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Old 04-25-2016, 05:00 AM
daggaes daggaes is offline
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Voynich Manuscript

Some time ago, while article-and-search hopping, I came across the Voynich Manuscript. It seems no one is quite sure whether it is an elaborate hoax, a complex code, or one of the best 'just for sh*ts and giggles' pieces in history. Could anyone enlighten me?
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Old 04-25-2016, 05:15 AM
naita naita is offline
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Seems to me you've got the current state of knowledge right there: "no one is quite sure whether it is an elaborate hoax, a complex code, or one of the best 'just for sh*ts and giggles' pieces in history" is as good a description you will find from someone not with a poorly justified agenda.
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Old 04-25-2016, 05:16 AM
teddybound teddybound is offline
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It remains a mystery but now the document is open domain.

If you google for it, u can find a copy to work on.

Wiki has a good entry on it.
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Old 04-25-2016, 06:42 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daggaes View Post
Some time ago, while article-and-search hopping, I came across the Voynich Manuscript. It seems no one is quite sure whether it is an elaborate hoax, a complex code, or one of the best 'just for sh*ts and giggles' pieces in history. Could anyone enlighten me?
It's been discussed on this Board MANY times before:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...hlight=Voynich

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...hlight=Voynich

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...hlight=Voynich

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...hlight=Voynich

Last edited by CalMeacham; 04-25-2016 at 06:43 AM.
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Old 04-25-2016, 07:33 AM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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Randall Monroe has figured it out: https://xkcd.com/593/
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Old 04-25-2016, 09:54 AM
Isilder Isilder is offline
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Randall Monroe has figured it out: https://xkcd.com/593/
Thats a joke ... haha.. the main point is that since the text defies decryption, its actually strong evidence it is just gibberish writing.

The pictures seem reasonably realistic and consistent, and that doesn't match to psychotic /demented activity (...such as someone dying or in senile dementia ).



The glyphs appear to be a mix of two known , very different fonts , and yet they seem to change through the pages... so it seems the glyphs are used haphzardly.. showing it was written without reference to a written translation sheet. Many distinctive glyphs (or letters ) appear a few times on one page but then don't get used on subsequent pages... Where the letters are somewhat similar , they are very similar on one page more often, and vary more from as the pages go along.. , and yet the writer is such a poor writer that he writes some letters on one page in a very poor fashion, as if he doesn't know his alphabets at all well enough to complete a single page accurately.

Conclusion: the writer wanted to make it look like exotic writing , but he was merely copying some papers he had at hand that he couldn't read.. he mixed up different languages alphabets - he knew not to copy entire words so that no one could say it was random words, or copied text.

Last edited by Isilder; 04-25-2016 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:23 AM
Isilder Isilder is offline
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Here's a good example of how to tell its gibberish.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...s/0/0f/68r.jpg

The drawing is obviously of arabic calanders.. with the pairs of months - that is, the pair has the name, so a year is A and A', B and B', C and C'...


However in the writing, you can see that the only thing consistent is that the words are all short and the error rate is high among the letters.
  #8  
Old 04-25-2016, 11:34 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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I have it on good authority that the code to the Voynich Manuscript can be found at the bottom of the pit on Oak Island.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:38 AM
nearwildheaven nearwildheaven is offline
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Can't remember where I saw this, but there was one person who said that the plants are probably from northern Mexico, and the language is believed to be an Aztec dialect not previously known to have had a written alphabet.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:45 AM
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Can't remember where I saw this, but there was one person who said that the plants are probably from northern Mexico, and the language is believed to be an Aztec dialect not previously known to have had a written alphabet.
So it made it across the Atlantic, all the way to Italy, all by itself, before Columbus?
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Old 04-25-2016, 01:10 PM
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Can't remember where I saw this, but there was one person who said that the plants are probably from northern Mexico, and the language is believed to be an Aztec dialect not previously known to have had a written alphabet.
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So it made it across the Atlantic, all the way to Italy, all by itself, before Columbus?
Here's an article on the Mexican hypothesis, and here's the article itself. The authors attribute the MS to the late 1500s. They acknowledge the parchment has been dated to much earlier but don't really address the issue except to imply that it was re-purposed.
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Old 04-29-2016, 01:35 PM
daggaes daggaes is offline
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You're probably right, but I prefer the rpg-book explanation ^^
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Old 04-29-2016, 11:54 PM
GMANCANADA GMANCANADA is offline
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Skeptoid Podcast

