Re-Blog: Secret Codes, Medieval Medicine & Witches


(Originally posted 9/19/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Who uses secret codes? Kids with secret hide-outs, spies, secret societies, lovers, criminals, etc. Was there a secret society during Medieval times who created a complex secret code, the size of a hefty novel, that has still not been cracked? Linguistics, cryptographic and translation experts say no. And the gringa wants to know why since they still haven’t “cracked the code” of a centuries old manuscript. How would they know what they don’t know?


The Voynich manuscript is really a book, like a huge paperback novel. Within those soft vellum covers are pages of astrological charts, 

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naked women bathing in mysterious green liquids, 

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and strange, unknown flora. 

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Describing all of these curiosities is a secret code that has yet to be solved. 


So what kind of information is being shared? Is it dangerous? Taboo? Subject to blackmail? Why would the author go to such trouble as to pen this tome in an unreadable language? Most authors know that it is publish or perish. To publish in a tongue that can never be known by the general public is the same as not publishing at all. What in the world is this book about? 


One literary expert suggests that, because of the illustrations of naked ladies taking baths, perhaps it was a health manual that challenged the medical trends of that era. The author might possibly have faced legal charges as serious as witchcraft for practicing questionable herbal remedies. Is that what is in the book? Recipes for herbal treatments of feminine ailments? 


This expert’s theory has been widely rejected by the literary community at large. A community, mind you, that has already committed much time and effort to decoding the manuscript. Is their reaction just sour grapes? Has Nicholas Gibbs, a professional researcher of history and war artist, hit upon the truth and spoiled their fun and shot at glory? 


In addition to his professional credentials he also has experience evaluating precious curiosities, having worked for the famed Christie’s auction house. But, even more compelling for the gringa, is his biological connection to his working theory. He is a descendant of one of England’s most famous ancient herbalists, Thomas Fromond. And it was the work of his famed ancestor that helped guide Gibbs in his theory.


So, despite the criticisms of his peers, and their claims that his theory is purely satire, their own findings actually seem to support the Gibbs’ theory. After much examination of the flora illustrations, astrological charts and naked ladies bathing depictions, Gibbs’ critics admit that these elements are health related.


These critics also accede that the Voynich manuscript is very similar to a medieval bathing guide, De Balneis Puteolanis. But their main point of criticism is his accomplishment where they otherwise failed. Gibbs actually decoded two lines of the manuscript. So what is the problem?


The critics claim that his translation into Latin is not grammatically correct. The gringa says, “Really?” I mean, dear reader, come on. When the gringa needs to keep on schedule, she might ask an English speaking friend, “What time is it?” If around Spanish speaking friends, the gringa would say, “Que hora es?” Guess what the literal translation of the Spanish is in English… What hour is. Which is NOT grammatically correct in English. So, the gringa doesn’t buy the grammatically incorrect translation complaint.


Then there’s the fact that the lines Gibbs decoded weren’t actually comprised of complete words. He was decoding characters that represented abbreviated words. Kind of like if the gringa used the “#” symbol to represent the “1/2 tbsp” abbreviation in my own secret code. The secret code was never intended to be grammatically correct. Come on, people. Stop being jealous because a rookie on the scene showed you up.


And what of the theory for why a ladies health manual would need to be written in a secret code to begin with? It is carbon-dated to a point of origin in Northern Italy around 1404-1438. What was going on that might make secret communications of controversial subjects necessary? Here are a few historical facts for perspective:


-During this time period there was no clear identity for physicians in Europe.

-When universities established medical studies during the Middle Ages, women were excluded.

-Women healers were forced to go underground to practice except when filling the role of midwife.

-Most women preferred to be attended by a trusted midwife for other feminine health issues, albeit secretly.

-Women training other women as healers had to be creatively covert in the materials used to pass along and preserve knowledge.

-Women healers caught practicing or teaching medicine were acting outside the law and subject to prosecution.

-Prosecution of a woman healer usually involved the woman being charged with the crime of witchcraft.

