What is the difference between theories and metatheories? Given that the former can sensibly range from hand-wavy general theories (“the Voynich Manuscript was written by a mad alchemist“) to specific theories (“the Voynich Manuscript was written by a young Leonardo da Vinci, using his right hand“), the debate is more whether we can usefully differentiate between metatheories and general theories.

For me, however, the key attribute that distinguishes Voynich metatheories is that they have a certain ‘turn’ to them, a kind of pivoting self-referentiality that their proponents use to explain away just about everything difficult. For example, hoax theorists (such as Gordon Rugg) respond to almost any attempted historical objections (e.g. those surrounding the apparent paradox of using a 16th century mechanism to create an apparently 15th century manuscript) by saying that “well, obviously the hoaxer was so clever that he/she deliberately made those apparently discordant details look that way”.

They then often go on to point out that the more discordant details the hoaxer had to fake, the more obviously brilliant the hoax: and therefore the more we should admire the brilliance both of the hoax and of the man (yes, it’s normally a man) who was clever enough to notice such a brilliant hoax. And so a Voynich metatheory is a thing that arguably focuses more on explaining away that which doesn’t fit than positively accounting for anything it does sort of fit.


It shouldn’t require particularly deep contemplation before you notice more than a flicker of similarity between the structure of this argument and Omphalos creationism, courtesy of the naturalist Philip Henry Gosse in his 1857 book Omphalos.

“Omphalos” is the Greek word for navel: at the time of Gosse’s book, it was widely believed that Adam (in the Garden of Eden) had a navel despite not having come from a mother’s womb. The conclusion that Gosse famously drew from that is that when God made Adam, He made him complete with a navel: an argument that Gosse then triumphantly upscales to all the geological and fossil evidence that superficially seems to argue against the clearly well-proven Biblical History that showed that the Earth was created in 4004 B.C.

God, then, was something like the ultimate hoaxer: for rather than merely hoaxing some ‘ugly duckling’ unreadable book, He actually hoaxed the entirety of time and space to make it look as though the Earth was older than its ‘actual’ age (6021 years or so). As hoaxes go, you’d have to admit that this is top drawer stuff.

Of course, modern creationists have (ironically enough) evolved far more sophisticated arguments than Gosse ever did: but, frankly, I have to say that I’m not wildly interested in either Gosse or them. All that’s important for us here is that Creationism is, similarly, designed far more to explain away that which doesn’t fit the Bible than to explain that which does.

And what holds for Voynich hoax theories broadly goes for other Voynich metatheories focused on explaining all the difficult stuff away: for example, that the Voynich is glossolalia, or channelled, or some kind of otherwise inspired gibberish, or even a shipwrecked alien’s diary (I kid you not, *sigh*). Or even, with more than a half-nod in Stephen Bax’s direction, that Voynichese is composed of the scattered polyglot fragments of so many different languages that we can only recognise a tiny handful of words here and there: all of which anti-linguistic turn is also a metatheory, because it seeks not to explain the few words it grabs but to explain away the 99.9% or more of the other words it fails to account for. Foolishness.

There is, of course, already a large literature on a large field of constructivist mental endeavouring very similar to these metatheories: it is, by another name, pseudoscience. There, the whole point of pseudoscience isn’t to produce theories that can be tested (and possibly disproven), but instead to produce metatheories that are logically impervious to criticism – i.e. that use their central ‘turn’ to invalidate counterarguments.

This also has the effect of making those metatheories impervious to testing, and to refining, and to improving: and thus leaves them far more akin to something handed down in a Very Important Book Indeed. But you knew that already.

In the end, the only thing that separates Voynich metatheories from pseudoscience is that the people putting forward Voynich metatheories tend to be more interested in the postmodernist self-amusement of their ‘turn’ (a kind of awesome wonder that nobody else seems to have noticed how much their metatheory explains away) than in actually engaging with proof or disproof.

And if that’s a good thing, I’m a monkey’s uncle. Or he’s mine. 🙂

59 thoughts on “Voynich metatheories, theories, and pseudoscience…

  1. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 24, 2017 at 9:05 am said:

    Hi Nick.
    You like cryptograms. One nice to you.

    On cover ( outside front ) manuscript Voynich. 🙂

    on the left side at the top : 046I.
    on the right side at the top : ZILIS.

    Whoever solves it. I praise it. 🙂

  2. Hi Nick,

    The difference between theories and metatheories is that metatheories are theories about theories; your post is itself an example of a metatheory on the subject of Voynich theories and what might be better termed pseudotheories.



  3. Having said that, I agree completely with your key statements (allowing myself to change meta- to pseudo-):

    “Voynich [pseudo]theory is a thing that arguably focuses more on explaining away that which doesn’t fit than positively accounting for anything it does sort of fit.”


    “The people putting forward Voynich metatheories tend to be more interested in the postmodernist self-amusement of their ‘turn’ (a kind of awesome wonder that nobody else seems to have noticed how much their [pseudo]theory explains away) than in actually engaging with proof or disproof.”

    both of which I think are very true. The latter is also a common point with many conspiracy theories.


  4. Greg: the point I’m trying to make about what I call “Voynich metatheories” here is that not only are they neither specific theories nor general theories, but also that they seek to explain (away) everything. For me, the sign of a genuine theory is its incompleteness and humility in the face of honest difficulties: what I see accompanying these metatheories is a kind of Mormon missionary-like zeal for complete explanation that sits completely at odds with what you and I know to be the case.

  5. Nick,

    your answer to Greg may explain away but does not justify your improper use of the prefix “meta”.

    As per Wikipedia:
    In epistemology, the prefix “meta”- is used to mean “about (its own category)”. For example, metadata are data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on).

