The Voynich Manuscript, Shady Kilograms, Shyster Budgets, Shameful Foreign Policy, and Storms in Berkeley
So much for the good Berkeley weather. We’ve had torrential rain. Hail. Lightning. Wind. More rain. The cats wanted to go out this morning and when I held the door open, the wind blew them right back inside. They wisely decided they had some sleep to catch up on and didn’t want to go outside after all. I on the other hand had to venture out into the rain, climb on roofs, deal with sump pumps and clogged downspouts, and just in general get soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone. It’s people like me who keep homes dry and warm.
Moving along, in no particular order, thoughts on some of this week’s news. Obama presented his budget for the next year. Pure unadulterated Obama, by which I mean pure politics was his only concern. He left entitlements and the military completely alone, so our out of control spending continues apace. Borrowing and spending I might add, the national debt is reaching record levels. All he did was go through the discretionary spending and make cuts that wouldn’t cost him much of anything politically so he can claim he’s making cuts, with no thought to the damage or long term consequences of any of the cuts. Yeah, that’s leadership.
Demonstrations continue throughout the Middle East. Who knows how any of this will turn out, but I continue to be heartened. The USA’s response in particular has been so disastrously hypocritical, patronizing, and self-serving that it can only add to anti-American sentiment in the region. And the sooner they tell us to go home and mind our on business, the better. There are no US strategic interests in the region, unless protecting corporate profits is a strategic interest. Hint: It’s not. “What’s good for GM is good for America” is a lie. Granted I expect the USA will make the whole situation worse by trying to protect our interests in the short term, that’s pretty much the history of US policy in the region. Seeing Clinton crowing about how medieval monarchs are our “good friends and allies” was a particularly disgusting sight, this is why I rarely watch the news anymore.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s been a discovery about the Voynich Manuscript. I mean, how many blogs keep their readers updated on Voynich Manuscript news? The Voynich Manuscript is one of the world’s most puzzling manuscripts, filled with mysterious hand written text and illustrations that no one has ever convincingly deciphered. Yet the text does appear to be a real language, or at least shares many of the properties of a real language. It was suggested a few years ago that using the mathematical tools available at the time the manuscript originated (in the early 15th century) it would have been possible to create a “fake” text such as that used in the Voynich Manuscript. That’s always been the best guess as to what the manuscript is, a hoax intended to be sold to some gullible person as a magical or alchemical tome. The recent discovery is that the manuscript has been carbon dated, and turns out it’s as much as a century older than anyone thought, predating the Gutenberg Bible even. What does this mean? It means the mystery is a bit deeper, and some of the theories about who may have created it are now less credible. I dunno, maybe it was written on old paper at the time. I’ll keep following this real historical and scientific mystery.
And lastly, the official kilogram has been found wanting. Most measures are defined by physical constants (well, accept for one backwards country that is still using a system of weights and measures based on the length of the King’s nose, but I digress,) but the kilogram is based on, well, a bar of platinum that’s been sitting in a vault in France for over a century. Why is the kilogram still based on an object in a vault? Because scientists haven’t figured out anything better yet.
So what’s the problem? “The” kilogram was recently removed from the vault and weighed, and it weighs 50 micrograms less than it should. That’s not much, less than the weight of an ant, but it is puzzling. Its also a problem. By law the weight of this bar of platinum is a kilogram and the standard against which all other kilograms are to be calibrated with. I think this means that technically, everything on the planet that is weighed in kilograms, not to mention the weight of the Earth itself, and every device that weighs kilograms … is incorrect and has to be changed. Yeesh, like a y2k we didn’t see coming. Now what?
Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law. It was written centuries ago by a unknown author, so I think I’m pretty safe claiming that no one holds the copyright. It’s a page from the Voynich Manuscript, click on it to see the full size version. The text appears to have been written fluidly, as if it was being written by someone familiar and comfortable with the language. Again, a maddeningly elaborate hoax, or the real deal?)