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Mysteries

New signs of language surface in mystery Voynich text

A mysterious and beautiful 15th-century text that some researchers have recently deemed to be gibberish may not be a hoax after all. A new study suggests the text shares quantifiable features with genuine language, and so may contain a coded message.
That verdict emerges from a statistical technique that puts a figure on the information content of elements in a text or code, even if their meaning is unknown. The technique could also be used to determine whether there is meaning in genomes, possible messages from aliens or even the signals between neurons in the brain.
The Voynich manuscript has baffled and captivated researchers since book dealer Wilfred Voynich found it in an Italian monastery in 1912. It contains illustrations of naked nymphs, unidentifiable plants, astrological diagrams and pages and pages of text in an unidentified alphabet.

Although the patterns of word lengths and symbol combinations in the text are similar to those in real languages, several recent studies have suggested that the book was a clever 15th-century hoax designed to dupe Renaissance book collectors, and that the words have no meaning. One study showed that techniques known to 16th-century cryptographers would have allowed someone to create these patterns using a nonsense set of characters. Another study concluded that the statistical properties of the script are consistent with gibberish.
Now Marcelo Montemurro of the University of Manchester in the UK and colleagues have analysed the text using a technique that pulls out the most meaningful terms. “We decided that’s ideal to use in this mysterious manuscript,” Montemurro says. “People have been discussing and quarrelling for decades about whether it’s a hoax. This would be a new approach.”
Their results support the idea that Voynich text really does contain a secret message.
Rather than looking for patterns in the words themselves, Montemurro’s method looks for more global patterns in the frequency and clustering of words that might indicate meaning. “The results that we get looking at these things cast a new light on the content of the volume,”Montemurro says.
The method uses a formula to find the entropy of each term  –  a measure of how evenly distributed it is. For a given term, the researchers determined its entropy in both the original text and in a scrambled version. The difference between the two entropies, multiplied by the frequency of the word, gives a measure of how much information it carries.
The method recognises that words that are particularly important will appear more frequently, as well as making a distinction between low-information words like and, which you would expect to be sprinkled evenly throughout, and high-information ones like language, which might only appear in sections dealing with that topic.
Back in 2009, the entropy approach homed in on meaningful words in famous texts across several languages. In On the Origin of Species, for example, the top 10 most informative words identified by the formula included species, varieties, hybrids, forms and genera. In Moby Dick, one of the most important words, according to the formula, was whale.
When applied to Voynich, the formula picked out several high-entropy words that seemed to be specific to different sections of the manuscript.
The team also applied a further analysis that deduces how related unknown words are, based on how related words cluster in known languages. Then they used this relatedness score to compare different sections of the manuscript.
They found that the high-entropy terms in what the manuscript’s illustrations would suggest are the pharmaceutical and herbal sections of the book were more likely to be related to each other than to terms in sections apparently about astrology, biology and recipes.
“They’re the strongest connected linguistically and also at the level of their pictorial representations  –  they’re the only two sections that have these plants,” Montemurro says. “Our analysis is the first one that actually links these sections only by their linguistic structure.”
The technique also measured the optimal way to cluster related words so as to maximise their information value. In novels or chapters that pertain to a certain topic, clusters of related, high-entropy terms tend to be fairly large, containing several hundred words. By contrast, on books that are simply a list of citations, say, with no connection to each other at all, clusters of related words  –  known as scale domains  –  would be much smaller.
Montemurro and colleagues compared the scale domains of the Voynich manuscript to those in texts of similar lengths in several languages: On the Origin of Species (in English), Records of the Grand Historian (Chinese), The Confessions of St. Augustine (Latin), plus computer code in the Fortran programming language and sections of yeast DNA.
The scale domain of the human languages was between 500 and 700 words in size, while Fortran’s was around 300 and yeast’s more like 10. For “Voynichese”, it was around 800.
“We wanted to see whether the structure that emerged from the analysis would be consistent or not with a real language,” Montemurro says. “Should we have found something like the yeast, then it would cast more doubts on the nature of the Voynich manuscript. But given the value we obtained, we say we cannot disregard that it is language.”
Proponents of the hoax hypothesis are still not convinced. In 2004, computer scientist Gordon Rugg of Keele University in the UK proposed a low-tech method for a smart trickster to create the entire Voynich manuscript without first inventing a secret language.
The hoaxer could first have written down a table of gibberish syllables containing the roots, prefixes and suffixes found in Voynichese, and then covered the table with a piece of card containing three holes, moving it over the table to read off new “words”. Using different cards with different arrangements of holes would produce text that looked like language, even though it wasn’t.
“The hoax would be perfectly feasible,” Rugg says, and could produce several of the features that Montemurro found in the distribution of words in the Voynich manuscript. “A complex surface structure does not have to be produced by complex deep structure. You can have very simple processes that produce very complex outputs.”
He adds that this effort might well have been warranted given the sophistication of the book collectors of the time, who might well have run some linguistic tests on a text before purchasing it.
Rugg also points out that manuscript shows no evidence of any errors having been corrected as it was written. “If the Voynich manuscript contained a real language, either the person who wrote it didn’t care about having mistakes in it, or he wrote 200 pages without making a mistake,” he says. “That’s unlikely.”
Montemurro now hopes to analyse other information-carrying sequences that are not necessarily language, such as DNA or perhaps even neural signals. This might help geneticists home in on the most valuable stretches of DNA and reveal whether different parts of the brain “speak” to each other in a code.
“But [the Voynich manuscript] does have a fascination, because for one thing, there’s no closure,” Rugg admits. “It’s like the most interesting whodunnit ever, and somebody’s ripped out the last three pages.”