    Now we know that word “metaphysics” of Archimedes already suffered the misinterpretation in modern “metaphysics” of today so let’s not make the same mistake.
    What you are talking about is really the “pseudo-theory”, something which pretends to be scientific but it is not. Let’s not be afraid to say it.

    I am afraid that even “METAMUCIL” is probably more “meta” than those theories.

  6. Gert Brantner on January 24, 2017 at 2:06 pm said:

    It appears to me that you are unaware of the important role you and your blog(‘s comments) play in this tiresome game. It is a like a huge, public washing machine, revolving over & over, but the laundry never gets clean. My advice: switch off the comments function for a moment and enjoy the silence.

  7. Gert: I’m vaguely flattered, but as far as I can tell, I play no important role in anything Voynichian. For if people had taken any notice of anything I’d said or written over the last decade and more, we’d be a damn sight further on than we are.

    The silence I hear every day is the silence of collective inaction. But it’s not something I can claim to enjoy. 🙁

  8. jan: the ‘about’-ness I’m referring to in the metatheories I listed is the ‘turn’ they are based on that takes them slightly outside the discourse. I would like to be able to call them pseudotheories, but then their precious proponents would probably take me to court – in this era of false news, false science, and false history, nothing much would surprise me. 🙁

  9. Gert,

    Do you mean for Nick to “block the comments” or just “nice censorship”? I think it’s the comments that make this page more alive . Besides, Nick is my longtime VM friend and he always likes feedback . . .
    Maybe it is not appreciated in some countries but in others we are still free to discuss anything, anywhere. So In your case if you are upset, you may just skip reading the comments . . .

  10. “the Voynich Manuscript was written by a young Leonardo da Vinci, using his right hand“

    Oh, please, this is obviously wrong. To take just one point – When did Leonardo learn Czech and Nahuatl?

  11. Dennis S. on January 25, 2017 at 1:51 am said:

    I thought only we Americans had Creationism; I’m sorry you Europeans have to put up with that crap too. 🙁

    I’m starting to wonder whether Hamptonese isn’t glossolalia; thinking that Hampton invented a phonetic alphabet for the English or Gullah language, creating symbols with no known precedent, all by himself, seems asking too much.

  12. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 25, 2017 at 7:06 am said:

    Hello Nick.
    Have you solved the cryptograms ??

    Cheers, J.Zlatoděj Prof.

  13. Rick A. Roberts on January 25, 2017 at 7:08 am said:

    Josef Zletodej Prof. ,
    Here is my attempt on solving your cryptogram of 24JAN17 . Left Front Cover ” ODFI ” = 0461 and this refers to the illustration with the ” CODFISH “, or ” CARPO “, on it. R. Bacon (Baconi ) is credited with illustrations and there is Sixteenth Century Handwriting that was added at that time, even though the Voynich Manuscript seems to be of Thirteenth Century origin. Bacon (Baconi ) was found when key in back of manuscript was utilized to decode in 1921. Right Front Cover ” ZILIS ” refers to the illustration pages being divided into 262 Quartos ( Four on each side of each page ), with 246 pages. Each Quarto was nine inches by eight inches in measurement.

  14. Rick A. Roberts on January 25, 2017 at 7:30 am said:

    Josef Zletodej Prof. ,
    Newbold was the author ( ” NEWBOLD The Voynich Roger Bacon Manuscript ” ) in 1921. He contended that there were eight missing leaves.

  15. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 25, 2017 at 11:15 am said:

    Nick and Rick A. Roberts.
    That’s not my cryptogram.
    It is written on the manuscript. ( cover. outside front ).

    Bacon has nothing to do with the manuscript. Bacon not.
    And Nick ? Knows or does not know ?

    Word ZILIS. There are two words. ( Zi Lis ). 🙂 ( Ží Lis ).
    ( Czech language : Ží Lis ).
    (English Language : Lives Lis ).
    Lis = Liz. ( Líza ). dominutive for the name Eliška. ( Elizabeth).

    Eliška z Rožmberk ( Elizabeth of Rosenberg ) says to you there when she was born. Those are the numbers.

  16. bdid1dr on January 26, 2017 at 12:25 am said:

    I’m doing my best to be moderate — I leave the moderation of these responses up to you — please don’t ditch me !

  17. Rick A. Roberts on January 26, 2017 at 5:39 am said:

    Josef Zladtodej Prof. ,

    My mistake. I thought that you were posting a cryptogram of your own. In Newbold’s article written in 1921 he used a key in the manuscript to come up with a decipher of Baconi (Bacon) as the illustrator.
    I found out that Eliska z Rozmberk was born about 1336. She died on 28 July, 1412. She and her family lived in Castle Krumlov. The castle was subsequently sold to Emperor Rudolf II of Habsburg in 1601.
    Was Eliska the author and/or illustrator of the Voynich Manuscript?
    Thank you for your previous information. I look forward to your response and I enjoy reading your informative posts.

  18. Nick: The most common mistake in deciphering an undeciphered script is to to try to interpret something into a text and to say look how nice my interpretation is. Stephen Bax for instance admits that he is trying to find individual proper names in the text. Also Gordon Rugg admits that he is trying to simulate some of the features of the VMS as side effect of the Cardan Grille. Since little is known about an undeciphered script it seems easy to explain non fitting features with additional ad hoc hypotheses. The problem is that only non fitting features can indicate a wrong starting hypothesis.

    There is a heuristic known as Occam’s razor: A simpler theory is preferable over a more complex one since less additional hypotheses are necessary to explain not fitting facts. But it is only a heuristic. To decide if a theory is plausible or not it is still necessary to go into the details.