Great summary of the Voynich Manuscript and what it may be by Brian Dunning fro his Skeptoid website & podcast. He does great science / fact based takes on pop culture phenomena.

https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4252
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:56 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Update: Nicholas Gibbs (a British history researcher and expert on medieval manuscripts) says it's a guide to women's health and that much of it is plagiarized.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:05 PM
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Update: Nicholas Gibbs (a British history researcher and expert on medieval manuscripts) says it's a guide to women's health and that much of it is plagiarized.
Interesting. Doesn't sound too insane. I'd have looked for him to provide a translation of at least one page, to give a sense for how plausible it is.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:55 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Not too insane, but also much less interesting than some of us imagined.
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:58 PM
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There was a Scientific American article on it, some years ago. Someone had done some data analysis and thought he found patterns suggesting an algorithmic method of producing the text. Not random, exactly, but not "intelligent" either.

No idea if this holds water or not, but it was interesting, anyway.
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Old 09-08-2017, 09:37 PM
davidm davidm is offline
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There was a Scientific American article on it, some years ago. Someone had done some data analysis and thought he found patterns suggesting an algorithmic method of producing the text. Not random, exactly, but not "intelligent" either.

No idea if this holds water or not, but it was interesting, anyway.
I recall that article. I don't recall for certain because it was years ago but, as I recall it didn't say exactly that.

Linguists have said that the document seems to be statistically similar to some human languages in things like letter, word, and phrase distribution. They've argued that this is evidence against it being a forgery consisting of random scribblings.

The man in the article said that he could produce the same distribution by following an algorithm he'd come up with.

He wasn't saying "oh look, there's a pattern". The pattern was already known. He was disputing the notion that the pattern proved it was real language, by showing that it could be produced algorithmically.

Personally, I think the patterns likely are evidence of a real language. I'm skeptical that a forger way back then would have any clue about something like statistical analysis of language, and even if he did I doubt that he would worry about that being a factor for whatever wealthy rube he tried to pawn it off on.
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Old 09-08-2017, 09:44 PM
steatopygia steatopygia is offline
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I recall that article. I don't recall for certain because it was years ago but, as I recall it didn't say exactly that.

Linguists have said that the document seems to be statistically similar to some human languages in things like letter, word, and phrase distribution. They've argued that this is evidence against it being a forgery consisting of random scribblings.

The man in the article said that he could produce the same distribution by following an algorithm he'd come up with.

He wasn't saying "oh look, there's a pattern". The pattern was already known. He was disputing the notion that the pattern proved it was real language, by showing that it could be produced algorithmically.

Personally, I think the patterns likely are evidence of a real language. I'm skeptical that a forger way back then would have any clue about something like statistical analysis of language, and even if he did I doubt that he would worry about that being a factor for whatever wealthy rube he tried to pawn it off on.
The article linked to in the update (post 14), claims to have solved it. States it is just abbreviated Latin.

Last edited by steatopygia; 09-08-2017 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 09-09-2017, 11:14 AM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Interesting. Doesn't sound too insane. I'd have looked for him to provide a translation of at least one page, to give a sense for how plausible it is.
That was my reaction; picking out some small fraction of the writing and assigning a meaning to it is trivial.
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Old 09-09-2017, 11:56 AM
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You can come up with an algorithm to generate any text. The real test is how long the algorithm is compared to the text. At worst, you can say that your algorithm is "print this string", with the string being the text itself. In practice, with actual language, you can usually do a fair bit better than that. Can this text be compressed significantly more than most real language?
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Old 09-09-2017, 02:43 PM
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The article linked to in the update (post 14), claims to have solved it. States it is just abbreviated Latin.
By far, this is the most logical sound "solve" I have seen. He also states there was likely a index and the pages have been cut and are out of order.
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Old 09-09-2017, 05:58 PM
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Gibbs may be correct, but I can't say his article is especially convincing as such.

Overall, his suggestion is plausible enough, so it's just a question of how his evidence stacks up.

On the illustrations, the massive snag is that the TLS haven't bothered to post the comparison pieces online. The print version may include those, but I haven't seen a copy yet.

What really worries me, however, is the (weirdly vague) suggestion that the text is possibly readable. For what does the article back this up with? The apparently key point about Latin ligatures isn't new: D'Imperio covered this in her 1976 survey. But there's no evidence, then or now, that this leads to a translation. Then there's the whole suggestion about reordering. Without explaining what the correct order should be.

