Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 3b) - The Empress & the Alchemist

Three classic versions of The Empress tarot card, the third trump of the Major Arcana.
From left to right: 1. The Empress from the Visconti Bergamo deck, 1452.
2. L'imp√©ratrice from the Tarot de Marseilles, 1890 reproduction of Arnoult's 1748 edition. 3. The Empress from the Rider-Waite deck, 1910.

"Then again, via the Wiki entry for salamander folklore we learn that the Bretons of France so feared the salamander that to even utter the amphibian's name aloud was potentially lethal; especially if a local salamander was in ear-shot!  Oddly enough, however, the French King, Francis I (1494-1547), had as his symbol the salamander, and emblems carved with salamanders (inset, right) can be found in a number of places in his chateau at Fontainbleu... That a king might choose a salamander for an emblem is a curious thing, especially when his countrymen so loathed the creatures. Well, that is, unless King Francis had some knowledge of alchemy. For, it was around the time of Francis's reign that a Swiss-German alchemist by the name of Paracelsus ordained the salamander as the honorary elemental of fire, although it wouldn't be till the next century that Michael Maier regarded it as the metaphorical embodiment of the Philosopher's Stone."

- Quoting myself from the Trans-D Digital Art postEye of Newt.

"This is a zodiac illustration from a medical almanac, 1486. Ideas of astrology in medieval Europe were a long way from today's star sign horoscopes. Although some medieval astrologers were thought to be magicians, many were highly respected scholars. Astrologers believed that the movements of the stars influenced numerous things on Earth, from the weather and the growth of crops to the personalities of new born babies and the inner workings of the human body. Ancient studies of astrology were translated from Arabic to Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries and soon became a part of everyday medical practice in Europe. Doctors combined Galenic medicine (inherited from the Greek physiologist Galen - AD 129-216) with careful studies of the stars. By the end of the 1500s, physicians across Europe were required by law to calculate the position of the moon before carrying out complicated medical procedures, such as surgery or bleeding."

- Text and illumination (inset right) from this British Library page. The illumination is an example of the "zodiac man," illustrating the body parts the various zodiac signs ruled. Note the eight-legged, amphibious-looking Scorpion near the genital area.

"The first horoscopes written for Jadwiga's and Jogaila's child predicted a son in mid-September 1398. However, a girl was delivered on 22 June 1399 at Wawel Castle. Reports of the time stated that the child was born prematurely. According to the horoscope, however, she was actually born a bit late. More than a bit surely - a due date of 18 June would rule out the suspicion of pregnancy as early as mid-September."

- From the Wiki entry for Queen Jadwiga of Poland. I've used this quote to demonstrate how seriously astrology was considered throughout Europe at the time... especially for the royal houses who could well afford to keep court astrologers. Inset left is an example of medieval astrological chart.

***

Seriously, cats and kitties, when I first began this investigation, I neither intended to - nor expected to - come to any major conclusions regarding the mysterious maker(s) of the Voynich MS. Which is not to say that I've actually solved anything in the interim, but, as it turns out, I did ferret out another enigmatic personality to add to the Voynich mix... which will (no doubt) go against the grain of previous speculations, but, well, maybe it's time to shake up things a bit.

Now, obviously I'm not an expert in the medieval manuscript field, and virtually a neophyte when it comes to the Voynich MS, but, I love discovering new possibilities, and, when I do, well, in the spirit of Mac Tonnies, my impulse is to just throw the idea "out there." So, allow me to present (yet) another Voynich proposition to play around with... and you can blame it on the salamander.

As it happened (and as I mentioned in my last Voynich post), I had cause to research salamanders in 2016, at which time I discovered that, not only was the salamander an alchemical symbol, it was also the symbol of a certain French king: Francis I (12 September 1494 - 31 March 1547). Above inset right is one of Francis's wooden emblems of a salamander emerging from flames. Inset left is Francis I from a painting by Jean Clouet). (Also, see: Francis the Salamander KIng.)

Anyway, for one crazy minute I wondered if the Voynich salamander was a reference to Francis I, but, as one can see by his birthdate, apart from the fact that he wasn't born with his sun in Scorpio (he was a Libra, as was his wife Claude), he was also born too late in the century to fit our time frame. So, that was one idea that wouldn't fly.*




Yet, In the end, I still had the feeling that some (if not all) of the figures wandering around on the zodiac pages represented actual people contemporary with the time and, possibly, born under the zodiac sign in which their caricatures are found. While this interpretation isn't without its flaws, there's seemingly no other recognizable purpose for the pages... nothing remotely "medical" nor particularly astrological beyond the central zodiac symbol. Moreover, a few of the zodiac pages (above: a page for Aries) seem to depict members of nobility - or even a royal house - in lieu of the marching nymphs.