-The crime of witchcraft was a capital offense with a death sentence attached.


Understanding the environment in which the Voynich manuscript was crafted, the gringa is convinced that it is indeed, a ladies health guide. Despite bearing the surname of the Polish man who purchased the manuscript in 1912 after its discovery in an Italian monastery, the gringa believes the manuscript was most likely authored by a woman healer working outside the law. The code was the result of this female healer fearing for her life if caught. So vital was it for this woman healer to pass on her knowledge to another generation of female healers, she created a complex secret code that has puzzled linguistic experts for centuries. 


When you think about the witchcraft connection, the secret code for a ladies health manual makes perfect sense. Mystery solved. Thanks Gibbs.

Sources:

The Atlantic


Bushehr University of Medical Sciences


Image Credits:

Mitch Testone


Ellis Nelson


CthulhuTech


Daily Mail

Video Credit: The Science Channel

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Does Bacteria Fart?


(Originally posted 2/28/16 on Read With The Gringa)

Lately the gringa has been captivated by a variety of aromas. Her dear little puppy, Abby-pup, has her own unique fragrances that identify her dog breath, dirty dogginess, wet dogginess and upset tummy gas. Every morning, while the gringa drinks her coffee, her middle-aged armpit sweat glands produce copious amounts of pungent odor. When the caveman arrives home from work he smells like caliche dust after a long day of delivering gravel. The gringa finds this smell kind of sexy, actually. However, there is one caveman smell that the gringa finds terribly offensive. Caveman farts are the things gringa nightmares are made of.

What the heck is a fart? Well, it’s gas. Actually, it’s a combination of gases: nitrogen, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The oxygen is usually in the air we take in as we swallow food and even snore, which the caveman does on earsplitting levels. The other gases are by-products created by the food as it breaks down in the large intestine. And, eventually, they simply have to escape lest we all blow up like a helium balloon.

You may not realize it but the average person is simply filled with loads of gas. We pass gas about 10-20 times daily, depending on what you eat. In fact, if you could bottle up all of your daily farts, they would probably fill up a quart jar. Now, bits of undigested food don’t just magically change into gas. The gas is actually the creation of bacteria. Inside the large intestine more than 500 varieties of bacteria reside, happily gnawing away at all the undigested bits and bobs that make their way to that netherworld.

But is it the type of bacteria or the type of food that produces the smell? Well, it’s both. The smelliest gas released in a fart is hydrogen sulfide. Beef, poultry, eggs, broccoli, and other foods high in sulfur compounds are the ingredients for really rotten smelling farts. That means that even a vegetarian’s fart smells bad.

Now, bacteria don’t have intestines to actually fart. Basically, they just smell themselves. They simply emanate the appropriate odor for what they’ve been eating. So, in essence, a fart is an explosion of bacterial aromas. Seeing as how there are trillions upon trillions of bacteria throughout your digestive system, it is understandable, then, how such a concentration of smelly creatures can really pack a punch by the time a fart makes it to the outside world.

But don’t be sad or embarrassed that you are farting bacteria produced gas. It helps keep you healthy. Those smelly bacteria are your friend.

Sources: Love Your Gut

Kid’s Health

Unity Point

Image Credit: Style Vitae

Video Credit: TED-Ed

Anger Rooms Make You Dumber & Sicker


Have you seen the new trend in dealing with feelings? Anger rooms. When the gringa first saw these advertised I got a kick out of the thought of unleashing all the destructive forces within me. What a hoot to smash some bottles or tear up a sofa. But then, as so often happens, I had a shower epiphany. The shower is where I do some of my deepest thinking. And as I soaked I began to be sad as to why we even need places like anger rooms. And, according to medical studies of what anger does to the brain, they could be the worst idea ever.

