Read The Strange Quest to Crack the Voynich Code (Undark Magazine)
It’s an approximately 600-year-old mystery that continues to stump scholars, cryptographers, physicists, and computer scientists: a roughly 240-page medieval codex written in an indecipherable language, brimming with bizarre drawings of esoteric plants, naked women, and astrological symbols. Known...

a roughly 240-page medieval codex written in an indecipherable language, brimming with bizarre drawings of esoteric plants, naked women, and astrological symbols. Known as the Voynich manuscript, it defies classification, much less comprehension. 

Something I hadn’t thought of before, but which could be highly likely given the contents: What if the manuscript is a personal memory palace? Without supporting materials, it’s entirely likely that what’s left on the page is a substrate to which the author attached the actual content and not having the other half, the entire enterprise is now worthless?
Annotated on February 16, 2020 at 08:51PM

All we know for certain, through forensic testing, is that the manuscript likely dates to the 15th century, when books were handmade and rare. 

This may provide some additional proof that it’s a memory aid in the potential form of a notebook or commonplace book. What were the likelihoods of these being more common that other books/texts? What other codes were used at the time? Was the major system or a variant in use at the time?
Annotated on February 16, 2020 at 08:54PM

Bookmarked DH Awards 2019 Voting (Digital Humanities Awards)

Please vote for the following resources from 2019 in the DH Awards 2019. Have a look over the resources in each category and then fill out the form linked to at the bottom of the page in order to vote. For frequently asked questions please see http://dhawards.

Bookmarked Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology by Adrienne MayorAdrienne Mayor (Princeton University Press)

The fascinating untold story of how the ancients imagined robots and other forms of artificial life—and even invented real automated machines

The first robot to walk the earth was a bronze giant called Talos. This wondrous machine was created not by MIT Robotics Lab, but by Hephaestus, the Greek god of invention. More than 2,500 years ago, long before medieval automata, and centuries before technology made self-moving devices possible, Greek mythology was exploring ideas about creating artificial life—and grappling with still-unresolved ethical concerns about biotechne, “life through craft.” In this compelling, richly illustrated book, Adrienne Mayor tells the fascinating story of how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese myths envisioned artificial life, automata, self-moving devices, and human enhancements—and how these visions relate to and reflect the ancient invention of real animated machines.

As early as Homer, Greeks were imagining robotic servants, animated statues, and even ancient versions of Artificial Intelligence, while in Indian legend, Buddha’s precious relics were defended by robot warriors copied from Greco-Roman designs for real automata. Mythic automata appear in tales about Jason and the Argonauts, Medea, Daedalus, Prometheus, and Pandora, and many of these machines are described as being built with the same materials and methods that human artisans used to make tools and statues. And, indeed, many sophisticated animated devices were actually built in antiquity, reaching a climax with the creation of a host of automata in the ancient city of learning, Alexandria, the original Silicon Valley.

A groundbreaking account of the earliest expressions of the timeless impulse to create artificial life, Gods and Robots reveals how some of today’s most advanced innovations in robotics and AI were foreshadowed in ancient myth—and how science has always been driven by imagination. This is mythology for the age of AI.

Bookcover of Gods and Robots

Sean Carroll Mindscape Episode 40: Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology (#)
Listened to Episode 40: Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology from Sean Carroll's Mindscape

The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales.

Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award.

I’d never considered it before, but I’m curious if the idea of the bolt on Talos’ leg bears any influence on the bolts frequently seen on Frankenstein’s monster? Naturally they would seem to be there as a means of charging or animating him, but did they have an powers beyond that? Or was he, once jump-started, to run indefinitely? Bryan Alexander recently called out his diet (of apples and nuts), so presumably once he was brought to life, he was able to live the same way as a human.
Listened to Mindscape 74 | Stephen Greenblatt on Stories, History, and Cultural Poetics by Sean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Stephen Greenblatt headshotAn infinite number of things happen; we bring structure and meaning to the world by making art and telling stories about it. Every work of literature created by human beings comes out of an historical and cultural context, and drawing connections between art and its context can be illuminating for both. Today’s guest, Stephen Greenblatt, is one of the world’s most celebrated literary scholars, famous for helping to establish the New Historicism school of criticism, which he also refers to as “cultural poetics.” We talk about how art becomes entangled with the politics of its day, and how we can learn about ourselves and other cultures by engaging with stories and their milieu.

Cover art for Sean Carroll's Mindscape

How could you not love this?

👓 Stanford community outraged at SU Press defunding, over 1,000 sign petitions | Stanford Daily

Read Stanford community outraged at SU Press defunding, over 1,000 sign petitions by Elise Miller (The Stanford Daily)
A flurry of critical letters, petitions and tweets came in the wake of the announcement of the University’s decision to discontinue funding for Stanford University Press, the primary printing ope...
This must be a big story in the ed space for me to have seen/read multiple stories and scrolled past several others…

And, yes, shame on Stanford.

👓 How a University Can Sell Its Soul: HASTAC's Stanford Origins and the University's Current Decision on Stanford University Press | HASTAC

Read How a University Can Sell Its Soul: HASTAC's Stanford Origins and the University's Current Decision on Stanford University Press by Cathy Davidson (HASTAC)
“Austerity” When You Are Wealthier Than Just About Anyone

📑 YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant

Annotated YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant by Mark Bergen (Bloomberg)
When Wojcicki took over, in 2014, YouTube was a third of the way to the goal, she recalled in investor John Doerr’s 2018 book Measure What Matters.“They thought it would break the internet! But it seemed to me that such a clear and measurable objective would energize people, and I cheered them on,” Wojcicki told Doerr. “The billion hours of daily watch time gave our tech people a North Star.” By October, 2016, YouTube hit its goal.  
Obviously they took the easy route. You may need to measure what matters, but getting to that goal by any means necessary or using indefensible shortcuts is the fallacy here. They could have had that North Star, but it’s the means they used by which to reach it that were wrong.