Inset left is an another (actual) medieval astrological chart found here. Below is another 15th century "zodiac man."




In any case, if the drawings are caricatures of actual personalities and the (estimated) early 15th century time-frame is correct, identifying them - although seemingly an impossible task - might reveal (at the very least) the country of the manuscript's origin... and offer some clues regarding the author's true identity.

Ultimately (and essentially), it might only be necessary to identify a single one of them. My choice? The little Empress figure in the zodiac "chart" for Libra...

Friday, June 22, 2018

Don't Call Us and We Won't Call You!




"The Dark Forest solution explains why we haven’t heard from aliens by positing that they are purposefully keeping quiet.

The reasoning is laid out best in the science fiction novel The Dark Forest, by Liu Cixin. The plot of the book, the second in a series, concerns questions of how to best interact with potentially hostile alien life.

In the novel, the argument is laid out like this: 

  • All life desires to stay alive.
  • There is no way to know if other lifeforms can or will destroy you if given a chance.
  • Lacking assurances, the safest option for any species is to annihilate other life forms before they have a chance to do the same.

Since all other lifeforms in the novel are risk-averse and willing to do anything to save themselves, contact of any kind is dangerous, as it almost assuredly would lead to the contacted race wiping out whoever was foolish enough to give away their location. This leads to all civilizations attempting to hide in radio silence."


***

Radio signals or no radio signals, the really "terrifying" proposition here is that all ET races are as brutal, ignorant, paranoid and insensitive as the human race is.

My feeling is that if an ET species has evolved enough to be capable of detecting the presence of other civilizations and/or physically reaching distant planets, etc., then, chances are they're far more intelligent, their machines are smarter, and they're developed psychically enough to realize that it's not worth the risk of landing on planets like Earth. At least not in any obvious way.

The kill-or-be-killed method of survival is, after all, the modus operandi for only the lowest on the food chain. The highest, on the other hand... well, they'd probably ignore our signals, and, chances are, we couldn't even detect theirs!




(Note: this post is kind of an interim post till I get around to the last Voynich installment. But, I also wanted to mention the solstice in passing. Yes, the longest day of the year is now behind us, so, here's wishing us all a little summer satisfaction!)



Monday, June 18, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 3a) - The Star


Three classic versions of the "The Star" tarot card, 17th of the 22 trumps.
From left to right: "Hope" from the Visconti Bergamo deck, 1452; "L'√Čtoile" from the Tarot de Marseilles (Pierre Madenie), 1709; "The Star," Rider-Waite deck, 1910.
(Click on images for enlargements throughout the post.)

"Early tarot images may seem exotic to us, but they were very familiar to 15th century card players from wall frescoes, illustrated books, plays and pageants. From the start, all tarot decks exhibited a great deal of consistency. They all had the same twenty-two images we’re familiar with, and no other. For instance, the Star card could depict an astronomer, the Magi following the star of Bethlehem, or a woman holding up a star; but the card was easily recognizable as illustrating the concept of Star."

- An excerpt from the Tarot Heritage article: Italian Tarot in the 15th Century. Inset right: The Star from the contemporary Silver Era Tarot.


"The 14th and 15th centuries were a major period of popularity for alchemy, which continued into the 16th and 17th centuries. Alchemical works used a combination of text and pictures. It presented its material in discreet stages, many with accompanying illustrations, with both a spiritual and a material goal. The stages usually involved symbolic death, transformation, and spiritual rebirth...

... Some surviving alchemical texts antedated or were contemporaneous with the first tarot. The Turbo Philosophorum, an anthology of Arabic sources, was part of the Visconti Library in Milan. A so-called "Arnaldian" work (from Arnald of Villanova) called the Rosarium Philosophorum existed in manuscript by the end of the 14th century... illustrated versions circulated by 1400, called 'Rosarium cum figuris'."

- Excerpt from the introduction to Tarot and Alchemy: Two Parallel Traditions, 2012, Michael S. Howard.

"Secrecy is virtually inseparable from alchemy.  Already in the Greco-Egyptian period, alchemists had devised ways of speaking to hide the very information they claimed to transmit.  They used “cover names” to conceal the identity of key ingredients, and called one substance by many different names and many different substances by a single name.  This culture of secrecy had partly been inherited naturally from the craft traditions that sired alchemy, where keeping proprietary secrets was equivalent to maintaining one’s livelihood.  But the secrecy that accompanied alchemy from its origins intensified in the Middle Ages."