Think about it. We can’t afford to indulge the base instinct of anger. The human body does not indulge disease, giving it a safe place to wreak havoc. Instead, white blood cells gather the troops and wage war until the disease is eradicated. Indulging anger doesn’t just make us sick with all sorts of stress related health problems like high blood pressure. Indulging anger also makes us dumber. And judging by conditions today, the world really can’t afford an influx of dumbness into society.

What exactly happens to the brain when we let ourselves rage and scream and break things and slam doors? First of all, at the root of anger, is a desire to inflict harm upon another person, whether it be through word or deed.  But anger isn’t just a character destroyer. It also destroys your physical and mental health.

  • Anger calls every organ and muscle group into action. This is nature responding to a threat.
  • This heightened state of arousal is draining, exhausting and creates a brain chemistry by-product of depression.
  • Chronic anger is a natural resource depleter that shortens your life span and compromises your immune system as T-cells are destroyed.
  • Heart rate accelerates.
  • Pupils dilate.
  • Digestion comes to a standstill. This can result in vomiting or extremely high acid content in the stomach. This is natural survival mode as the body attempts to empty a stomach because a full stomach impedes fighting for your life.
  • Pain receptors block signals which can result in imprudent behavior that causes severe injury to self and/or others.
  • Throat nerves and muscles are stimulated making it difficult to do anything but scream.
  • Energy surges through your body.
  • As the sympathetic nervous system jumps into high gear, sensitivity heightens which can lead to irrational conclusions of what is going on around you.
  • Brain chemistry changes result in problem-solving skills being suppressed as energy reserves are redirected to muscle groups key to physically fighting.
  • Chronic anger causes damage to brain structure and connectivity due to high levels of cortisol frequently flooding the brain.
  • Elevated levels of cortisol overproduce cells that create myelin rather than functional neurons.
  • Myelin is the brain’s “white matter”. As opposed to the higher functioning gray matter, it is the material that encases axons and controls the communication flow of electrical signals.
  • Too much myelin, in essence, “strangles” the wiring of the brain, impeding the flow of electrical signals.
  • As myelin increases, so do episodes of anger.

So, in a nutshell, giving sway to anger makes you sick, dumb and more prone to be angry again. Give sway to anger habitually and you basically become an anger drone unable to think rationally, get along with others and destined to live a miserable, shorter existence of paranoia. So, no, the gringa is no fan of anger rooms. Rather than be a safe space for people to vent their anger, they are the recruitment centers for the future zombie apocalypse.

People, we need to promote positive thinking and mindful meditation if we want society to evolve as a more civilized people. Humoring angry people will drag us back to a time of dungeons and cave dwelling. Promote positivity and mindful meditation for the well-being and survival of our species and planet.

Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Don’t worry. Be happy. When concerned, take a deep breath and think your way through. If you find you are getting mad, detach from the person or situation if possible. Meditate until you feel your body relaxing and returning to a state of control. Then begin the process of changing your perspective. Rather than look at the situation from your own point of view, approach it from every angle. How is the other person perceiving things? What might the perspective be of an objective, uninvolved third party? And be open to every perspective. You may discover a truth that is difficult to accept but still true. Accept it. You may also discover that every perspective is legitimate. Life and humanity is almost always complex and extremely nuanced. Don’t let anger keep you focused only through your own lens. And, for heaven’s sakes, stay away from those anger rooms!

 

Sources:

www.psychologytoday.com/stress-damages-brain

www.psychologytoday.com/evolution-of-self

LinkedIn

www.angerroom.com

Image Credit:  www.hdwallpapers.in

 

 

The Power of a Few


Often, when the subject of climate change is discussed, people begin to feel highly motivated to take action. However, it is easy to get discouraged when it is soon realized that the change that is necessary to save our planet meets with heavy resistance from large and powerful corporations who are more concerned with profit margins than securing a viable home for future generations. After all, most of these high-salaried executives, board members and executives will be long dead by the time humankind is suffering the worst devastation of climate change. But the gringa says, “Don’t give up. You’re voice does matter.”