  19. Torsten: Occam’s Razor is an intellectual embarrassment left over from medieval thought, that had been useful only in the long dark centuries before probability and statistics took shape. Only a fool would still rely on Occam’s Razor in the 21st century.

  20. SirHubert on January 26, 2017 at 10:12 am said:

    Torsten: up to a point.

    Hypothetical case: I wish to create a meaningless but plausible-looking text. Rather than writing the whole thing myself, I hire a scribe to do half. I give my scribe a few tables or volvelles or whatever with general instructions on how to use these to make words. But I explain that it doesn’t matter if, once they’ve written a few pages, they want to create and select the ‘words’ at least partly freehand – it’s quicker and will save me money.

    You’re not going to find a single algorithm or process which explains how that dummy text was generated. Because there isn’t one to find.

  21. SirHubert on January 26, 2017 at 10:28 am said:

    Nick: steady now. That’s a pretty foolish thing to say about Occam’s Razor, with respect.

    From dear Wikipedia:

    “In physics, parsimony was an important heuristic in Albert Einstein’s formulation of special relativity,[36][37] in the development and application of the principle of least action by Pierre Louis Maupertuis and Leonhard Euler,[38] and in the development of quantum mechanics by Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and Louis de Broglie.[2][39]”

    ‘Parsimony’ used here in the same sense as lex parsimoniae. The common English term for that being…

    Of course it’s not an inviolable principle. But it’s still very much a useful tool, and Torsten correctly termed it a heuristic.

  22. SirHubert: parsimony is indeed a useful tool. But I’m bored rigid of people who use Occam’s Razor as their starting point in any given situation, it’s right up there with leeches as far as I am concerned.

  23. Nick: Your argument is that pseudo theories are explaining away things which doesn’t fit. With additional ad hoc hypotheses a theory is more complex and therefore harder to test. This is also the idea behind Occam’s Razor.

    SirHubert: It is not an easy task to generate text freehand. Therefore it is not sure that it’s quicker this way. But if two methods of text generation were used I would expect different characteristics for them.

  24. Torsten and SirHubert: the normal presentation of Occam’s Razor is that of friendly advice – that if two arguments are proposed, you should tend to prefer the simpler of the two. But “simpler” can (as the history of shouty Voynich theorists shows clearly) be understood in any number of ways, all of them subtly different – “more parsimonious” is merely one of very many such ways.

    This means not only that theorists have all the freedom in the world to manipulate their theories to fit whatever subset of evidence they choose to focus on, but also that they have just as much freedom to interpret what they mean by “simpler” until they feel that Occam’s Razor also supports their theory.

    By that measure, Occam’s Razor is about as much as practical use as a piece of wet string would be for someone wanting to climb to the moon.

  25. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm said:

    Rick A. Roberts.
    Newbold, Fridman, Titlman and more is wrong.

    Throughout Rosenberg is several Elizabeth ( Elišek ).
    You found that bad. According to what she wrote Elizabeth ( Eliška ). The cryptogram. = I live ( Watch out is cryptogram ). You would have had to correctly identify wen she was born.

    Eliška z Rožmberka . ( English language – Elizabeth of Rosenberg ).
    Elizabeth father was John II of Rosenberg ( Jan II z Rožmberka ). 1431-1472.
    Elizabeth mother was Anna Hlohovská 1432 – 1482.

    As I am writing for several years. Eliška is the author of the manuscript. It is written on each side. Also, on each side of it written that the manuscript is written in the Czech language. Elizabeth ( Eliška z Rožmberka) also made pictures.

    Czech Wiki : Jan II z Rožmberka. 🙂

  26. Ellie Velinska on January 26, 2017 at 3:08 pm said:

    Hi Nick, all the problems you discuss can be applied to Social Science in general. History, linguistics, psychology etc. are trying to parade as science, but let’s be honest… 🙂 Even material analysis and carbon-dating of the VMs have been questioned often on methodology – and those are as close to science as the current humans had achieved.

  27. Thomas F. Spande on January 26, 2017 at 5:46 pm said:

    Dear all, Let’s not confuse theories and hypotheses! A theory is a body of tested laws and among these are 1) the atomic theory, 2) the gravitational theory, 3) the genetic theory , 4) the theory of evolution, 5) the constancy of the speed of light and a few others. There are not a lot. Theories usually begin as hypotheses, but hypotheses can come and go (like the effect of the “ether wind on the speed of light). Theories can be perfected or modified as additional facts are accumulated, such as the bending effect of gravitation on light. Even the “Big Bang”concept behind the creation of the universe is not yet at the level of a Theory. I think any suggestions on the ideas lying behind the Voynich manuscript are HYPOTHESES. I find it hard ever to contemplate any theory related to the Voynich manuscript.

    A cursory study on whether mankind writes L–>R or R–>L is being debated by physiologists with some arguing that the brain is actually wired to prefer R–>L although one might instinctively argue for L–>R so as not to obscure what is being written by the usual right-hander. After enough experimentation has been run with, for example, MRI scans of the brains from populations around the world, being studied during writing, a Law might be formulated. Still not at the level needed for a Theory. A Theory, in my opinion, would have to get into why writing exists at all and the usual need for punctuation and paragraphing. Zipf’s studies are embodied in a Law, not a Theory.

    That’s the view of “Ol’ Craze from the Basement”

    Cheers, Tom

  28. Rick A. Roberts on January 26, 2017 at 8:39 pm said:

    I found a Eliska Z. Rozmberka (Elisabeth (Baroness of Rosenberg) who was born in 1466 and died about 1533 (or ’07?). What year does “ODFI” decipher to? Did Emperor Rudolf II of Habsburg once own the Voynich Manuscript? I believe that he spoke several languages.
    I find the ideas on handwriting in the Voynich Manuscript very interesting. I, myself can write cursive or print with my left and right hands. However, I normally write left handed. When I write right handed, my writing is much smaller and more condensed as to spacing of letters.