He may well be right, or at least pointing to useful comparisons, but I see no reason at this point for hailing this as a decipherment. I can see why the TLS have given it the PR bandwagon.

Last edited by bonzer; 09-09-2017 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 09-09-2017, 06:36 PM
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You can come up with an algorithm to generate any text. The real test is how long the algorithm is compared to the text. At worst, you can say that your algorithm is "print this string", with the string being the text itself. In practice, with actual language, you can usually do a fair bit better than that. Can this text be compressed significantly more than most real language?
The entropy of the Voynich manuscript has been extensively studied (random example), and the intriguing result is that it does have characteristics in common with real languages, but at the same time there is no clear match. If the text is really in Latin as has been suggested (hardly an original idea), shouldn't there be a short list of abbreviations such that any of us could use to transcribe the text starting at any random page? I saw no such thing in the TLS link given here, but perhaps it was published elsewhere? If not, I declare shenanigans.
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Old 09-09-2017, 06:46 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Apparently, the reason Gibbs says there's no list of abbreviations is that the document is incomplete, with the index missing. And I believe his work was done on behalf of some television show, so they may be holding back on some stuff.
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Old 09-09-2017, 06:57 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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And I believe his work was done on behalf of some television show, so they may be holding back on some stuff.
Oh, in that case, it must be as bullet-proof as that Amelia Earhart photo!
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Old 09-09-2017, 07:25 PM
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The article linked to in the update (post 14), claims to have solved it. States it is just abbreviated Latin.
Fine. Where is the un-abbreviated version? That should be plain text, with no interpretation needed. I'm waiting...
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Old 09-09-2017, 09:08 PM
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There was a Scientific American article on it, some years ago. Someone had done some data analysis and thought he found patterns suggesting an algorithmic method of producing the text. Not random, exactly, but not "intelligent" either.

No idea if this holds water or not, but it was interesting, anyway.
Does Zipf's Law apply to this "Language"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipf%27s_law
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCn8zs912OE&t=332s
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Old 09-09-2017, 10:10 PM
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Does Zipf's Law apply to this "Language"?
It sure does.

See, for instance, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0161-110191889932
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Old 09-10-2017, 05:07 AM
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One thing that strikes me is that if it's an instruction manual, as the article says, it seems like it ought to be written for maximum intelligibility. That doesn't exclude the ligature-thesis the article advances, but one would at least expect such a style to be common; but from what little I know, the Voynich seems to be pretty unique even among books of its time.

Even if it's intended for an audience of one, it seems odd to go through the trouble of basically inventing a whole new writing style. After all, the addressee would have to be familiar with the code, so would likely have to be taught, or have invented it; but to what end?
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Old 09-10-2017, 06:16 AM
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One thing that strikes me is that if it's an instruction manual, as the article says, it seems like it ought to be written for maximum intelligibility.
I'm no linguist, but if you look at cookbooks from the medieval era, there's a lot of abbreviation and such that's often left undefined; it's assumed that the reader, necessarily being a literate and well-educated person, knows what the abbreviations mean, and since every pen-stroke is an investment in time and money they're not going to bother repeating what you should already know.

The author here isn't writing for the general public - the general public doesn't know how to read, let alone engage in acts of chemistry. He's writing for the benefit of fellow scholars.

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Old 09-10-2017, 06:43 AM
Half Man Half Wit Half Man Half Wit is online now
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I'm no linguist, but if you look at cookbooks from the medieval era, there's a lot of abbreviation and such that's often left undefined; it's assumed that the reader, necessarily being a literate and well-educated person, knows what the abbreviations mean, and since every pen-stroke is an investment in time and money they're not going to bother repeating what you should already know.
Yes, but my point is that all such cookbooks will tend to follow such a style, dictated by the conventions of the day. But the Voynich seems unique, rather than cut from the same cloth as similar manuals, and thus, represents a decision to go against stylistic conventions. But why was that decision made?
  #33  
Old 09-10-2017, 09:35 AM
Lucas Jackson Lucas Jackson is offline
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Maybe it was written by a doctor.

