying" curriculum isn't being taught in your kid's school.

Watch the video clip below:

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It should come as no surprise that a newsworthy story receives more media coverage when released on a Monday than a Friday. The reason is in part due to a large number of news-consuming Americans checking out for the week to focus on their weekend plans rather than the news.

On Monday's radio program, Glenn Beck shared information that President Joe Biden decided to release on Friday — when fewer people would notice — regarding the Climate Finance report. This report is marketed to Americans as "A Roadmap To Build a Climate-Resilient Economy." But Glenn believes the report to be Biden's Great Reset warning shot to banks.

In this clip, Glenn warned that if Americans don't stand together, in eight years we all indeed will own nothing. Watch the clip for the full story. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.



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To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.