The BBC has an fascinating story today about the Voynich Book, a book dating from the early 1400s written in an unknown language. Since no one has yet been able to decipher the language in which the book is written, controversy has been raging for years about whether the book is a hoax or was written in an unidentified language. Another possibility is that it has meaning but has been encrypted. New statistical evidence suggests that the words appear in patterns that are similar to those in other languages. One of the authors of the new study, physicist Marcelo Montemurro, believes this evidence all but rules out the possibility that the book is a hoax, although other scientists disagree.
It does seem like a lot of trouble to go to create a hoax, and for some reason I have a preconceived idea that elaborate hoaxes are a more recent phenomenon. At any rate it's an interesting read and makes me hunger to learn more about statistics for yet another reason.