  29. Thomas F. Spande on January 26, 2017 at 11:16 pm said:

    To the ambi-dexterous Rick. It we accept the C-14 data on the origin of the VM vellum, doesn’t this rule out the Baroness of Rosenberg as the direct authoress of the VM, i.e. supervising scribes? The timeline is difficult for the VM creation unless evidence can be produced that the vellum sat unused for ca. 80 yrs.

    Ellie, are you questioning the idea of dating organics that started life as a living organism (the skins of calves, sheep or goats) by the decay of the radioactive carbon-14 relative to stable C-12? This is settled science in the hands of professionals practiced in the mass spectrometry involved. What are the questions of methodology you refer to?

    To reiterate: carbon is taken into living organisms by ingestion of CO2 or food containing oils, carbs, sugars etc. and that C-14 (1%) of the carbon in these inputs decays steadily relative to the stable C-12 isotope.

    Cheers, Tom

  30. Nick: For checking a deciphering hypotheses I would start by checking the way the deciphering was done. For instance Professor Stephen Bax describes his approach as ‘bottom-up method’ following successful decodings of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Cretan Linear B script. Bax describes this way as finding individual proper names in the text. But he is wrong here since finding proper names was only the last step in the deciphering of Linear B. It was Alice Kobers who noticed that Linear B words have common roots and suffixes. This way she was able to determine Linear B as syllabic script and to describe suffix changes for different roots. This way Ventris had a basic understanding of the way Linear B was working as he deciphered this script. In a similar way Champollion found out that the Egyptian hieroglyphs did not use vowels before he was able to decipher the hieroglyphs. It seems as Bax made the references to the decipherments of Linear B and of the Egyptian hieroglyphs without checking the details. Bax then tries to guess 9 out of 8000 words in the VMS.
    This is the abstract of the first two pages of his academic paper. Bax admits in his introduction that he didn’t know the language of the VMS, that he didn’t understand the way the script is working, that he is guessing the names for his nine words and that he is guessing the sound values for the glyphs. In my eyes his introduction is enough to decide if Bax approach is reasonable or not.

  31. bdid1dr on January 27, 2017 at 12:22 am said:

    Well, it looks like I got ditched anyway. Now I can proceed with translating the rest of the so-called Voynich Manuscript. I’ve just finished identifying each and every botanical item displayed in the so-called Voynich pharmacology folios (including what ingredients were being extracted from the roots of the foregoing botanical items. Also mentioned on every pharma jar recipe was whether they were boiled or cold-soaked.
    Fray Sahagun’s student scribes and artists were scrupulous in fulfilling Fray Sahugun’s dictation and identification of every plant specimen in the so-called “Voynich” manuscript.

    No problemo !

    A dios !

  32. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 27, 2017 at 4:47 am said:

    ( ODFI ) ??? It is bad. There is a date of birth. ( born). And also it is number 0461. Birth date Elizabeth ( Elišky z Rožmberka).
    The correct date of birth is therefore – 1460. 🙂
    The entire manuscript is encrypted. That’s why I wrote a few days ago. The manuscript after the year 1460.

    As you invented ( ODFI). It’s a mystery to me. Number 0461. These number never ODFI letters. When I translated ” odfi ” letters to numbers. So I get numbers 0481. And that’s wrong.
    The date is 1460. It is written in the manuscript.
    To supplement :
    Dynasty Rosenberg. It was the most powerful and richest dynasty. (genus) in the Bohemia. ( country ). Very powerful clan. The first after the king. Whatever was on the throne Luxembourg, Habsburg or Jagelon, he has always been a member of the family. First after the king.
    Rudolf II manusript not owned.

  33. bdid1dr on January 27, 2017 at 7:07 pm said:

    Hello, Rick ! If you are one and the same person who commented several months ago (years?) on the enhancement of uranium which occurred in the St. Louis environs AND suburbs, please tell me so, and I’ll get back to solving the contents of Beinecke Library’s manuscript 408.

    @Nick: (and anyone else who might understand) that the “Voynich Manuscript” spent quite a while in Suleiman’s manuscript archive for some time, before being given to Ambassador Busbecq for delivery to the Austrian Emperor. The Austrian Emperor, in turn, delivered to Rudolph a zoo and several purebred Arabian horses. Not too long after that event, Rudolph was incarcerated as being insane (and no longer had the crown or title of being an HRE.

  34. bdid1dr on January 27, 2017 at 7:18 pm said:

    Yow ! Just had an earthquake — only about 10 seconds — but it rattled the timbers and got our glass overhanging lamp swinging. I’ll be back in a while. My husband is mowing the pasture on our ranch.

    I’ll catch up with y’all later. Adieu !

  35. Thomas F. Spande on January 27, 2017 at 7:36 pm said:

    Dear all, When I responded to Ellie Velinska’s post of 1-26-17, raising a general question about the methodology of carbon-14 dating, I was a too dismissive of her concerns. Turns out that C-14/C-12 dating is more complicated and there are often several corrections that need to be applied.

