New York Times and Bacon on Binary Coding and Intentions of the Mind

Our thanks to a member in America who sent this to us last month:

Earlier this week I was reading the New York Times (Sunday, July 16, 2017) Book Review section and came across a Francis Bacon reference.

In an interview of writer Allegra Goodman, she was asked, “What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?” She replies, referring to an audio book, “This morning while listening with my son to Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, I learned that in 1623 Francis Bacon realized that binary coding could express the intentions of the mind.”

Society President Peter Welsford has drafted an anonymous letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to the article:

To The Editor, New York Times

Dear Editor,

Your recent book review section (Sunday, 16th July) refers to an interview with the author Allegra Goodman, who was asked: “What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?”

She replies that while listening to the audiobook “Turing’s Cathedral”, The Origins of the Digital Universe, she learnt that “in 1623, Francis Bacon realized that binary coding could express the intentions of the mind.”

Alan Turing was the famous codebreaker and Bletchley Park is our legacy.

Francis Bacon, the founder philosopher of modern science, was one of the founder members of our Royal Society, an associate of Dr John Dee who was an English mathematician, astronomer and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, whose secret signature as her Agent was 007, the same as James Bond.

Binary coding is a method for representing numbers and letters of the alphabet; computers use a set of 128 characters, comprising the ASCII character set. ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange and was devised by the ANSI corporation back in the 1960s.

Quite recently this method was used by SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrials), to decode a few messages appearing in some UK crop circles.

Back to Francis Bacon as, if he knew “this method could express the intentions of the mind” then, two questions spring forth: did he in fact use it in his day and if so, what were his Intentions?

In answer to the first question, Bacon was found to have used the system as a method for coding his name into “Jupiters Label” in the First Folio.

Identified by Alfred Mudie and published in a Baconiana Journal in 1939, this was overlooked by Col. Friedman, the cryptologist, who in any case could not have refuted it as the words were ‘sequential’, not the usual random letters.

As for the second question: “What were his intentions?”

Maybe the answer to this is best left to the imagination of your readers!?

Best, Anon