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Old 09-10-2017, 01:20 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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I'm no linguist, but if you look at cookbooks from the medieval era, there's a lot of abbreviation and such that's often left undefined; it's assumed that the reader, necessarily being a literate and well-educated person, knows what the abbreviations mean, and since every pen-stroke is an investment in time and money they're not going to bother repeating what you should already know.
Actually many of the original 'cookbooks' were not entirely cookbooks as we think of them, they were more aide memoire to a working chef. I know that I can jot a recipe down using my knowledge - I might comment that sauce maltaise is hollandaise with blood orange juice instead of writing down a recipe for it because I *know* how to make hollandaise sauce [both the vinegar version and the lemon juice version] so I just need to remind myself that I just need to swap in blood orange juice for the souring agent. <shrug> My first grabbed cookbook around the house tends to be my Larousse which is more or less just an encyclopedia full of aide memoires =)
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Old 09-10-2017, 01:42 PM
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I consider myself a decent home cook, but even as recently as the Julia Child books there's a fair amount of "cook until done" type instructions--er, what? And I can't speak about the Voynich manuscript specifically but even modern doctors use plenty of shorthand undecipherable without a key--like WARTS or TID.

Half Man Half Wit's point is the nut of the question--why did the author, if this is indeed a medical/pharmacological text, use his/her own idiosyncratic notation?

I throw in "her" because if the text is in fact about women's health, maybe that helps explain the difficulty of interpretation--maybe a female physician employed her own notation either because she wasn't conversant with the current version as employed by men, or deliberately wanted it to be undecipherable to her male contemporaries.

Last edited by TSBG; 09-10-2017 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 09-10-2017, 02:51 PM
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I consider myself a decent home cook, but even as recently as the Julia Child books there's a fair amount of "cook until done" type instructions--er, what? And I can't speak about the Voynich manuscript specifically but even modern doctors use plenty of shorthand undecipherable without a key--like WARTS or TID.

Half Man Half Wit's point is the nut of the question--why did the author, if this is indeed a medical/pharmacological text, use his/her own idiosyncratic notation?

I throw in "her" because if the text is in fact about women's health, maybe that helps explain the difficulty of interpretation--maybe a female physician employed her own notation either because she wasn't conversant with the current version as employed by men, or deliberately wanted it to be undecipherable to her male contemporaries.
Good point. Maybe it was written in a time and place that it would be considered heretical or inappropriate whether through content or author.
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:33 AM
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One thing that strikes me is that if it's an instruction manual, as the article says, it seems like it ought to be written for maximum intelligibility.
Not an instruction manual for others, but a personal copy of parts of other extant manuals for one lady healer's own use, where said healer likely only had limited access to those other books but didn't own them (similar to the way many "family" recipe books are compiled, I think) - it's not for general publication, but an aid to memory.

Although I prefer the RP manual theory, myself.

Last edited by MrDibble; 09-11-2017 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 09-11-2017, 08:03 AM
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The illustrations are pretty good for something intended only for the original writer.
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Old 09-11-2017, 09:27 AM
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The illustrations are pretty good for something intended only for the original writer.
You should see my Dungeonmaster file...
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Old 09-11-2017, 12:25 PM
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Not an instruction manual for others, but a personal copy of parts of other extant manuals for one lady healer's own use, where said healer likely only had limited access to those other books but didn't own them (similar to the way many "family" recipe books are compiled, I think) - it's not for general publication, but an aid to memory.

Although I prefer the RP manual theory, myself.
It's a possibility, but, as Chronos says, the illustrations seem to disfavor this option---particularly because, as stated in the article, they're likely due to different illustrators. But anyway, I think the reactions to Gibbs' theory found in the collection of links erysichthon posted pretty much suffice to lay this idea to rest. (I mean, of course, it may still be correct, but if it is, Gibbs hasn't provided anything like a sufficient case for it.)
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Old 09-11-2017, 01:05 PM
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Oh, agreed.
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Old 09-11-2017, 03:12 PM
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Old 09-11-2017, 03:18 PM
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They cast doubts but do not actually debunk.
Yeah, they do. The claim that he deciphered it is bogus. He provides no evidence that he has done anything of the kind.
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Old 09-11-2017, 03:30 PM
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Think of Egyptian hieroglyphs pre-Champollion. The burden is on the would-be decipherer to in fact decipher the text, into intelligible Latin for example. There is no reason to be generous where the cited article is concerned, as it does not even rise to the level of poor scholarship. For instance, there is no statistical analysis or entropy study showing it is even plausible that the text is a list of recipes in abbreviated Latin, or Nahuatl, or whatever the author claims without evidence. Let's consider it bullshit until proved otherwise.