- Excerpt (and inset images) from Primer 2 - Alchemy (.pdf), 2013, by Lawrence M. Principe and Laura Light. The subject matter of the photograph above (inset left above): three alchemical miniatures (circa 1450-1475) from Southern Germany or Austria. Inset right is the cover of a MS from Northern Italy (circa 1425-1450) which is described as including: "Recipes and Extracts on Alchemy, Medicine, Metal-Working, Cosmetics, Veterinary Science, Agriculture, Wine-making, and other subjects." Although difficult to see, the beaded metal work on the leather binding is in the shape of a six-pointed star within a circle. For an  investigation of the alchemical meaning of the six-fold star see: The Restoration of Symmetry: The Philosopher's Stone.

***

From the Voynich MS: the top portion of the zodiac page for Scorpio featuring
4 nymphs (apparently named). Two other zodiac pages also feature this same
arrangement of nymphs placed outside and above the chart: Gemini & Sagittarius.

One of the most striking things about the Voynich MS is the almost obsessive repetition of what must be one of its key figures: the naked (skyclad) blonde nymphs who (more or less) hold large stars aloft with their left hands. They appear in the majority of the zodiac pages in varying numbers, marching clock-wise around the charts, and although a handful of male figures* appear as well - inset left is one male nymph amid the females on the Gemini page - for the most part the star-bearers are women... and women of all ages. Although their appearances change somewhat throughout the zodiac sequence, there seems to be no obvious rhyme nor reason for their presence except to possibly establish the importance of their presence. Once again, they seem to have been individually named - like the bathing nymphs in Part 2 - and, in light of this possibility, I'm inclined to tentatively agree with Voynich researcher Claudette Cohen in that the authors were, in fact, a group of actual women whom the nymphs represent... a sort of Sisterhood of the Star. Well, that's one of the more plausible interpretations anyway.

But, what's most odd about the star-bearing nymphs is that they are uncannily familiar, similar to an esoteric figure that, certainly, some of us have encountered before: the nude, blonde woman with a star (or stars) on the 17th trump card of the tarot: The Star. The interesting thing about The Star is that it corresponds with the astrological sign of Aquarius, the Water Bearer, which just happens to be one of the Zodiac pages missing from the manuscript. (The other is allegedly Capricorn.**) In any case, as you can see in the three versions of the card introducing this post, in the first and oldest image (first documented in the mid-15th century), the position of "Hope" - inset left - who is cloaked and holding a star aloft - is similar to that of the nymphs. One gets the impression that this symbolic figure may have had an even older precedent...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Life on Mars... sort of... theoretically speaking... one of these days!

The bottom of the Martian lake that became Gusev Crater.
(Photo Credit: NASA/JPL and the Spirit Rover.)
(Click images to enlarge.)

"NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface."

- From the NASA report: NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars.


"No, NASA hasn’t discovered life on Mars yet—but a new result makes it seem like maybe, at some point in the planet’s history, the conditions were ripe for some extraterrestrial beings. Maybe.

The scientists behind experiments conducted by the Curiosity rover are today reporting two results that make the Red Planet’s story even more interesting. One group found carbon-containing organic matter in 3.5-billion-year-old rock. Another noticed the methane levels around Curiosity varied by the season. Combined, these results present tantalizing hints of a potentially habitable Martian past.

From everything we can tell of the chemistry and the minerals deposited in the Gale crater where Curiosity is stationed, “we think it was a habitable environment,” Jennifer Eigenbrode from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center told Gizmodo. “It had the ability to support life—but doesn’t mean life were (sic) there.”

- From the Mars News report: Curiosity Rover Finds 3.5-Billion-Year-Old Organic Compounds and Strange Methane on Mars.


***

I wasn't going to bother posting the latest NASA "news"... in spite of the hype... because it isn't really new news, is it? Is it just me or are those cats from NASA like a bunch of little boys (and several girls) in a sandbox hoping to extend their playtime for as long as possible? Or, maybe, just maybe, they're just playing with our emotions? Okay, maybe it's just me.

More Gusev. (Sol 13)
(Photo Credit: NASA/JPL and the Spirit Rover.)

In any case, I decided to post the "news" anyway... because it gave me a good excuse to post more old Spirit photos. As it stands, the alleged (new) methane was found in a lake bed in Gale Crater. Ah, but lots of "things" were found in the lake bed that became Gusev Crater... and that was 13 years ago.

More Gusev. (Sol 12)
(Photo Credit: NASA/JPL and the Spirit Rover.)

Anyway, in the past, I posted Spirit photos here and here... indicating a number of suspicious objects. Well, I'm posting a few more pan-cam shots... but, apart from some inorganic objects you may have noted from the previous posts, I'll let you determine what's a rock and what's not a rock!