    The carbon-14 isotope that decays with emission of beta-particles has a half-live at 5730 yrs. The isotope is continually being created in the upper atmosphere by cosmic ray-produced neutrons that interact with nitrogen (atomic weight per nitrogen atom is 14 ), The generated C14 combines rapidly with oxygen to form 14-CO2 and this in turn diffuses throughout the atmosphere. Photosynthesis by plants produce C-14 labelled phytochemicals like fats, carbohydrates, sugars, cellulose etc. where it comprises ca. 1.5% of the total stable carbon isotopes (C-12 and C-13)

    Because the rate of production of C-14 in the upper atmosphere is not constant, calibration curves have been prepared to correct the C-14 levels over time. It is now being affected by increasing amounts of CO2 being generated by burning of fossil fuels (no C14 as it has long since been depleted in petroleum). Methane, also a huge green house gas, being generated from animal manures would have a range of C14/C12 ratios. It is also being generated from permafrost across the warming Northern hemisphere. I’m sure the C14/ C12 ratios are being determined but I don’t know the ages being determined. I would guess that it is largely depleted of C-14.

    If the living organism. plant or an animal, were in the vicinity of a volcano, for example, an additional correction has to be applied since the immense amounts of CO2 being emitted by a volcano, (from the breakdown of carbonates in rocks) has no C-14 at all, as it has also totally decayed. The age of organics being dated in the area will be much older than those further away.

    If sheep grazed near water, they can consume seaweed and ocean life (because of up-welling of deep water, likewise will have lower C-14 levels than at the surface) and likewise need a correction factor of +80 yrs or so for the organics they contain, i.e. they will appear to be older than grass feed sheep.

    Furthermore not all living things, plant or animal, take up C-14 at the same rate and corrections need to be applied for the “fractionation” occurring. Also the proportions of C-14 relative to C- 12 varies throughout the biosphere.

    One topic I have yet to research is whether the assimilation and equilibration of C14/C12 is constant for various animal tissues. Is the uptake/ equilibration the same for animal skin as internal organs for instance?

    As Sir Hubert put it: Wikipedia (which has an excellent article on carbon dating) “is our friend “!

    BTW, Dating using other isotopes has also been done, e.g. using the unstable isotopes of aluminum or chlorine.

    Cheers, Tom

  36. Post truth pseudoscience: The voynich was transliteration by a group of Scholars.
    After a while the source material was lost and the work abandoned. It was latter
    gathered up and bound. You might compare it to the notes of Thomas Young and
    Battiscombe Gunn.

  37. Rick A. Roberts on January 27, 2017 at 10:36 pm said:

    Josef Zletodej Prof. ,
    The way that I got ” ODFI “, is O = 0, D = 4, F = 6, I = 1. This equates to 1460, however what I was saying is that I could not find an Eliska Z. Rozmberk who was born in 1460. I did find an Eliska Z. Rozmberk who was born in 1466.

    I am the same person who was contributing to the Ricky McCormick site about heavy metals, radioactive substances, and the burying of these weapon related products. I enjoy reading all of your informative contributions, so please don’t stop. Nick has a great site and it gets me thinking on several levels about a great variety of topics that are quite interesting.

    Thomas F. Spande,
    I think that you are correct as to the author of the Voynich Manuscript via the carbon dating process. Unless, as you stated, the manuscript was dormant for 80 years or so and someone else came along and bound it together.

  38. bdid1dr on January 28, 2017 at 12:25 am said:

    A Rick R: Have they been able, yet, to tamp down the fires in the dump sites near Weldon Springs? Just a note from my husband’s grandfather: He was a train engineer on the “Katy” Railroad. One of the last things I tried to verify (and succeeded) was : Were KATY trains hauling nuclear waste through Weldon Park (right about the time they discovered Ricky McCormick’s rotting remains?)

    Another Q ? : Has there been any progress in cleaning up the dumpsites? Also, have they cleaned up Ricky’s parents’ subdivision (ERA funding maybe?) The last thing I’ve read about the Mallinckrodts is their involvement in producing radioliological equipment — and currently are still in the NYSE’s top 500 .
    One more thing (I get teased a lot) : ThomS now hangs out in his basement !
    Eh, Thoms ?

  39. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 28, 2017 at 4:27 am said:

    Rick A. Roberts
    ( ODFI – is wrong ).
    Let me show you one more time system. Jewish system numerologic. 🙂

    1- a,i,j,q,y.
    2 – b,r,k.
    3 – c,s,l,g.
    4 – d,m,t.
    5 – e,h,n.
    6 – u,v,w,x.
    7 – o,z.
    8 – f,p. ( 8 = F and P ) !!
    How do you see the letter ” F ” has a value number 8.

    I will tell you one important thing.
    Eliška ( Elizabeth ) is not used is writing the letter – U.V.X.W. This is the number – 6.
    Why ? So it would perhaps understand Zandbergen or Schmeh. Or maybe even Hurych.

  40. Thomas F. Spande on January 28, 2017 at 5:43 am said:

    Rick, I only meant by my response to your dates of your post of 1-26-17, that the Baroness of Rosenberg was UNLIKELY to have been the authoress of the VM as it is improbable that precious vellum sat unused for approximately 80 years assuming it was written at her instructions when she was in her thirties (ca. 1500) (est.) and the carbon-dating of the vellum indicated the first two decades of the 15th C. It is the vellum that was dated by carbon=14 dating and not the binding and unfortunately not when ink was put to the vellum. Most Voynichers assume it was written shortly after the vellum was prepared but this assumption should be tested if anyone can propose how this might be done? Nick has argued from embedded clues in the writing or botanicals (like parallel hatching). This is the only approach open to us at the moment.

    It could have been written 80 yrs after the vellum was prepared but I really doubt it was written in Old Czech which had diacritical marks. I lean to a mix of old and classical Latin.

    BTW, Mallinckrodt Chemicals of St. L. did work during WW2 on the purification of uranium ore (yellow cake). It would have had some radioactivity due to the small amount of natural U-235 in it.