Last edited by DPRK; 09-11-2017 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 09-11-2017, 03:52 PM
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What I would think would be fatal for the hypothesis that each character represents an abbreviated word is that there are only about 20-30 common distinct characters, plus a few dozen much rarer ones. It's absurd to think that such a lengthy text could contain so few distinct words and still be meaningful. Also the groups of characters that are usually interpreted as representing words obey rules: certain characters appear only at the start of words, or in the center, or at the end. This would be unlikely if each character represented a word.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-11-2017 at 03:54 PM.
  #47  
Old 09-11-2017, 05:07 PM
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Gibbs' goal was to sell books. He'll probably succeed.

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Old 09-11-2017, 05:24 PM
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Gibbs' goal was to sell books. He'll probably succeed.
To the tens of people dying to know the truth about the Voynich manuscript
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Old 09-11-2017, 05:27 PM
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Yeah, they do. The claim that he deciphered it is bogus. He provides no evidence that he has done anything of the kind.
Yes, they make that claim, but more actually they doubt that he did so. But where is their evidence?

Read the articles.

"I could list a whole load of things that are wrong with this, but I’d be typing all night on a TL;DR post and nobody would care. *sigh*"

"On checking around the web I find that a clear majority, if not all, of the most widely known VM researchers agree that Nicholas Gibbs has not solved the VM puzzle. Apart from his theory being a mish-mash, a hodge-podge, a veritable congeries of conflicting theories old and new, he restates what is blindingly obvious to many and long since known amongst VM theorists aka 'Voynicheros'. ....There is so much wrong with Gibb's ideas that I must pause here or risk my sanity."

Here's one that says"The idea that the book is a medical treatise on women's health, however, might turn out to be correct. But that wasn't Gibbs' discovery. Many scholars and amateur sleuths had already reached that conclusion, using the same evidence that Gibbs did. Essentially, Gibbs rolled together a bunch of already-existing scholarship and did a highly speculative translation, without even consulting the librarians at the institute where the book resides."

Everyone already knew it was a book about women's health?

But another: "Regarding the validity of his solution, I personally find it lacking in logic. No author would expect a book to be understood by its readers when only the first letter of each word is given; it’s a massive loss of content. And then grouping together those letters so that they appear to be words obfuscates the meaning further. If his analysis that it’s a book about women’s health is correct, it’s the worst one ever written. It could have served no reader."
or is it-
It can't be a book about women's health?

and just who is attacking Gibbs? "VM theorists aka 'Voynicheros'".


But as the Atlantic sez:
"Some of the skepticism of Gibbs’s theory likely has to do with him being an outsider. He does not seem to be known to professional scholars or the amateur Voynich community."

Their main attack is that he is (Oh noes the horrors!!!!) making a TV special about it.

TV special and "not one of us"= ipso facto he is wrong.

Of course, maybe his "solve" is wrong. I dunno. I am not a "Voynichero" by any means. But so far, it is the most convincing theory I have read.
__________________
I am not a real Doctor

Last edited by DrDeth; 09-11-2017 at 05:30 PM.
  #50  
Old 09-11-2017, 05:42 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Yes, they make that claim, but more actually they doubt that he did so. But where is their evidence?
Gibbs is making the claim. He's the one that needs to provide evidence. He hasn't.

Quote:
Everyone already knew it was a book about women's health?
Read the articles. That has been a common idea. It is certainly not original with Gibbs.

Quote:
It can't be a book about women's health?
I'm not sure what you're confused about. His point is that if the book were written in the way Gibbs claims it would be useless. And that's pretty obvious.


Quote:
and just who is attacking Gibbs? "VM theorists aka 'Voynicheros'".
In other words, people who actually know something about the manuscript.

Quote:
But as the Atlantic sez:
"Some of the skepticism of Gibbs’s theory likely has to do with him being an outsider. He does not seem to be known to professional scholars or the amateur Voynich community."

Their main attack is that he is (Oh noes the horrors!!!!) making a TV special about it.

TV special and "not one of us"= ipso facto he is wrong.
This of course is a complete misrepresentation of the articles. They give ample reasons why Gibbs idea is wrong independent of his lack of any credentials.

Quote:
Of course, maybe his "solve" is wrong. I dunno. I am not a "Voynichero" by any means. But so far, it is the most convincing theory I have read.
Please explain how you can write a treatise on women's health using no more than a few hundred different words. The idea is ludicrous.

Last edited by Colibri; 09-11-2017 at 05:42 PM.
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