Meanwhile, Part 3 of the Voynich series will follow shortly! But, before I forget, here's a related Mars-news video: Woops, Did NASA Mean to Say That??? 


More Gusev. (Sol 12) 
And, yes, it does look like there's a letter "B" on one of the objects.
But, no, I don't really think that the near-central object is a skull,
do you?
(Photo Credit: NASA/JPL and the Spirit Rover.)


Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 2) - Puzzling Pieces: The "Map"

The Voynich MS "map" (This link has been repaired).
(Click on images for larger views.)

"The Voynich Manuscript isn’t a beautiful book; in fact, it’s crude and cheaply done. It’s traditionally divided into four sections - herbal, astrological, balneological (pertaining to baths), and pharmacological - not for what those sections are but for what analysts, grasping for understanding, think they resemble. The symbols arranged in prosaic lines look like language, though the significance of the “Voynichese,” as it’s called, has never been established. And the illustrations don’t illuminate the mystery; they only throw further shadows on the darkness.

The long herbal section, our first indication that something is off, comprises colorful drawings of what look like uprooted plants alongside paragraphs of text. There’s something unsettling about the drawings; it’s almost like a catalogue of extinct species. Hairy bulbs sprout rust-red tubers and yellow pods. Colorless flowers perch on leaves with spikes like Venus flytraps. A creature, a mix between a dragon and a sea horse, suckles on a speckled leaf. Some of the bulbs have faces.

... Many critics believe that it is a hoax. It’s probably the most persuasive theory, as everything in the book conveniently falls under the umbrella of “total nonsense.” While the European Middle Ages are often perceived as an austere and circumscribed culture, the Voynich Manuscript was conceived by a liberated imagination. There’s a genuine joy communicated through the details, like a monk doodling racy cartoons in the margins of a scholastic text. It could very well have been composed as an elaborate lampoon of medieval knowledge, and it’s amusing to imagine that we’re still falling for the trick."

- Excerpts from a article by Michael LaPointe via The Paris Review (2016): The Pleasures of Incomprehensibility. Inset right is the Voynich MS folio mentioned in the quote featuring the weird little dragon/sea-horse creature.

"The top righthand corner of each recto (righthand) page has been numbered from 1 to 116, using numerals of a later date. From the various numbering gaps in the quires and pages, it seems likely that in the past the manuscript had at least 272 pages in 20 quires, some of which were already missing when Wilfrid Voynich acquired the manuscript in 1912. There is strong evidence that many of the book's bifolios were reordered at various points in its history, and that the original page order may well have been quite different from what it is today.

...the colored paint was applied (somewhat crudely) to the figures, possibly at a later date.

...Five folios contain only text, and at least 28 folios are missing from the manuscript."

- From the Wiki entry for Voynich manuscript. Inset right is the rondel located in the upper right-hand corner of the Voynich map. It seems to describe a fortified castle overlooking a bay (with exaggerated ocean waves) in an easterly direction.

***

Apart from the indecipherable script, what is it about the Voynich manuscript that defies all attempts at definition?

Actually, let me re-phrase that: is there anything about the Voynich MS that makes sense? One has to wonder if the key to the whole dilemma was hidden within those 28 missing pages... and whether those pages were deliberately removed, rendering the remainder ultimately meaningless.

Perhaps, one problem is that we assume the various sections are intrinsically related when, in reality, the only element which ties them together is the enigmatic script. In other words, we have no reason to assume the sections were originally created in the order in which we presently find them nor even created for the same purpose. Was the Voynich MS meant to be an actual manuscript, or was it fragments of a private journal which were cobbled together and somehow survived? Do the bathing nymphs have anything to do with the plants or the star-charts or are they elements of something else entirely? Judging by the marginalia (inset left) we might be looking at a science fiction tale!

In any case, in this (my second) and my third (and last) Voynich post - I'll be tinkering with a few separate elements, without necessarily trying to stitch them into one recognizable whole, and the first of these will be the enigmatic fold-out  Voynich "map" (introducing this post): a series of interconnected vignettes or roundels defining a general locale... although, where this locale was located is anybody's guess!