    Cheers, Tom

  41. Thomas F. Spande on January 28, 2017 at 3:25 pm said:

    Dear all, Just a brief note on Mallinckrodt Chemical Works. When I was a graduate student in organic chemistry. I had a summer job (ca. 1960) in St. Louis doing prep work for M.C. I met a manager who handed me a yellow “cow pie” that was akin to grabbing up a big lump of lead. He was using a substantial amount of “yellow cake” as a paper weight.

    Ed Mallinckrodt, then the owner of most of the shares, had pioneered in the development and handling of high purity diethylether. His “ether lab” had been destroyed by explosions and fires many times over the years, but he finally got the hang of it, using a tiny amount of anti-oxidants and packing in metal cans with a breakaway aluminum seal. He funded a lab and fellowship at Harvard, which was his alma mater as I recall. In addition to ether, M.C. pioneered in X-ray contrast media, harmless substances that could be infused into the body and which had iodine or bromine atoms to absorb X-rays and leave a black zone where the chemical was. Used to visualize the heart and vascular system, among other organs.

    Ed was eccentric to a fare thee well. Had a car modified by incorporating a phone booth in the back, so he could walk into the car with a hat on.

    He did bench-rest shooting at night with ammo that he’d prepare and had some luckless employee at M.C. hold a strong lantern to cast light on the target.

    Cheers, Tom

  42. bdid1dr on January 28, 2017 at 5:08 pm said:

    Hey, Nick and Rick: If you are at all interested in the history of the Mallinckrodt family, you may be able to find a copy of “From Knights to Pioneers — One German Family in Westphalia and Missouri” — written by Anita M. Mallinckrodt — published by Southern Illinois University Press in 1994. Page 425 has a map of St. Charles County Atlas of 1903.
    Hey, ThomS, of course I’m referring to you, too ! Maybe ProfZ might be interested in the Westphalian immigrants arrival in the US “Early Times”.


  43. Az .Bounouara on January 28, 2017 at 6:40 pm said:

    good news guys as the voynich manuscript enigma will be revealed soon . a copy will be sent to Coffe With Blair and Rene zanbergen as promised .

  44. bdid1dr on January 28, 2017 at 8:48 pm said:

    World History — hmmmph ! My Junior year of High School. The teacher (German) was new to the US and California. He spoke gutterally, and did not move his lips. At that time, I was holding 4.0 gpa . His gawdawful teaching entirely skimmed right past the history of the German concentration camps and the murder of some three million Jews, gypsies/Romany, blind people — and twins male or female.
    Over the last twenty years of my life, I have made the acquaintance of refugees of WW II, Also, I have met Valjean Joshevema (who has produced movies — concerning the oil wells which have proliferated thoughout the US and Canada.

  45. Thomas F. Spande on January 29, 2017 at 6:18 am said:

    BD, Your teacher could well have been a DP (displaced person) with a history of his own that he was not eager to share. I had a Lithuanian math professor who in 1959 was probably dodging the Germans as a teenager. Anyway, I think the Holocaust carried away about 6 million and included certain religious groups as well, like some Lutherans (see the movie on Dietrich Bonhoffer, who was the chief Lutheran theologian of Germany before the war and was playing jazz piano in Harlem when Germany declared war on Poland in 1939. He returned to Germany, was imprisoned for forging papers for Jews and ended his life being hanged without clothes on when he was apprehended at the very end of the war and in the company of two English MI-6 agents who regrettably did not speak German very well and they all were hanged when caught at some road block. They had been in a prison that was bombed and the walls knocked down and they just walked out to the waves of their former guards who knew the game was over.

    Back to the VM, Anyone notice the curious glyph that pops up infrequently in the VM text? It resembles an inverted V with an overbar and is seen in three folios enscribed by the tight scribe: F46r two occurrences (lines 1, 2 ) in the first paragraph; f55r two occurrences in line 8; and one on line 7 in f94r. I have so far not found it being used by the looser scribe. I think these are appropriated from “Phagspa” script that was sometimes called “square Tibetan” and was known to Marco Polo. it was used in the court of Kubla Khan but only from 1259-1390. Polo was in the area and had an official golden pass (paiza) for his travels through Mongolia, China, Japan and Korea (1254-1324). Phagspa was the creation of a Tibetan monk / linguist of that name but was never popular with the locals and died out but survived in official documents a bit longer

    The nesting circles of glyphs seen in the f57v show several examples also of the inverted “v” with an overbar as well as several others that can be viewed in the annotations (Dover ed. pp 28a/b) to chapter XLI of Marco Polo’s Voyages; one in particular is prominent and appears to be a “T” resting on the cross part with the long arm at about 20 degrees to the plane. The inverted “v” with a cross bar is the vowel “o” in Phagspa. Another curious coincidence is that the ‘fallen over ” “7” and the inverted gamma were used by Roger Bacon (1214-1294) for “7” and “4”, respectively and appear in f 57v and pp 28a/b in the Marco Polo annotations which is an early Christian prayer in mixed Chinese and Syrian characters, and lengthy at 1 1/2 pp. Hangul, used in China and Korea is considered to have been derived from Phagspa; Phagspa’s mother was Tibetan.

    I will continue to belabor the point that I think the VM scribes were aware of the manuscript of Marco Polo’s Travels and the tubbed nymphs, the diamond seeking white eagles and some Mongolian glyphs that appear in the VM, support that idea.

    Cheers, Tom

  46. bdid1dr on January 29, 2017 at 6:27 pm said:

    Quite a few years ago, I discovered that the University of Chicago had been keeping records on persons who had been exposed Co-60 radiation. I was one of hundreds who were exposed when physicians , all up and down the west coast of California, were given ‘samples’ of “Co-60” to test on their patients.
    So, I was strapped to a gurney . I then had a long slender rod inserted through my nostril and to the back of my throat. To this day, I have a cyst in my left sinus which drains during the night. So, I wonder what other radioactive materials evolved from nuclear bomb trials. I’m hoping Rick Roberts might have ‘newer’ information about all of the variations of “Nuclear Medicine”
    I’ve recently refused to have CAT scans done –therefore am no longer a candidate for cataract surgery. So, “Beware the Frumious Bandersnatch……or sumthing like that !

