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Norman Sperling
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Welcome

Welcome to "Everything in the Universe", my blog on Science, Nature, and the Public. I often explore their intertwinings. New posts should appear
roughly weekly, so if you want to check regularly for new items, every Monday or Tuesday you ought to find something.

I don't try to be literary, but I do think before I write, and write only when I have something to say. When news spurs a reaction, mine aren't the
fastest knee-jerk comments, they're more often a considered reflection.

Some entries are full-blown essays, others are ideas that can be presented briefly. I don't yak and I don't blather. When I don't have anything to
say, I don't say it. If my message needs 2 paragraphs, you don’t have to slog through 10 paragraphs to get to it. I try to get things right.

Please also enjoy my previously-published articles posted here.

Comments and suggestions are welcome: eMail me at normsperling [at] gmail.com. I read them all, but don't always post them. To prevent descent into
harsh put-downs, political stabbings, rancor, advertising, and irrelevancy, I squelch those.

Could 2 of Voynich's Oddities Cancel Each Other Out?

© Norman Sperling, December 27, 2012
Part of a set on the Voynich Manuscript:
Great Stories from a Book You Can't Read: The Voynich Manuscript December 23, 2012
Voynich: Turkish? December 24, 2012
Voynich: 2 or More Handwritings? December 25, 2012
Voynich: Spiraling Into Folly December 26, 2012
Did Voynich Swindle Mondragone? December 28, 2012
Would You Like to Buy a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript? December 29, 2012

* There are no corrections anywhere; and
* a lot of words repeat, sometimes 2 or 3 or 4 times, sometimes with the final version differing by 1 glyph from the previous ones.

Could some of those repetitions be the "corrections"? The scribe got something wrong, and so wrote it again. Sometimes 3 or 4 tries before getting it right. Occasionally restarting a few words after the mistake.

In current times we cross off an error. I don't recall seeing that in the few other manuscripts I looked at. A common "delete" symbolism back then was to underscore an error with small dots. Maybe the Voynich scribe had his own different graphic method for handling errors, just as his glyphs were so different. Instead of under-dotting, he just repeated, or inserted "un-do" glyphs that we mistake for letters.

If the 'oddity of no corrections' is the same as the 'oddity of repetitions', neither one is odd any more.

Voynich: Spiraling into Folly

© Norman Sperling, December 26, 2012
Part of a set on the Voynich Manuscript:
Great Stories from a Book You Can't Read: The Voynich Manuscript December 23, 2012
Voynich: Turkish? December 24, 2012
Voynich: 2 or More Handwritings? December 25, 2012
Could 2 of Voynich's Oddities Cancel Each Other Out? December 27, 2012
Did Voynich Swindle Mondragone? December 28, 2012
Would You Like to Buy a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript? December 29, 2012

William R. Newbold's 1921 contention that the spiral graphic in folio 68r represents a spiral nebula is wild bunk. The spiral nebula concept was suggested to Newbold by astronomer Eric Doolittle, who really should have known much better. Doolittle was a diligent and much-appreciated expert on double stars, but at f/20 his telescope gave some of the poorest, faintest, least-contrasty views of nebulae (the category from which galaxies had not yet been separated). To be blunt, Doolittle was out of his specialty and didn't know what he was talking about.

While the Great Galaxy in Andromeda is visible to the naked eye as an oval smudge, it does not look spiral through even today's visual telescopes. It doesn't even appear face-on, but is strongly tilted to our view. It was first recognized as a spiral in 1899, by pioneering astrophotographer Isaac Roberts: "[the object is] a left-handed spiral, and not annular as I at first suspected". Photographs of Stars II, p63. Newbold's own book says as much (William Romaine Newbold, edited by Roland Grubb Kent: The Cipher of Roger Bacon, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1928, Chapter XI, p 123).