____________________________________

Location, Location, Location



Despite being wedged between the star charts and a second botanical section, my guess is that the Voynich "map" most likely originally accompanied the bathing nymphs. Once again, contrary to the "medical therapy" hypothesis regarding this section, we might as easily be discussing a narrative: a fictional tale, a fanciful, historical account or plans for the creation of a medieval "spa town".* In other words, the nymph section might have a marginal relation to the rest of the MS and represent nothing apart from the nymphs (and their world) within the context of the narrative. After all, the ladies even seem to have been given names in the illustration (above), indicated by the words inscribed directly over their heads. And, as for their world, well, the image may actually hold a clue. While the various bathing enclosures in the nymph section have been compared to Jewish ritual baths - or mikvah (see Part 1) - or even Roman baths, the background details here more closely resemble a Turkish bath or hammam. Inset right is an example: a medieval Turkish bath in Granada, Spain (sourced here). Below the jump is one in Istanbul, followed by one of several 16th century Turkish baths (Kiraly Bath) which continue to operate in Budapest (the "City of Baths"), Hungary.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 1) - Curious Goods

A "star chart" found in the Voynich MS. The tiny group of 7 stars
in the upper portion of the chart is thought to be the Pleiades
(or Seven Sisters) constellation. If so, it is the only solid astronomical
reference I can find in the MS. (Click-on images to enlarge.)

"...These illustrations range from the fanciful (legions of heavy-headed flowers that bear no relation to any earthly variety) to the bizarre (naked and possibly pregnant women, frolicking in what look like amusement-park waterslides from the fifteenth century). With their distended bellies, stick-like arms and legs, and earnest expressions, the naked figures have a whimsical quality, though their anatomy is frankly rendered—something unusual for the period. The manuscript’s botanical drawings are no less strange: the plants appear to be chimerical, combining incompatible parts from different species, even different kingdoms. (Click on the images to expand.) Tentacled balls of roots take the forms of animals, or of human organs—in one case, sprouting two disembodied heads with vexed expressions. But perhaps the oddest thing about this book is that no one has ever read it.

That’s because the book—called the Voynich manuscript after the rare-book dealer who stumbled upon it a century ago—is written in an unknown script, with an alphabet that appears nowhere other than in its pages... What these glyphs signify—whether they represent phonetic information or numeric values or something else—is anyone’s guess. Judging by its illustrations, the manuscript seems to be a compendium of knowledge related to the natural world, including a section about herbs, a section apparently detailing biological processes, various zodiac charts, and pages devoted to the movements of celestial bodies, such as the transit of the moon across the Pleiades. The writing flows smoothly hesitation from one letter to the next; based on the handwriting, it’s thought to be the work of at least two and as many as eight practiced scribes, and possibly required years of labor."

- From the New Yorker article: The Unread: The Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript, (2013) by Reed Johnson. Inset right is an unidentified botanical illustration from the manuscript.

"...Despite numerous attempts to crack the code by some of the world’s best cryptographers, including Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park team, the contents of the enigmatic book have long remained a mystery. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying. The latest to give it a stab? The Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Alberta.

But Voynich scholars are skeptical. Medievalist Damian Fleming of Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne was among those who responded to news of the work in frustration on social media, specifically critiquing the decision to use Google Translate to decipher the manuscript rather than consult a Hebrew scholar.

...Though we still do not know what the book says, researchers have several hypotheses about what the manuscript is about. Based on the book’s illustrations of plants and bathing women, a number of scholars believe that it’s actually a medical textbook about women’s health—a subject so mysterious that it had to be hidden away in one of the world’s most perplexing manuscripts."

- From the Smithsonian magazine article: Artificial Intelligence Takes a Crack at Decoding the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript. Inset left is a marginalia figure from the women's "bathing" section. Here the "nymph" seems to be depositing something into a disembodied sea-serpent tail as she whisks around in her oddly phallic-shaped vehicle. Note: the red square around a word on the right side of the image is my own notation.

"One of the world's most confounding literary mysteries may finally be, in part, solved: the author of the mysterious and as-yet untranslatable Voynich manuscript has been identified as a Jewish physician based in northern Italy, an expert in medieval manuscripts has claimed. The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated book printed on vellum written entirely in an indecipherable script, leaving scholars and code-breakers scratching their heads since it re-emerged a century ago. Writing in the foreword of a new facsimile of the 15th-century codex, Stephen Skinner claims visual clues in each section provide evidence of the manuscript's author. If proved true, Skinner believes his theory will help unlock more secrets of the coded manuscript.

The scholar draws evidence for his theory of the author's identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript, particularly a section in which naked women are depicted bathing in green pools supplied by intestinal-like pipes. The doctor, whose work includes editing the spiritual diaries of the Tudor mystic John Dee, believes the illustrations show communal Jewish baths called mikvah, which are still used in Orthodox Judaism to clean women after childbirth or menstruation."

- Via the Crystalinks Voynich page. Inset right above are the infamous Voynich "nymphs" in what we can assume is water, but are they actually bathing? And, what are those bizarre features near the top of the page? The uppermost detail looks like one of the open parasol-shapes that appear often in the MS.

