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Re: VMs: Viola tricolor
At 23:27 26/05/2004 +0100, William Edmondson wrote:
That indeed is an interesting question. But not actually relevant to the
document being a hoax. Despite the difficult of proving the VMS is a hoax
one could probably reach a 'balance of probabilities' conclusion on that
without knowing for sure who was hoaxed.
IMO, there are two pragmatic ways to "prove" that the VMs is a hoax: (1)
unearth provenance information that implicates it directly as part of a
hoaxing scheme, and (2) reconstruct the method by which it was generated.
Though some people assert that the suggested connection with a known
counterfeiter (Edward Kelley) is sufficient for (1), the actual evidence
seems to fall well short. As for (2), some list-members belittle Gordon
Rugg's efforts, but AFAIK his work is the first relatively systematic
attempt to see if the VMs was hoaxed using a specific method.
In the end, though, I think the idea of VMs-as-hoax sits uncomfortably with
the observed multiple levels of structure in the text - letter-adjacency,
word-structure, line-structure, paragraph structure, page structure, Neal
keys, etc. Unless they are all artefacts of the way by which the document
was constructed, why would they be present in a hoax? Randomness is very
hard to sustain: unless you can show *how* the VMs was hoaxed (by
reproducing the kinds of textual behaviour we observe), the balance of
probabilities is that it is indeed structured to contain meaningful
information. All credit to Gordon for trying to do exactly this: though I
personally suspect he is trying to re-hoax too small a subset of
Just so you don't think I'm kicking hoaxes alone, these same issues cause
problems for the idea of VMs-as-language: why would (for example) a natural
language contain Neal keys, no obvious numbering system, and have
paragraphs (nearly) always starting with gallows characters (never mind
split ol pairs, etc)?
By way of contrast, the key problem with the idea of VMs-as-crypto is that,
for it to be true, we have to accept that one person 500 years ago was a
crypto genius - all the statistical artefacts we observe are consistent
with a signal's being hidden inside the text, using tricky ciphering
mechanism(s) we're not ~quite~ sneaky enough to break. We can accept a
Brunelleschi through his works: so why can we not accept the VMs' cipher
I take it that no-one knows of a comprehensive mutilingual attempt to
examine labels in the context of plausible interpretations of labelled
images? It really would seem the best basis for independent stabs at
meanings to be attached to labels.
I did once try this, but every plant I looked at had both a large number of
translated (language) names, and a huge number of local
(dialect/regional/district/town/individual) names. Unless you have a very
good idea of both language AND locality in the VMs, collating all this
could well be a life-time's work. So: while it's "possible", the practical
difficulties involved are surprisingly high. :-(
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
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