The very first time any celestial object was recognized as a spiral was 1843, using the world's then-largest telescope, Lord Rosse's new 72-inch-wide "Leviathan of Parsonstown". Even with highly improved telescopes in the 2010s, visual observers are hard-put to distinguish spirality in the highest-contrast, most-vivid spiral - the Whirlpool galaxy in Canes Venatici, M51 - with any telescope narrower than 12 inches. Even then, the focal ratio must be f/8 or less to concentrate light enough. Early-1600s telescopes by Lippershey, Galileo, and others were less than 2 inches wide, and typically f/20-f/40, with notoriously imperfect lenses that smeared light around. For a deeper explanation of focal ratio and surface-brightness, read my essay Of Pupils & Brightness. NO primitive telescope of the Renaissance, let alone some speculated pioneer of the Middle Ages, had the slightest chance of revealing spirality in any object, to any observer, under any conditions.

Newbold speculated about the changes a nebula might show over the 650 years from Roger Bacon's time to his own. We now know that the spirals are galaxies, so wide that light takes tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years to traverse them. The sharpest photographs of the last century have not revealed any measurable rotation. The only changes are sudden appearances of supernovae, which fade back down. The spiral in 68r is NOT a galaxy.

Voynich: 2 or More Handwritings?

© Norman Sperling, December 25, 2012
Part of a set on the Voynich Manuscript:
Great Stories from a Book You Can't Read: The Voynich Manuscript December 23, 2012
Voynich: Turkish? December 24, 2012
Voynich: Spiraling Into Folly December 26, 2012
Could 2 of Voynich's Oddities Cancel Each Other Out? December 27, 2012
Did Voynich Swindle Mondragone? December 28, 2012
Would You Like to Buy a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript? December 29, 2012

Prescott Currier contended that 2 different handwritings are detectable. Some scholars find distinctions among as many as 6 hands. These marginally-detectable differences in glyphs DO NOT imply different writers. I grade large numbers of handwritten quizzes and exams - last semester, from 55 students. The differences between people are vastly greater than those visible in the Voynich Manuscript. Far more likely, an individual's penmanship might vary when segments are written:
* at different times: hands get tired or cramped, people age, eyes change.
* at different temperatures: try writing with frozen fingers in thickly gloved hands.
* on tables of different heights, from benches of different heights: not just how uncomfortable the scribe is, but how the hands have to reach.
* by light of different brightness or coming from different angles: the scribe may write bigger if the hand shadows the candle, or if the candle is flickery and faint. Writing might get smaller when clouds give way to bright sunlight.
* sometimes with the elbow supported by the tabletop and sometimes not: I write neater with my elbow on the desk.

Voynich: Turkish?

© Norman Sperling, December 24, 2012
Part of a set on the Voynich Manuscript:
Great Stories from a Book You Can't Read: The Voynich Manuscript December 23, 2012
Voynich: 2 or More Handwritings? December 25, 2012
Voynich: Spiraling Into Folly December 26, 2012
Could 2 of Voynich's Oddities Cancel Each Other Out? December 27, 2012
Did Voynich Swindle Mondragone? December 28, 2012
Would You Like to Buy a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript? December 29, 2012

The books about the Voynich cipher list many languages that codebreakers, including the famous William and Elizebeth Friedman, have checked Voynich against for linguistic patterns, never matching one. The lists never mention Turkish, so I suggest to check that next. Turkish is extremely un-European. Back then, it was usually written in Arabic letters, so a comparison would have to be made to the mediaeval Arabic-letter version of Turkish. Wikipedia says Turkish was also written with Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and "some other Asiatic writing systems", each of which would yield different letter combinations that need to be checked. Writing Turkish in Latin letters was a modernization imposed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1929.

Ottoman culture remained strikingly different from Europeans. Turkish rule and trade stretched across many Asian lands whose plants wouldn't be recognized by Western scholars.

The Ottomans whittled down the Byzantine (Eastern) Roman Empire and snuffed it in 1453. When they conquered Constantinople, the emperor gave his army 3 days to sack everything they wanted from it, after which the city itself was his. Had the Voynich Manuscript or its progenitors either been in Constantinople or brought from elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, it could have followed the Turks far up the Balkans, a short sail from Venice, or along trade routes to Vienna.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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