"Kennedy and Churchill use Hildegard von Bingen's works to point out similarities between the Voynich manuscript and the illustrations that she drew when she was suffering from severe bouts of migraine, which can induce a trance-like state prone to glossolalia. Prominent features found in both are abundant "streams of stars", and the repetitive nature of the "nymphs" in the biological section. This theory has been found unlikely by other researchers.

The theory is virtually impossible to prove or disprove, short of deciphering the text. Kennedy and Churchill are themselves not convinced of the hypothesis, but consider it plausible. In the culminating chapter of their work, Kennedy states his belief that it is a hoax or forgery. Churchill acknowledges the possibility that the manuscript is a synthetic forgotten language (as advanced by Friedman) or a forgery as preeminent theories. However, he concludes that, if the manuscript is genuine, mental illness or delusion seems to have affected the author."

- From the Wiki entry for Voynich Manuscript. Inset left is an image from Hildegard von Bingen's illustrated work, the Scivias codex in which she describes one of her visions. More images can be found here.

"This manuscript is of Martian origin, the strange astrological interpretations, the plants which don’t seem to exist on this planet. And last and finally a language that cannot be deciphered by humanity, or any “earthling” because the language and the writing system did not originate on our planet. Considering an advanced language beyond our own may be impossible to decipher even given thousands of years without access to this language in any other form. This book which seems to be drawn on parchments from earth, by an earthlings hand, may in fact shed light on the fact that advanced beings from Mars have “abducted” Earths inhabitants and given them tours of their own home planet. I had even heard some theories that suggest Leonardo Da Vinci could have written the book as a child. Perhaps he was the “abducted” taken and taught about another planet and it’s biology with sensitivity to the beings that inhabit the said planet." 

- Excerpt of a comment left on Nick Pelling's Cipher Mystery (VMS) page. Inset right are two "nymphs" that seem to be standing in structures which look like levitating fish or mermaid tails... joined by a rainbow.

***

As a self-described Fortean, Mac Tonnies always loved a good anomaly, and I seem to remember Mac mentioning the Voynich Manuscript at some point in time, if only in passing, but I can't remember when or where. A radio show, perhaps? In any case, there's no mention of it on Posthuman Blues... which leads me to believe that, as a popular Fortean subject, it hadn't yet surfaced on the internet before 2009.

In any case, if you (like me) thought the Voynich MS - a mysterious, anonymous manuscript carbon-dated from the 15th century - was merely a perplexing medieval herbal written in an unintelligible script, well, then, guess again, cats and kitties, because it's far weirder than that! "Martian," in this case, is an almost sober proposition.

I can't exactly remember the first time I heard about the manuscript but, at that time, the only interior shots online were its botanical illuminations accompanied by the cryptic script. It wasn't until recently, however, that I happened to come across a few articles implying the Voynich mystery had been solved (by AI) when I found links to the VMS image files via the website of Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (where the  manuscript is housed). As for the Big Reveal, well, the AI hypothesis had already been debunked by the time most of the articles were written. And, this seems to be the trend: new Voynich code-breaking claims appear frequently, but, thus far, well, the champagne remains on ice.

Meanwhile, I wasted no time in heading over to the Beinecke pages and checking out the MS images for myself. As there's about 200 of them this was no small feat. I chose to upload the "sequential" .jpg files and, basically, the first 113 pages are filled with botanical images. Arriving at image #114, I found the first diagram (above, inset left, and below)...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) (Updated 3/18/18)


From the PBS series of the same name.

"This could well be our final century. But I agree with Stephen Hawking: If we can begin to migrate into space -- and reap the rewards waiting for us there -- we will have ensured a certain immortality. And there's real reason to hope we can create a "back-up," whether on the strange gray shores of the Moon, the mysterious wastes of Mars, or both. Indeed, stark environmental realities, exacerbated by a surging population, have made space migration imperative for a long-term human future."

- Mac Tonnies from this (2006) PHB post.

***

Mac mentioned Stephen Hawking fairly often on Posthuman Blues. Although he didn't always agree with him, I'm fairly certain he would've had something (respectful) to say about his passing. At the same time, Hawking had been popping up a lot in the media in recent years - even on PMB (notably here and here) - so his was an unexpected loss.

Vale to Stephen Hawking, a truly amazing human.

For more information, there's the BBC article: Stephen Hawking: Visionary physicist dies aged 76; and an obituary from the NY Times, Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos. Other articles of note: Stephen Hawkings Six Wildest Predictions From 2017, an older link Mac had posted to PHB, Stephen Hawking: "Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution", and, lastly, Stephen Hawking sampled on Pink Floyd’s The Endless River.

