Undeciphered

Treatise or New Language,
Voynich Enigma Is No Hoax

In the age of massive data collection, of inflated intelligence budgets, and of mastery of secrecy and surveillance, it’s a sobering realization to see how a 15th century manuscript continues to humble ciphers and code experts, as the Voynich has been doing for ages.
Since its rediscovery in 1912, some progress has been made, but overall, all efforts to understand it have been thoroughly defeated. Despite several theories, and a few words deciphered, the content of this exquisite document remains elusive and mysterious.
Named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-born book antiquarian, who acquired it in Italy, and owned it until his death in New York in 1930, the Voynich Manuscript has been handed by some of the most brilliant minds of what became later known as the global intel community.
Alan Turing, the British computer wiz who later broke the secrets of the German Enigma machine, took a crack at the Voynich, and failed. So did William Frederic Friedman, one half of the so-called America’s First Cryptographic Couple (with wife Elizebeth Smith), who worked for decades for the U.S. military.

WHEN CODE BREAKERS GET BROKEN
Having decoded hundreds of papers (and previously obsessed with a theory, later abandoned, that works by William Shakespeare were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon), he spent decades on the Voynich, but came up with only a well-crafted but ultimately vague anagram, whose key was revealed after his death in 1969.
‘An early attempt to construct an artificial or universal language of the a priori type,’ was all he could gather of the manuscript. Many others tried their hand, or at least worked theories around its origins. Among the most durable, two out of four are still standing and show promise.
An interesting take was advanced by Lawrence and Nancy Gladstone, pointing the book’s authorship to Roger Bacon. But for all its elegance, the theory lost steam after Continue reading

It’s Fly By Us

Spectacular Meteor Blast Over
Russia Steals the Asteroid Show

Something stunning happened while half of the world was sleeping, and a lot of people were waiting today see an asteroid’s close encounter with Earth: another spaceball showed up unexpectedly and exploded over Russia, showering thousands of flaming debris over the frigid land.
So much for the D414 and its rare extreme proximity; it got completely upstaged by a yet to be named heavenly body, smaller but with much better performing skills. Which also managed to injure some one thousand people, cause considerable material damage, all captured on several video recording devices.
As its pictures go viral, fingers will probably be pointed to those who got us all worked out for another underwhelming event, which almost no one watched. Considering the lethal potential that a crash like the one in Russia could’ve had to life on Earth, what was once again displayed was our utter lack of preparation.
But there may be a (burning) silver lining about this blast, as its forensics gets in gear in the months ahead. Besides of including a massive collection of debris over a large swath of inhospitable land, it may likely serve as a testing ground and offer precious clues about its nature, hopefully to the point of helping us get ready for the next.
The fantastic images of the event may also serve as stand in for another event that also happened in Russia, a century and five years ago: the explosion of an object over the gelid forests in the banks of the Tunguska river, which flatten an estimated 80 million trees over an 830 square miles area, according to Wikipedia. Now back to our regular programming.

Burning Rocks
Checking Us Out

Imagine that at some point today, you’d be walking outside and look up, and out of the thin, blue, chilly and beautiful blue sky, an office building would zip fast by you. Picture that it’d be high up but close enough that you could see its windows, and even a set of desks or two.
Now, never mind that it’d be bigger than a plane. You probably wouldn’t be too worry as to whether it’d crash on Earth, because, well, it simply didn’t belong up there, in the first place. But if it were an asteroid instead, that would certainly be your first thought.
We say that because, as it goes, there’s a piece of rock the size of a small building crossing the skies somewhere above the planet, and if conditions were just slightly different, you’d be able not just to spot it but to watch it crash and, yes, it’d probably be the last thing you’d see on this life.
The asteroid, 2012 DA14 will be zooming by us at about five miles per second, which is really fast, and closer to the ground than the satellites that told you about the weather this morning. It won’t hit us, though, NASA says. In fact, you most likely won’t even see it go by.
Still, it’s a considerable piece of rock, 150 feet across, with power to destroy a whole city, if it were to crash over our heads. The impact would create a charred wasteland in every direction to hundreds of miles away from it. Ah, and again yes, it’d probably kill everyone and everything on sight.
Even with NASA’s diminished budget, and an almost universal neglect about the threat these lethal travelers can represent to life on Earth, we’re finding out that Earth’s traveling through a shooting gallery of Continue reading