This is another great example of tech ignoring basic ethics to get to a monetary goal. (Another good one is Marc Zuckerberg’s “connecting people” mantra when what he should be is “connecting people for good” or “creating positive connections”.

👓 Why Books Matter for the Long Run | Knowledge@Wharton

Read Why Books Matter for the Long Run (Knowledge@Wharton)
Book publishing is a business and increasingly a technical one, but at its heart it is an art, writes Peter J. Dougherty in this opinion piece. He is the editor-at-large at Princeton University Press,
A nice little essay here.

👓 An Interview with John O’Brien | Dalkey Archive Press

Read An Interview with John O’Brien (dalkeyarchive.com)
The following interview was conducted in-house at two different times, in 2000 and 2004. The purpose of the interview was to provide a very readable documentation of Dalkey Archive Press’s mission and history. It was amended in 2004, and likely will be amended again in the future, to reflect changes in the culture that have an impact on the work we do.
After reading this interview, how could one not want to devote their life to supporting such an institution?

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

subversive  

maybe also the word uncomfortable?

December 19, 2018 at 05:10PM

uncomfortable  

ha!

December 19, 2018 at 05:11PM

There is no sense that this particular novel has its place among-and should be evaluated against-a whole history of other novels.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:14PM

As with all of the arts, literature was once upon a time entirely made possible through patrons. This goes at least as far back as Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. They were able to write because their patrons provided them financial support. And this was of course true of all of the other arts. Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, however, literature and commerce got mixed.  

In some sense, there is a link between these areas of art/writing and funding and what we see in social media influencers who in some sense are trying to create an “art” for which they get paid. Sadly, most are not making art and worse, most of them are being paid even worse.

December 19, 2018 at 05:18PM

While many people say that such and such a book changed their lives, you can be sure that they could not tell you who published the book. The identification is with the book and its author, not the publisher.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:25PM

My models were New Directions Press and Grove Press.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:32PM

Michael Orthofer at the Complete Review  

December 19, 2018 at 05:35PM

Academics will probably bristle at this thought but, at least in relation to literature, all you have to do is look at the courses that are offered featuring the literatures of other countries. Not only don’t they teach these literatures, they don’t read them.  

We certainly could use an Anthony Bourdain of literature to help peel back the curtain on other countries and cultures.

December 19, 2018 at 05:38PM

I think only the philistine mind thinks that art needs a social or moral justification.  

Quote of the year.

December 19, 2018 at 05:46PM

A prerequisite for war, as well as bigotry, is that one sees a people or a country as a stereotype, as something sub-human or non-human; this is why politicians spend so much time trying to create stereotypical images for those countries they want to go to war with.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:48PM

Small publishers are oftentimes awful at getting their books out to people, even though of course the marketplace determines many of the limitations.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:51PM

Ordering In-N-Out by Chapter and Verse: Hot Cocoa Edition

In a very rare move in January 2018, In-N-Out  added a new item to their sparse menu: hot cocoa. As part of their roll out and for marketing purposes, they serve free hot cocoa on rainy days to children under 12 years old. 

A few years back, I had written about the bible verses that In-N-Out “hides” on their product packaging. I remember hearing about the hot cocoa addition to the menu when it was initially released, but had forgotten about the bible verses until I had the occasion to visit on a recent rainy day.

So to complete the enlarged canon, here are the details for the bible verse found on In-N-Out’s hot cocoa cup.

Products and Bible Verses (continued)

  • Hot Cocoa:

    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

    John  13:34
    In-N-Out Hot Cocoa Cup with a reference to bible verse  John 13:34

Notes

This certainly seems an appropriate verse to put on a product that they give away on rainy days. And who doesn’t love commandments involving hot cocoa?! I do notice that the verse isn’t hidden underneath the cup, like it is on the soda cups, but instead it’s front and center in relatively larger bold font on the side of the cup.

If one takes my prior call to replace the deity references with the product, then we’ll know that everyone who loves one another is a disciple of hot cocoa. They’re also likely to avoid improper microwave use too.

👓 Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head | The Guardian

Read Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head by Alex Hern (the Guardian)
Mitchell Baker says firms should hire philosophy and psychology graduates to tackle misinformation
Is it just me or am I seeing a major uptick in articles defending the humanities over the past several years? I find it interesting given the political climate (at least in the United States) where it seems the sciences are under attack–at least culturally. Perhaps both are under attack, but from very different perspectives and levels.

👓 A message from President Daniels to students on the humanities | Johns Hopkins

Read A message from President Daniels to students on the humanities (The Hub | Johns Hopkins)
President Daniels: 'Hopkins believes in the essential value of humanistic inquiry and its capacity to aid you in realizing your aspirations and building lives you want to live and of which you will be proud'

👓 Maryland’s Goucher College eliminating several majors, including math | Baltimore Sun

Read Maryland's Goucher College eliminating several majors, including math (Baltimore Sun)
Math majors at Goucher College will soon be a thing of the past.

👓 The Guardian view on digitising culture: make manuscripts more illuminating | the Guardian

Read The Guardian view on digitising culture: make manuscripts more illuminating by Editorial (the Guardian)
Editorial: Putting the contents of libraries and museums on the web makes much wonderful, hidden art accessible
Some great digital resources in here.