  47. bdid1dr on January 29, 2017 at 8:10 pm said:

    Be aware that the “Monkshood” plant displayed in the Voynich has misleading/incorrect discussion (in re that only the roots were ‘invasive’ in the gardens. WRONG ! The entire plant was poisonous, even if someone were to brush against it. Also, the drawing/sketch in B-408 is displaying only one blossom on what was actually a stem-full . Another name for the ‘monkshood’ plant was “wolfsbane”. I remember my mother calling that same beautiful garden plant “Foxbane”.

  48. Thomas F. Spande on January 29, 2017 at 10:48 pm said:

    Dear all, Just a tiny cryptographic nugget related to Bonhoffer. The Gestapo drew back from executing him as he was too well known to the world. Sort of the way the Germans had an orchestra of mainly Jews to parade before the world. Martin Bookspan wrote a book on the subject.

    Anyway Bonhoffer was engaged to a young girl whom he knew from catechisation classes and that raised eyebrows but she proved devoted and loyal to a fare thee well. They corresponded despite Bonhoffer being in solitary confinement much of the time. The Gestapo allowed books to be sent to him provided they were returned within a set time. When a book would arrive, the Gestapo would pull the cover off the book and shake hell out of it, then have it delivered to Bonhoffer. What they missed were tiny pin pricks on letters toward the end of the book. Bonhoffer could read the messages with no problems as his fiance had pricked out German words, one letter at a time and written backward. He’d reply with pricking out a return message and send the book back. The Gestapo never tumbled to this simple coding technique. Dept. of obscure arcania.

    Cheers, Tom

  49. Thomas F. Spande on January 30, 2017 at 9:25 pm said:

    Dear all, One last point on Bonhoffer and this was his participation with the old German secret service (the Abwehr) in an attempt to assassinate Hitler with a proffered nitroglycerin-loaded pen for der Fuhrer’s use to sign an important document. The igniter popped but the nitro failed to go off. The Abwehr head had a huge network of anti-Nazis and despite urgings of friends decided not to destroy it but to put it in the oldest part of the Abwehr archives. The SS took the archive apart from new to old, found the dossier and rounded up every person mentioned. Most were immediately executed but as indicated Bonhoffer was too well known to execute, at least immediately. The nitro-pen offerer would also have died in the blast and when asked about the ethics of killing anyone, Bonhoffer replied “Blessed is he who would give up his life for his friends!”

    By the way, Allen Dulles wrote a very slender little book on the German underground and among the chief anti-Nazis were the diplomatic, the military and the intelligence services. Some were preachers. Most of all were socialists; least of all were the academics. Many of the agents who worked for the American OSS were German socialists. The OSS had a clever way of dressing them by offering fleeing German refugees, a clean suit on arrival in the US to make them look “more American” and told them to leave the pocket contents in place. This way they got authentic German clothing with the buttons sewn with an “X” pattern not parallel stitching as done with American made clothing, and matchbooks and some small change. They were always the most enthusiastic agents but alas, Harry Truman had to pull the plug on the OSS as these guys began taking orders from Stalin. Still when the STASi started operations, the allies knew most of their agents and their spy-craft since the OSS had trained them. When the OSS would parachute these guys into Germany, some were in Gestapo uniforms as the Germans were so used to having their papers checked, that on a train, these agents could scan the papers of workers who had been bombed out of work and were moving to a new location. Then, depending on the occupation of the traveler, the allies would bomb his destination. Ball bearing factories were always at the top of the list.

    Cheers, Tom

  50. Thomas F. Spande on January 30, 2017 at 10:41 pm said:

    BD, See a specialist in retinal surgery. They use methods that are not Computer-Activated-Tomography, but can PHOTOGRAPH your lens and retina. They can inject a yellow dye into your wrist vein, wait a few seconds, and photograph the veins in your retina to see if any leak, a start of the wet form of macular degeneration. If a leak is spotted, and not near the optic nerve, it can be sealed with a laser beam. If the retina is wrinkled it can be lifted off, flattened and reattached. That can be done only after the lens is removed and eventually replaced by a plastic one. I would urge you not to worry about CAT scans as I doubt they are involved in correcting cataracts. Cheers and good luck. Cheers, Tom

    ps. Your Co-60 experimentation sounds really weird but Americans did some odd stuff like having your shoes fitted by visualizing your toes in new shoes with a shot of radiation. This led to thyroid cancers.

  51. Thomas F. Spande on January 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm said:

    Dear all, Back to Voyniching. Based on that annotation on a mixed-Chinese-Syrian prayer in the Voyages of Marco Polo, I have followed up a bit on classical Syriac. I note that Bax has been there too, in collaboration with Derek Vogt but were approaching the VM text, focusing chiefly on phonetics. I am not going to glyphs in the VM that might be derived from Syriac, classical, western or eastern but just want to point out that some of the weird glyphs in the concentric circles of f57v might be from classical Syriac, like the “T” on its side, the tipped “X” (that might also be Aramaic). I think most of the symbols or glyphs found on f57v are likely derived from existing languages at the time the VM was written.

