[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
More New Scientist letters...
Cynthia Tenen (Stan Tenen's wife, and co-founder of the Meru Foundation)
just told me about subsequent VMS-related letters (including one from
Gabriel L) that appeared in the 8 December 2001 issue of New Scientist (all
freely readable on the web):-
In the spirit of openness, I've cut and pasted them below: any comments on
Tony Clarke's pineapple mayweed and period pains association (I presume
he's referring to f78r)? The same plant-head would seem to reappear on a
number of other pages (including the T-O map page, f86v3?).
Or the custard apple? Or the Adamites?
Very interesting... :-)
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
* * * * * * * *
Language of flowers
Having never heard of the Voynich manuscript (17 November, p 36), I was
really intrigued and also amused by the various attempts by the world's
best cryptanalysts to decipher it.
As often happens, clever people tend to seek sophisticated and complex
solutions, but maybe it's better here to look for simpler methods. The
article mentions that the crudely drawn flowers and plants are unlike
anything found in nature and maybe that hints at a possible solution. Could
the drawings themselves hold the transcription key to decipher the text on
The plants shown in the article reveal leaves and roots that can easily be
counted, and possibly the resulting numbers provide the key to translate
the different pages of the document. Would it not be very ironic if all
these years people have been searching for a key while it was right in
front of them all the time?
Rudi Van Nieuwenhove
The reproduction of one of the pages of the manuscript on p 36 seems to
show the flower head of the pineapple mayweed, Matricaria matricarioides,
being "filtered" into large containers or baths where women who seem to be
in pain are splashing about. This plant has been known for many years to be
a herbal remedy for period pains. So I suggest that this page is indeed
giving herbal medicinal advice.
Elloughton, East Yorkshire
Correction: The Voynich manuscript is approximately 234,000 characters, not
words as stated in the article. The total number of "words" (word-like
strings of characters separated by a space) is about 40,000, and there is a
vocabulary of about 8200 unique words.
I was intrigued by Catherine Zandonella's article on the Voynich
manuscript. The opening page reproduction of the two halves of a custard
apple (Annona reticulata) connected by vines passing through cylindrical
graters was delightful, as were the multiple images of our renowned
Sara-Marie doing her famous "bum-dance".
Since so many cryptologists have found the text impenetrable, it probably
is meaningless and the manuscript part of a fraud, but the illustrations
struck me forcibly as reminiscent of two things.
One is the imagery of late medieval/early modern alchemy, the jargon and
symbolism of which had grown so arcane by that time that the practitioners
could scarcely understand one another.
The other is the visual symbolism in some of the middle works of Hieronymus
Bosch. Some scholars suspected that he belonged to one of the small Adamite
sects who believed, among other things, in nudity and free love. I don't
believe he did belong to them, but he may have used some of their imagery:
his paintings do contain nude people, imaginary plants and giant bottles
Perhaps these possible clues might be worth following up, though if the
manuscript is genuine and does derive from either of those sources, it will
probably, after decoding, prove to be largely gibberish.
Interestingly, the word frequency distribution in the manuscript approaches
Zipf's law, a statistical observation regarding the word frequency that is
found in most languages. This property is unlikely to be preserved in texts
encoded using polyalphabetical substitutions with many alphabets, since
each plain text word has alternative spellings in the substituted coded
form. Such alternative spellings depend on the number of alphabets used to
encode the text and the word position in the manuscript with respect to the
University of Birmingham