Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Source of Inspiration

The Beale ciphers remain one of the most perplexing mysteries in the world of codebreaking. In 1817, Thomas Beale and twenty-nine other hardy souls set out on a journey across the United States. After crossing the Great Plains, Beale discovered gold north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He mined the site for more than a year before deciding that he needed to hide his treasure trove.

Beale struck up a friendship with Robert Morriss, the proprietor of a hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia. Before journeying west again, he entrusted Morriss with the contents of a locked box, which he said contained papers of great value. Beale disappeared forever, and eventually Morriss's curiosity overwhelmed him. Morriss opened the box and found a note in English and three sheets that contained nothing but numbers. The note indicated that the key to deciphering the sheets would be sent via post by another party. The key never arrived.

Morriss spent next twenty years trying in vain to crack the ciphers. At age 88, understanding that his life was coming to an end, he explained the existence of the ciphers to a friend, who subsequently published a pamphlet explaining the mystery. This same friend cracked the second cipher by matching each number with the first letter of a word in the Declaration of Independence. The resulting message placed the value of the hidden treasure at nearly $20 million in today's dollars. The remaining ciphers would purportedly reveal the location of the treasure.

The Beale ciphers have occupied some of the best minds in cryptography over the last century. Carl Hammer, a pioneer of computerized codebreaking, stated that the Beale ciphers have occupied 10% of the best crytanalytic minds in the country. Needless to say, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of man-hours have been spent trying to crack the remaining ciphers -- all to no avail. Many have speculated that the Beale ciphers are a hoax, but others continue to try their hand at breaking the ciphers.

The good news: The Trumalia enigmas are quite solvable. It will be extremely difficult to decode all four enigmas... but I can assure you that it is possible.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Anatomy of a Riddle

Some of the riddles on trumalia.com are quite tough. In many cases, more than one answer seems to fit perfectly. Other riddles will leave you staring at the screen, mouth agape, wondering who could have dreamed up such an obscure conundrum. Some riddles are quite wordy and descriptive, while others make a haiku seem lengthy.

Here's my first piece of advice: pay attention to the search results that surround the riddle. The prompts that lead to hidden riddles are picked for a reason. For instance, if you locate a traditional Bantu riddle amidst the results for the word "Kikuyu," you don't need to waste your time trying "horse," "bell," "sword," "loom" or other words that might be associated with other cultures. Instead, try to imagine yourself in the place of a Kikuyu several centuries ago. While "glasses" not be a good answer to riddle, "eyes" might be a reasonable solution.

My second hint: certain riddle solutions seem to pop up across many different cultures and centuries. The favorite, by a significant margin: "egg." References to these little treasures can be found everywhere, from the plains of Mongolia, to the African savannah, to 14th Century England. Other favorites are "stars", "moon", "shadow", and "teeth." I could go on and on, but I don't want to give too much away.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Some Frequently Asked Questions

What does "trumalia" mean?

"Trumalia" either means "eye," "through the eye of a needle," "a narrow opening," or "to whittle down" or "wear down" in New Testament Greek, depending on who's doing the interpreting.

Where do you find your artists?

Currently, most of the artists featured on trumalia.com have been recommended to us by other artists. However, we also comb through hundreds of artists' websites to find quality work to present to our users. Lastly, some artists choose to submit their images directly to us via email: art@trumalia.com

How did you dream up the concept behind Trumalia?

I was running through a hailstorm in the mountains, thinking about historic enigmas and tales of buried treasure. I had spent the last few months studying the business of search, and as I slipped down a muddy trail, these seemingly unrelated ideas collided in my head. Of course, I only had the faintest notion of what the site would become. My original concept went through numerous revisions before Trumalia was born.

What exactly are these "buried artifacts?"

I can't tell. That would take all the fun out of it. I will say this, though -- one type of artifact only exists in its original form in a handful of museums around the world. I spent months researching an artisan who could create an authentic reproduction. Historic relevance was a criteria for each artifact I purchased. I strove to ensure that each item related to its associated enigma.

I've located hidden code in an image. Now what?

Write the code down, and then move on to the next string of riddles.

One piece of code in each image is simply an indentifier, and the other piece(s) represent part of a message that can be assembled by combining code from other images. There are three separate messages hidden within the images on trumalia.com. The identifier will tell you which message each piece of code belongs to, as well as its intended position within the message itself. In short, once you've conquered every string of riddles on trumalia.com, you'll have three encoded messages to decipher.

How many riddles are hidden within results on trumalia.com?

More than five hundred... and less than one thousand.

My personal favorite: Is your site associated with any particular religion and/or do you dabble in the occult?

No, and no. While a handful of the riddles on trumalia.com have a religious undertone, that is simply a reflection of what people wrote about at the time those riddles were created. In certain cultures, and in certain centuries, secular riddles were quite uncommon.

The roman numerals on the homepage constitute an enigma in themselves, while the rune is simply a nod to a culture that produced innumerable poetic riddles.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Search Engine is Born


After months of development, http://www.trumalia.com is alive on the web. I've received more than enough questions about our site to merit a blog, and I also thought I should embrace the opportunity to explain what our site is all about.

First and foremost, Trumalia is a search engine. To get our results, we tap into one of the biggest and fastest growing indexes on the web. This ensures that users consistently receive comprehensive and highly relevant search results.

Second, Trumalia displays the work of talented contemporary artists. While some of the artists we feature are already well established, others are just launching their careers. Drumming up publicity is often a challenge, and search engines are high-traffic sites. My thought: why not combine the two? That way, artists receive some free publicity, while searchers are exposed to a new image each day.

Lastly, Trumalia features a series of challenging enigmas. These aren't simple brain teasers. Solving each enigma will require patience, a healthy dose of intellectual curiosity, a sharp mind, and perhaps a little research. The first to solve each enigma will receive directions to a hidden artifact and a cash prize, while the first to solve all four enigmas wins the jackpot, which grows substantially each day. An explanation of how the enigmas work can be found at http://www.trumalia.net

Several people have asked if I truly lugged artifacts miles from civilization only to hide them for others to discover. The answer is a definitive yes, and I have the dirt and sand under my fingernails to prove it. Those who uncover the artifacts won't be disappointed. Each artifact is thematically tied to the enigma that was solved, and is valuable on its own (cash prize aside).

More to come.... I hope you decide to join us.