***

A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation

"In his ‘no boundary theory’, devised with James Hartle in 1983, the pair described how the Earth hurtled into existence during the Big Bang. But the theory also predicted a multiverse meaning the phenomenon was accompanied by a number of other ‘Big Bangs’ creating separate universes.

In his final paper, Hawking and Mr Hertog – professor for theoretical psychics at KU Leuven University in Belgium – explored how these universes could be found using a probe on a spaceship. The paper – named A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation – also predicted how our universe would eventually fade into blackness as the stars run out of energy. Hertog told the Sunday Times: ‘He has often been nominated for the Nobel and should have won it. Now he never can.’

... Carlos Frenk, professor of cosmology at Durham University, agreed that it has previously been impossible to measure other universes. She said: ‘The intriguing idea in Hawking’s paper is that [the multiverse left its imprint on the background radiation permeating our universe and we could measure it with a detector on a spaceship.’"

- This update emerges from the Metro article (with the misleading title): Stephen Hawking predicted the end of the world in new research submitted before he died.



Friday, February 16, 2018

The Dream Machines


Hover FI Combat - CG image - 2017, Jomar Machado
(Click-on images to enlarge.)

"Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come."

- Henry Ford, 1940.

"A flying car is a type of personal air vehicle that provides door-to-door transportation by both ground and air. The term "flying car" is often used to include roadable aircraft and hovercars.

Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the twentieth century, but no flying car has yet reached production status.

Their appearance is often predicted by futurologists, with their failure ever to reach production leading to the catchphrase, 'Where's my flying car?'"

- From the WIki entry for Flying Car. Magazine cover found in the NY Times' article: Why We're Not Driving the Friendly Skies.

The "Spinner" from Blade Runner.

"If I'm a member of the "blade runner generation" then where the hell's my flying car?"

- Mac Tonnies from this 2007 Posthuman Blues post.


***

Well, finally we've gotten past Xmas, 2017! It was getting kind of weird there for awhile... like time stood still or something. In reality, I'm having a hard time keeping just one blog afloat these days. But, as so often happens with Post-Mac Blues, just as I begin to think its run has come to an end - and really, gang, it's been over 8 years now - something comes along to change my mind... something that reminds me of Mac and something I know he'd like... in this case: Jomar Machado's retrofuturistic flying machines!

Okay, it isn't as if flying cars are a recent development; the concept has been around for years and years. And, there seems to be a million varieties; many of them prototyped and just waiting to be snatched up by somebody... like the vehicle inset right (and found here). Alas, no. No flying cars for sale. And, even if one just happens to make it as far as the production phase, chances are it won't be remotely affordable by 90% of us (see this article).


Hover Bike II - CG image - 2017, Jomar Machado

However, we can dream. Brazilian designer and CG artist Jomar Machado certainly does... designing all sorts of cool airborne vehicles which are worthy of a sci-fi film series all their own. Think "dieselpunk"... Mad Max meets Blade Runner meets... well, you get the picture. I've posted a few of his gems here, but many more can be found on his CG gallery page. Apart from his tricked-out retro classics, he has a multitude of amazing utilitarian vehicles as well.


Hover Mercedes - CG image - 2018, Jomar Machado

1939 Airstream Clipper.
Which brings me to my final point... because, as it so happens, I'm all about rides these days, and I could not think of anything cooler than an airborne automobile... with defense weaponry! But, personally, what I'm really waiting for is Machado's Hover Airstream! Seriously, folks, if there's people who are thinking in terms of flying houses - and there are - well, seems to me a flying trailer isn't too much to ask for. And, it can be made into an RV or a motorhome... like a Winnebago! :-)

***

On a related note, here's a nod to Elon Musk and his latest dream machine: a Tesla Roadster launched into space (!) earlier this month.

"According to Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, the car was blasting David Bowie's Space Oddity as it travels through the solar system. Musk also named the dummy 'Starman' after another song by the late musician."

Starman in orbit.

Quote and photo found in Space.com's article: A Car in Deep Space': Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster Leaves Earth With 'Easter Eggs'.




Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Past, Present and Future


Christmas 2017 at the Tonnies' house.


"This is interesting. I just realized it's 3:00 AM on Christmas Eve and I'm blogging about viral holocaust.

Happy holidays from Kansas City!"

- Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, December 24, 2004.


"Enjoy Xmas while we still have the oil-based infrastructure to transport useless crap to malls for overzealous shoppers to snatch up. It won't last."

- Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, December 20, 2008.


"I wanted a Wicked Laser for Christmas, but I suppose I'll settle for an ion ray gun."

- Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, January 8, 2006.