    Cheers, Tom

  52. bdid1dr on January 31, 2017 at 12:15 am said:


    The cyst was first noticed about five years ago — by my new dentist — who put the X-ray photos into my file. About three years ago, I was finally going to submit to the whole ‘shebang’ of CATscan — MRI — contact lenses and/or cataract surgery.etc–etc. Finally, I was ready to meet with the doctor (who was very emphatic that we get to his office ON TIME ! )
    We got to his office a good 40 minutes early. We waited until an hour after the scheduled times. So, we asked his assistant what was happening to our scheduled exam. “Oh, there was an emergency at the hospital” . mmm-hmmm.
    My husband has just returned from our ranch. Gotta eat !

    I have to laugh, ThomS !!!! If I cry, my tears turn into snot !

  53. Thomas F. Spande on January 31, 2017 at 6:26 pm said:

    BD, Download the “Amsler Grid” and check the vision of each eye with the grid. If the lines are “wavy”, you should see a retinal specialist. A wrinkle in the retina can raise hell with your vision. Vitamins/eye supplements like “Areds 2” can help a lot. The original doc owes you an appt at your convenience, seems to me. Cheers, Tom

  54. bdid1dr on January 31, 2017 at 9:04 pm said:

    @ ThomS: In the 1940’s Mallinckrodt Industries went full tilt to ‘purify” and make extremely radioactive uranium for the production of the first “Atom Bomb”. I’m not sure, anymore, of the location where the bomb was first tested: “Bikini Atoll”?
    I’m not sure (before or after) the attack on Pearl Harbor — and on to the two major cities in Japan. It is not that I was illiterate : most parents of under-school age children didn’t want to discuss Pearl Harbor or the later bombing of of Japan’s major cities.
    Thanks, Nick, for allowing us to go slightly off subject ! So far, it seems that my deteriorating vision process is slowing down. I shall try harder to stay on ‘subject’ …… beady-eyed-wonder (er…wonderer).

  55. bdid1dr on February 1, 2017 at 12:55 am said:

    @ ThomS : I just downloaded the Amsler test — neat, and very reassuring. Thanks for the tip !
    As far as the first tests of the ‘bomb’ in the USA / Nevada — my older half- sister would not allow me to watch the televised events. P-O ‘d does not fully describe my anger and frustration .
    Thank you, too, Nick for allowing this conversation, which was somewhat off-topic; but which I hoped might qualify in the classification of ‘pseudoscience’ !

  56. Thomas F. Spande on February 1, 2017 at 5:24 am said:

    BD, With all due respect, Mallinckrodt chemicals ONLY purified uranium oxide (yellow cake). This was converted elsewhere to a hexafluoride that is volatile and that was purified by cyclotrons at Lawrence Livermore out in your neck of the woods. Some purified U-235 was captured from Germany who were making it the same way, mainly at Univ. of Munich. I think gaseous diffusion and nuclear reactors were also used in the US. To reiterate, Mallinckrodt only purified the starting material, yellow cake. Plutonium came from reactors. Incidentally, the first bomb was tested in the deserts of New Mexico (the Trinity Test). some distance from Los Alamos.

    Cheers, Tom

  57. Thomas F. Spande on February 1, 2017 at 3:59 pm said:

    BD, A timeline for you: WW2 began with both Japan and Germany in Dec. of 1041. Germany declared war on the US, soon after Pearl Harbor (Dec 7). The War with Germany ended first although Americans knew 1) nuclear fission was discovered by German chemists and physicists and 2( Germany under Heisenberg and later Gerlach was working rapidly on getting enough U-235 for a bomb. The American “Manhattan project” was to develop a bomb before the Germans and perhaps use it on them. After D-day and the disastrous German campaign in Russia, Germany sued for peace. Bomb materials they had made were combined with ours and a uranium bomb was used in 1945 on Hiroshima ( a port city); Three days elapsed and during this time peace talks were attempted but failed, then a plutonium bomb was used on another port city, Nagasaki. The allies refused to bomb chiefly population centers (like Tokyo) or cultural centers (like Kyoto).

    If you were prevented from watching nuclear bombs going off, they would have been hydrogen bombs, after the war. They were tested in the South Pacific on uninhabited atolls, like Bikini These were fusion bombs, not fission bombs. TV was at the time of the Trinity test in NEW MEXICO just an idea in the mind of Philo T. Farnsworth.

    Cheers, Tom

  58. bdid1dr on February 2, 2017 at 1:06 am said:

    Well, ThomS : I’m hoping you will be able to get together with Rick Roberts as far as the effects of the Malinckrodt Industrial factories on the surrounding rivers, lakes, private home sites and suburban areas for miles around St. Louis Missouri and Chicago Illinois.
    I was born in 1943. My parents lived and worked in Chicago. I was born in St. Charles, Illinois. To this day, I have not been able to get a copy of my birth certificate. The reason given by the hospital and County was that the records for that time period were ‘confidential’ and were not to be opened until a certain date, which also could not be disclosed.
    Talk about “what goes around, comes around”.
    Ennyway, having been a Records Management Specialist (for 20 years before I retired) I did eventually get a copy — and lost it when we moved to our current domicile.

  59. bdid1dr on February 2, 2017 at 9:55 pm said:

    I reiterate that the “Voynich manuscript, every single folio, was written upon by Fray Sahagun and assistants. His parents, and several occupants of the small town of Sahagun, donated manuscript material, and sponsored his education at Salamanca (Leon Province).
    The first indication of Sahagun’s presence in “New Spain” can be found on the internet. It is a small ‘cartoon’ of Sahagun and a native Nahuatl person in the garden — potting on some small garden plants. The caption says “dig a hole”. The Nahuatl person used the word ‘cavitl’.
    I’m tempted to give you the life stories of several of Presidents of the United States of America. I’ve already told you about Thomas Jefferson’s enormous library — which also had a Koran on the shelves of religious material.
    Don’t worry about the results of our latest Presidential. I am disgusted !


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