Technology finally reveals the secret behind Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile

1522 AD. September 9, 2 a.m. The powers that be were censoring everything that was being said — even birds could only chirp and not tweet. Da Vinci’s peers complained to him. They were being targeted because they were avowed critics who were very vocal about their views. “But do you have to…,” Da Vinci began. “Don’t be ridiculous, we’re art critics,” they thundered. Da Vinci smiled. “This is nothing — the future will see bigger threats to free thinking and communication.” Saying so, he began to paint the Mona Lisa.

2012 AD. September 9, 2 p.m. Robert Langdon was fast asleep. He had just returned to his hotel room after rescuing the Pope, the American President and Austin Powers. He had long retired from teaching symbology at Harvard. One of his books — The Symbology of Secret Sects — had become an international bestseller because of a typographical error in the title and was outstripping the figures of Fifty Shades of Grey. Thanks to the royalty from the sales, he could live like royalty. But now, this incessant knocking on the door...

“Message for you,” gasped the man at the door. “The computer museum, hurry,” the man said and passed out. “Silicon Valley?” Langdon thought. “Too far away, I’ll have to send my holographic image.”

In a couple of seconds, he was virtually there at the scene of the crime. It was a man strangled with a USB cable, grotesquely straddling a Pentium and a Cray-1. The word Illuminati was tattooed across his chest in UV ink. “This is unusual,” he mused. “Am I not supposed to unscramble something?”

Soon the letters ‘I-l-l-u-m-i-n-a-t-i’ swam in virtual space and rearranged themselves into ‘I-I’m a li’l nut’. “Little nuts or coffee beans — Java!” Langdon snapped his fingers — “The clue leads us to the Internet — Java is such an important language. It’s in line with other hidden meanings I’ve found in Renaissance paintings using predictive diagnostics.”

Five seconds later, Langdon was in his lab, analysing the Mona Lisa painting using diagnostic imaging technology that involved thermographic analysis, the kind typically seen in biomedical applications. Analysing Mona Lisa’s smile with complex algorithms, he cracked open the mystery behind that enigmatic smile — the brush strokes were, in fact, several tiny words. Magnifying them to an incredibly high resolution, he read them out. “They had to go to the rein tent, start a nail or wet sock, o fake cob or write terrible things. Have coca nut? They’ll go glib conk your set wet and spots.” Cracking this would take a journey to at least 37 countries in the next few hours.

Turning the Mona Lisa around for clues, he found a tiny inscription at the bottom — La Soluzione. The solution! “Rein tent is Internet, nail or wet sock is social network, o fake cob is Facebook and if you abbreviate terrible things to tt, then write tt is twitter. Coca nut is account, glib conk is blocking, set wet is tweets and spots is posts.” His voice trembling, he read out the message that Da Vinci had left behind for future generations, Nostradamus-style. “They had to go to the Internet, start a social network, Facebook or Twitter. Have account? They’ll go blocking your tweets and posts.”