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Voynich MS News
Posted: 19 February 2014 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A British scholar claims to have partially decoded the manuscript.

Additional material, including the paper describing the decoding, is here.

I haven’t looked at the material in any detail (It’s a snowy spring break here in Toronto and I’m using the time to get as much dissertating in as I can.) But it exhibits none of the red flags of quackery (always a danger with anything having to do with the Voynich MS). The decoding may or may not be correct, but it appears to be serious, fact-based research.

Professor Bax explains his methodology:

I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script.

And summarizes what he’s found so far:

But already my research shows conclusively that the manuscript is not a hoax, as some have claimed, and is probably a treatise on nature, perhaps in a Near Eastern or Asian language.

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Posted: 19 February 2014 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Wow, that’s a surprise.

I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script.

And nobody thought of doing this before? It’s the Royal Road to decipherment since the Rosetta Stone hieroglyphics were cracked, as the prof states. One would imagine that any and all would-be translators worth their salt would have gone this route. It just seems odd that the guy would claim to have ‘hit on the idea’ of something so obvious. Ah well, sometimes the solution is right under our noses I guess, but I’ll reserve judgment until we have more info on this.

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Posted: 19 February 2014 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Fascinating. One thing that marks him as “probably not a crank” is that his claims are quite modest: he is merely suggesting that his rudimentary findings might be a way forward.

Unless of course he is a harbinger or a new breed of cryptocrank* in which case may God have mercy on us all.

*by which I mean a hidden or secret crank, rather than a crank in the field of decryption.

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Posted: 20 February 2014 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Wow, that’s a surprise.

It’s hardly a surprise that there’s yet another attempted decipherment.  As with the previous one in the endless series, I will bet CASH MONEY [one U.S. cent] that this comes to nothing.  I don’t care how modest the guy is, as far as I’m concerned he’s a crank, just a modest and well-educated one.  Same goes for anyone who claims to have discovered who Shakespeare “really” was.

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Posted: 20 February 2014 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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who Shakespeare “really” was.

Another author of the same name, of course. I thought everyone knew that.

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Posted: 22 February 2014 12:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m with languagehat on this. Archaeological corollary of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can be faked, will be faked, so long as very large sums of money are involved.

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Posted: 23 February 2014 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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So your reason for believing this is a fake is that fakes exist?

How about what he asks himself on that very subject… “I’m ignorant of any 15th century manuscript hoaxes of any kind……. does anyone know of any?”

Are there relevant fakes out there? There are a ton of Dali fake prints on the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re all fakes and it doesn’t say anything at all about whether the Voynich is a fake.

I’m not qualified to have an informed opinion on the subject, but it seems to me unless you can find fault with his scholarship or methodology, you’re raising irrelevant points.

Personally, I believe some of his reasoning is faulty but some is valid.

“Why would anyone add pages and pages of extra text at the end, completely unnecessarily, to create a hoax?”

This is like saying that because we don’t know why the Nazca lines were created, they must be an alien landing strip. Lack of knowledge isn’t evidence for anything.

There is repetition, but not as much as a typical hoaxer would use.

A relevant statement.

Attack his scholarship, or methodology, if you want to show the guy’s a crank.

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Posted: 23 February 2014 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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lionello - 22 February 2014 12:59 AM

I’m with languagehat on this. Archaeological corollary of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can be faked, will be faked, so long as very large sums of money are involved.

What very large sums of money could have been involved during the time of its creation? There is now no doubt at all that it was written in the 15th century.

It seems any large sums of money related to this MS changed hands long after it was made.

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Posted: 23 February 2014 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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BTW, my wikiwalk led me to the article on Asemic writing.

“Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. “

Seems an odd thing to say. I would have said that it is a non-semantic form of writing ...

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Posted: 23 February 2014 07:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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One big argument against it being a hoax is the cost. Producing an entire codex of vellum would have been extraordinarily expensive—that’s a lot of sheep, not to mention the many, many hours of scribal work. The expense doesn’t rule out the possibility of hoax, but it sets the bar for attempting one very, very high.

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Posted: 24 February 2014 01:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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From: http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/02/23/why-scholars-can-resist-uncrackable-voynich-manuscript/FWGMJjrqolrQ50L86SpkQP/story.html

Here is what is known about the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious document that has bedeviled scholars and top cryptographers for more than a century: It consists of 246 pages of handwritten script and illustrations. It was discovered in an Italian monastery by a Lithuanian bookseller named Wilfrid Voynich in 1912..............................................

Last week came another claim: Stephen Bax, a British applied linguist, announced he had translated 10 of its words.

Both of the new theories have been greeted with skepticism by longtime Voynich observers. “The temptation is always to fragment it, to look at a piece in isolation and say, ‘Ta da!’” Pelling said. “They get heavily invested in one tiny detail, and their enthusiasm for that detail wants them to shut their eyes to everything else.”

The fact that a botanist, an information technologist, and a linguist have published new theories on the manuscript within just a few weeks attests to the Voynich’s remarkable intellectual pull—and offers a fascinating illustration of what happens when you try to solve a puzzle with very different sets of tools.............

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Posted: 24 February 2014 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dave Wilton - 23 February 2014 07:52 PM

One big argument against it being a hoax is the cost. Producing an entire codex of vellum would have been extraordinarily expensive—that’s a lot of sheep, not to mention the many, many hours of scribal work. The expense doesn’t rule out the possibility of hoax, but it sets the bar for attempting one very, very high.

To my mind, it is possible that it contains no information but is not a hoax, per se. Perhaps it is not designed to fool anyone, but is just the work of one very strange and well resourced person amusing himself in a perverse and arcane way.

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Posted: 24 February 2014 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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There is now no doubt at all that it was written in the 15th century.

No doubt at all!  My goodness, it’s nice to have things so definitively resolved.

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Posted: 24 February 2014 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Until the next definitive scholar comes along, of course.

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Posted: 24 February 2014 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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LH, I am always genuinely glad to be corrected. I was given to understand that the piece had been uncontroversially dated to the 15th century on physical evidence. No?

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Posted: 24 February 2014 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I think “generally accepted” is a more apt description than “no doubt at all.” I don’t know of anyone who seriously advances the proposition that the manuscript is a modern creation, but the possibility that it is a very clever modern forgery can’t be utterly dismissed.

The second formulation, “no doubt at all,” can be applied to only a few principles, such as the second law of thermodynamics.

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