Thursday, 26 January 2012

Voynich Descript

The Voynich Manuscript is a great example of a crank text that I would have mentioned last time. It's also one of those texts you can get online, in this case as a PDF. But... what is it?

To jump to the end, I think I'm in agreement with the idea that it fits the concept of a Herbal. Basically something that said 'this plant is good for this' and 'these conditions afflict women' etc. At least, that's what it looks to looks like... (There are other interpretations.)

But what of the text? People think it's a code. It looks like it could be. However, as with being a herbal, it looks like it looks like a code. People have attempted to crack it over the years, and no-one has been successful. People have broken all sorts of codes, but you know what the difference was about those? They knew they were codes. No-one knows that this is a code. To be honest, if we go the herbal route, I question the practicality of it being a code. Yes, it would be good to hide from the authorities, but if this was a working manuscript, then you need to sit down and decypher it every time you need to look something up. That could take a long time. That just doesn't work. And if you were good enough to just read the code, then that would suggest that either the code wasn't that complicated (and no-one has broken it??), or that it was a code form of a language, or another language entirely.

And people thought that as well. Another language. However, it clearly isn't any known language, and, more importantly, it doesn't fit any language structure that we know about, and we know about a ton of them. Even before we had the Rosetta Stone, we knew something of hieroglyphics, especially that it was a language. This, not it.

Which, frankly, points to the obvious conclusion: aliens. (Yes, someone in the document on Voynich that I just watched did suggest aliens.) Okay, not aliens, but, as I said, a crank text. Possibly someone who was listening to random noise and writing it down, but more likely a purposefully constructed hoax. And one that was expected to get something out of it given the work that went into creating it. Whether it was Voynich himself, or John Dee and Edward Kelly... given the amount of work, I'd be looking for another text that they borrowed heavily from.

End of the day, hoax or not, it's an incredible effort of work. I'm surprised Voynich and later sellers couldn't get someone to buy it (although it certainly wasn't being sold cheap). It's now at the Yale University, and they aren't letting anyone near it (possibly because this would be the second hoax they were involved in). An interesting text, and I think psychology is the key to understanding it here, not linguistic or cryptographic analysis.


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