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Mysteries

The Unexplained Phenomenon of Mekong Lights

The Phenomenon of Mekong Lights or widely known as the Naga Fireballs is an Asian mystery, which baffled and stunned many people around the world. These lights occur along an approximate 100km stretch of Mekong River adjoining Thailand and Laos. This strange event happens yearly in late October to early November under a full moon sky. The lights are usually glowing red-orange balls rising out of the Mekong River. Hence, the name Mekong Lights originated from the Mekong river name.

Different Explanation behind the Mysterious Phenomenon of Mekong Lights

According to many locals, the Phenomenon of Mekong Lights or popularly known as Naga Fireballs are actually the fire breath of a giant sea serpent called Naga or Phaya Naga. This serpent lives in the riverbed and awakes every year during the late autumn night of the full moon at the end of the Buddhist Lent. The serpent is believed to be honoring the end of the Vassa or the three-month long period of Rain Retreat or Buddhist Lent.

Naga or sea serpent are described as shape-shifters, they can appear in human form or half human and half serpent creature. In Thailand, the Phaya Nagas are considered as guardians and they are believed to be benevolent powerful servants of Buddha.

Every year, on the 15th day of the 11th lunar Month, locals in Thailand rejoices Phayanak (king of Nagas) Festival, which coincides with the Wan Awk Pansa, the end of Vassa or Buddhist Lent. Since the fireballs are often seen during this period, many locals accept the belief on the serpent Naga.

Evidence of the origin of the fireballs, which is from a large sea serpent, is widely distributed along the Nong Khai Province of Thailand. A photograph showing about 30 American soldiers holding a large and long sea creature was believed to be one of the Nagas. According to some reports, the giant creature is the queen of the Nagas, which was held by American Army at Mekong River on June 27, 1973, in Laos Military Base. However, some reports claimed that the photo is taken from the coast of San Diego, California. According to some research, the sea-creature was not a Naga but a giant oarfish.

This photo is a comparison of an oarfish and the Phaya Naga (sea-serpent). Do you think they are the same creature?

More pieces of evidence are available in a Buddhist Temple in Nong Khai City. Some objects there are believed to be fossilized bones from a Naga, such as an egg and a tooth.

The Naga Fireballs are not just ghostly apparition seen once throughout the history of Thailand and Laos, but many saw the fireballs almost yearly. The Mekong lights were captured and used in movies and documentaries worldwide. Even scientists came to investigate how these fireballs happen.