***

Well, the world may be going to hell in a tote-bag, but, happily, the year is almost over. Honestly, though, where would this blog be around the holidays if it weren't for Dana Tonnies and her Christmas trees? (Thanks again, D.)

Last year's theme was a Blue Christmas; this year's theme is plaid... and next year? Well, hopefully, not a "post-apocalyptic" Christmas... although, as a theme, it's not half-bad. All you'd have to do is spray-paint the tree matte-black. Kind of like the trees in California about now. (Sorry about that folks.)

Anyway, cynics tend to get a lot more cynical around the December holidays. In our defense, it might be all those Xmas-related pop tunes which are played non-stop in department stores for weeks before the fact... you know, prompting consumers to spend all that money (they don't have)... and/or provoking the occasional brain hemorrhage...

Mac wasn't exactly a raging fan of the holiday... well, except for the gift part. And, as any reader of Posthuman Blues would know, he loved getting those! Below the jump are some more Xmas quotes from Mac.

Meanwhile, today's the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year; the good news being that, by tomorrow, the days will begin to get longer... just in time for Xmas and the New Year. And, my wish? May we all have happier holidays than we think we will! ;-)


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Join the Adventure" (Updated February 19, 2018)


An image from a 2004 encounter near San Diego between two
Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets and an unknown object.
Photo by U.S Department of Defense.

"The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth."

- Excerpt from the NY Times article: Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program.


"Join the Adventure"
The original Bigelow Aerospace logo.
"His signature quirk, however, is an obsession with space that extends beyond his business interests. In addition to the $100million Bigelow has already put into Bigelow Aerospace (and the $400million more he has promised), he has doled out millions to fund research into alien abductions and UFO sightings. He’s done some of the work himself, personally interviewing hundreds of people who claim to have had extraterrestrial encounters. In fact, one of the main reasons he’s so eager to get his stations launched is that he thinks they might provide a step toward making contact."

- A reference to Robert Bigelow from this Wired page.


***


Well, according to the Daily Galaxy, apparently SETI's Seth Shostak wasn't terribly impressed, but the latest bombshell regarding the Pentagon Defense Department's Secret UFO program has loads of other tongues wagging.

Similar to the CIA's unexpected confession in January of 2016, it seems the Defense Department had - and, possibly, has - its own covert UFO investigation in existence: the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

I think the most intriguing aspect of the story is the involvement (and investment) of Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, a man who, among other things, claims to be an experiencer. Mac admitted having "his eye" on Bigelow in 2004, and judging by a few PB posts, seemed to admire him.

There are a number of recent articles regarding the Pentagon's disclosure... here are a few:
Newsweek's WE MAY NOT BE ALONE,’ FORMER PENTAGON UFO OFFICIAL SAYS ABOUT EVIDENCE OF ALIEN LIFE; Live Scence's Do You Want to Believe? Government UFO Search Never Stopped; the BBC's Pentagon ran secret multi-million dollar UFO programme; The Times' follow-up On the Trail of a Secret Pentagon U.F.O. Program, and, lastly the Huffington Post which may have been the first to break the story.

As luck would have it, however, there's more end-of-the-year news...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Second Birthday





Eight years ago today (depending upon your point of view) Mac had another sort of birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mac!





Friday, September 1, 2017

Vale "Tuscon"...


Dark City with David Peeples


"Urgent message to Tucson Phoenix Peeples, Mac's friend and Latteland comrade:

No, no no, NO MORE MEMORIALS! So, y'all get well real soon now, ya hear?

...and, that's an order!

ox,
The Management :-)"

- An urgent message to David "Tuscon" Peeples posted here.

***

Well, I'm very sorry to have to report this, but Mac's friend and Latteland compadre, David "Tuscon" Peeples, failed to take my "order" and slipped away into the aether Thursday, August 24, while in the company of two friends.

David was a great guy... a kind person with a wonderful sense of humor. He was close to Mac, and after Mac passed he was appreciative of this blog. We kept in touch via email from 2010 to 2014. He was always sending me photos, articles and humorous bits he found online, or forwarding things he received from his many online friends. I've uploaded some of the photos he sent me after the jump.

As it was, he'd been ill for some time and I get the feeling he just finally let go. I'd like to think he and Mac are sitting in some off-planet, intradimensional cafe right now and laughing over a cup of joe.

Well, it could happen!

(But, we'll miss you anyway, Tuscon.)

Oddly enough, while going through David's email correspondence I found a drawing by Mac I hadn't seen... "Angry Hotdogs! Keep in mind, Mac was a (rather militant) vegan... and tended to get a bit carried away... (!) ;-)

Angry Hotdogs by Mac Tonnies

More from David after the jump...