One scientific explanation of the cause of the Naga Fireballs is the swamp gas theory. Based on this theory, an organic matter at the bottom of the river decomposes and gives off methane gas. This methane gas fizzes up to the surface of the water and it spontaneously ignites when it fuses with oxygen. This process under precise conditions produces a brief burst of flaming gaseous bubbles that form the Mekong Lights.

Earth & Moon from one million miles – NASA

According to a pediatrician, Dr. Manos Kanoksilp, the main advocate of this explanation explained that the precise conditions that allow methane gas to form fireballs are the exact alignment of the sun, moon, and earth.

Another scientific explanation that is almost similar to the Methane gas theory involves a different gas, which is the Phosphine. The Thai Science Ministry’s Deputy Secretary Saksit Tridech and a team of scientists used special apparatus to measure conditions around the Mekong River. They claimed that the fireballs were the result of built-up Phosphine gas. This gas in the presence of diphosphine is capable of spontaneous flammability under certain chemical conditions in the river sediments of Mekong.

These two theories seem plausible but are actually full of flaws. First, the methane gas burns in an oxygen-rich environment within a specific range. It can only ignite in a very narrow range and requires phosphine and phosphorous tetrahydride. These gases are not commonly present in nature. In an experiment to replicate the fireballs through methane gas, the ignited gas produced bluish green sudden burst with black smoke. This is contradictory to the reddish-orange Naga lights that burn slowly and rises up into the air as a fireball.

On the other hand, the Phosphine gas is heavier than air. It will never rise up midair very quickly like the Naga Fireballs. When phosphine ignites, it yields white and dense cloud, which is unlikely of Mekong Lights. In addition, according to some research, the bottom of the Mekong River does not have organic sediments but has a sandy bed with occasional rocks.

Furthermore, if the alignment of the sun, earth, and moon affects the Mekong Lights, why do the fireballs only happen in the Mekong River and is not observed in other lakes or water parts of the world?  If there are other gases involve in the Naga Fireballs, the tedious chemical process of different organic matter should be found in the Mekong River, but explorations did not show anything similar to organic sediments needed by flammable gases. With all these contradictions, the scientific explanations of the Naga Fireballs are not widely accepted.

Controversies?

In 2002, a Thai television network called iTV sent a group of journalists to observe the Mekong River and find out where the fireballs originate. The program “Code Cracking” feature their team who went to the Laotian side of the river during the Naga Festival. What they filmed were Laotian soldiers shooting tracer rounds into the air. Every time they did this, the crowd on the Thailand side were heard shouting, indicating that they’ve seen the Mekong lights. The program received a massive backlash because the locals felt offended about their sacred festival. They felt that the TV program was implying that the fireballs were all just a hoax. Due to this, further scientific explorations were made to figure out where the Mekong lights came from and until now, professionals provided no concrete evidence.

If what the iTV broadcasted were true, why would the Laotian side do this for the Thai festival? Another baffling contradiction is that after this incident with the Laotian soldier, no reports were made that they were actually seen firing again during the Naga festival. Moreover, the fireballs are often seen in very secluded places where organizers of the festivals won’t have any chances to impress visitors. In addition, numerous people closely watch the river yearly, days before the festival and no one was caught in the act doing fake Mekong lights.

Conclusion

For now, we don’t know what causes the Naga Fireballs. This unexplained phenomenon of the Mekong lights will remain a mystery to many but will continue to impress visitors from all over theof the world with a spectacular light show every year.

Interesting links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naga_fireball

https://www.hostelbookers.com/blog/destinations/southeast-asia/naga-fireballs-in-thailand/

http://www.cubebreaker.com/naga-fireballs-what-exactly-are-those-lights-rising-from-the-river/

http://www.messagetoeagle.com/mystery-of-the-naga-fireballs-at-mekong-river/

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Mysteries

The Curious Case of Orion Williamson

July 1854 Selma, Alabama. It was a hot sunny afternoon when Orion Williamson, his wife and son relaxed on the porch of their farmhouse. The family watched horses graze under the sunshine in the distance.

It was then Orion stood up and ventured towards the grassy field to tell his farm worker to move the horses into a shaded area.  Williamson picked up what is described as a stick lying nearby and began to play with it and he walked forward.

Armour Wren and his son James were the neighbors of the Williamson family. They were passing by in a buggy when they too saw Williamson walk into the field. The Wren’s stopped to wave hello, and as Williamson waved back to his neighbors, he suddenly disappeared, vanishing without a trace in thin air!

Wren rushed to the spot where Orion Williamson last stood, soon joined by Mrs. Williamson and her child. They scoured the area hoping to find the lost farmer. But it was simply grass and land as if Williamson had never been there. What just occurred was impossible to explain. How could a grown man completely vanish in front of his family and neighbors?

With the sudden realization and shock from what happened to her husband, Mrs. Williamson fainted and was taken to the local hospital.

When word of the mysterious occurrence spread throughout town, three hundred people gathered and went to the field to look for Williamson. The crowd carefully searched the entire area. Bloodhounds tracked every turn. Hours passed, and darkness came, torches lit, and still no sign of the poor farmer.

The next day, more citizens from communities outside of Selma came to participate in the search. Volunteers went as far as digging into ground where Williamson disappeared only to find bedrock. Eventually, the search parties gave up. Orion Williamson was never found, dead or alive.

The next spring, investigators returned to the site and oddly saw a barren and dry patch of grass nearby where Orion last stood. When Mrs. Williamson learned of this, she related to them that she and her son kept hearing her husband’s voice calling out for help for weeks after he disappeared. But every time they ran to that spot, they could not find him. She said she kept hearing his voice until it slowed down and gradually faded away.

Whatever happened to Orion Williamson?

Some investigators developed theories to explain the mystery. One hypothesized that an unstable “universal ether” was responsible that could disintegrated matter. Another claim proposed a magnetic field transported the missing man to another dimension.

Juanita Rose Violini included the incident in her book, Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible, and the Ignored. Violini narrated two other similar events in 1880 and 1885. The 1880 disappearence occurred in Tennessee, the farmer who vanished was David Lang. Like Williamson, Lang sat on the front porch with his wife and children, walked to a field, and was never seen again. In this case, David Lang’s daughter, Sarah, wrote about the incident in great detail.

Isaac Martin’s disappearance in 1885 tells the tale of a man vanishing in a farm field in Virginia. The New York Sun posted an article about the oddity. But it was not known if there were any eyewitnesses.

In the book, Disappearance and the Theory Thereof, the author, Dr. Maximilian Hern purports the missing men entered a “void spot of universal ether”. Unfortunately, not much useful information is provided to further explain this.

Another popular publication, Among the Missing: An Anecdotal of Missing Persons from 1800 to the Present, by Jay Robert Nash, cities again the conclusions of Hern and another person, Ambrose Bierce, who investigated the Williamson case.

The universal ether, was theorized and proposed by Aristotle during ancient Greek times. In those days it was believed energy traveled through a mysterious substance that exists everywhere. This substance was known as an ether. It was used to explain the principals of natural phenomena such as light and gravity. Sound and light are forms of waves that could travel by ether. In the case of Orion, this ether must have been the medium through which his wife and child heard his voice in the absence of a physical form as presented by Hern and the others. But the theory of the universal ether has weakened through modern time as science gradually developed and understood matter and energy better than before.

The concept of a magnetic field sucking Orion into another dimension is interesting but is certainly something that can’t be expained by modern science. Perhaps String theory which talks of multi-universes might provide insight to how strange cases of physical disappearance may occur. Can a rift in the delicate balance of space and time fabric be responsible?

Ironically, Ambrose Pierce, who wrote a satire to the event, also mysteriously disappeared more than 50 years later under different circumstances.

But the question remains: Whatever happened to Orion Williamson?

Interesting links:

http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/04/alabamas_strangest_unsolved_my.html

http://www.qsl.net/w5www/disappearances.html

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Mysteries

Evidence Of An Alien Or Lost Civilization In Antarctica?

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