Much like how a drop of water slowly becomes, over time, a stalactite or stalagmite, or a river can, over eons, cut a gorge as impressive as the Grand Canyon,  community action, even if it’s only a handful of people, can also build something lasting and impressive. By keeping continued pressure upon the neck of a company, by consistently bringing your cause to their attention, by employing multiple calls to action such as petitions that accumulate the voices of all concerned citizens in the local community, a small collection of individuals who are persistent can either:

  • A. Wear down the opposition in a war of attrition; or
  • B. Eventually create so much local awareness that a company realizes it is in the company’s best interest to respond to their demands if they want to continue to enjoy profiting from the local community’s patronage; or
  • C. The best outcome, the company comes around to the same perspective, seeing the value not in the almighty dollar alone, but actually sees real value in the issue.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the videos below featuring a small group of young people representing the cause “Value the Meal” which is pushing for accountability by community leaders in their local pediatric medical community. Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas specializes in the healthcare of our most vulnerable population, our children. In this place of health and healing is a McDonald’s restaurant which aggressively markets their brand of food which is famous for its low nutrition value.

Linked to chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity, it is hard to understand why physicians, who are endowed with public trust with regard to health, would be so irresponsible as to seemingly advocate for this kind of food, especially for children who are in recovery and even more vulnerable to a diet that woefully lacks anything that can contribute to strengthening them and improving their healing abilities.

Value the Meal rally at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“Community health over corporate wealth”. Children’s hospitals shouldn’t have junk food brands like McDonald’s with contracted space in their facilities of health and healing.

No McDonald’s junk food poisoning recovering children patients at Texas Children’s Hospital.

They may not seem very powerful with numbers so small. But that is not where there power lies. There power lies in the “rightness” of their position, the persistence of their action, and the growing community support responding  as they continue to witness this same small group of committed activists maintain a voice and presence on one particular issue.

In your own community, whatever your noble cause, gather together whomever you can trust to remain committed and loyal, even if your numbers happen to be small. Because even one drop of water is powerful and you are much greater than a single drop of water.

Poopbots Running Amok In The Muck


Yes, dear reader, you read the gringa’s post title correctly, poopbots. And they are literally running amok in Boston’s subterranean muck. Mario and Luigi are pioneering waste miners delving the stinky depths of Boston’s sewers. They are gathering data from human effluence for epidemiologists so they can uncover even darker secrets of human health and behavior. So what does the future of poop collection and dissection look like?

MIT researchers involved in Senseable City Lab’s project, aptly named Underworlds, are on a mission to help scientists predict outbreaks of dangerous and deadly diseases. They also want to help discover some of the causes of chronic diseases whose origins in human health remain a mystery. And they believe clues to solving these mysteries lie deep in the sewers, secreted in what’s been excreted.

Project leader, Carlo Ratti, uses the example of influenza to explain. Before a widespread outbreak is evident in local hospitals, the virus could have already been detected in the human waste produced by those first afflicted. Once a city makes poop monitoring a regular thing, they can isolate and respond to any outbreak much more rapidly. Hopefully, future widespread epidemics can be prevented.

Mario and Luigi scan for industrial toxins, human biomarkers, and other chemicals related to contagious disease and chronic illnesses such as diabetes. It’s kind of like an urban poop census. The Environmental Protection Agency is completely on board with the idea of an urban poop census. They see this ambitious project as the latest advance in an inexpensive way to monitor public health in a timely manner that is relevant. The gringa believes that EPA agents are probably just glad to say good-bye to the days of scooping poop to fill their sample quotas.

Luigi and Mario are controlled remotely and use a GPS system to navigate. Within fifteen minutes of a flush, a fresh sample can be collected. By gathering samples so soon after a dump event scientists can determine the difference between chemicals a person is exposed to as opposed to chemicals a person ingested. The most common food products found in human waste thus far in the project are rice, wheat and beans. However, the occasional pomegranate seed collection makes for a nice surprise.

If the underworld of human poop analysis by robots interests you, Underworlds has its own website. Interested poop fans can gaze in wonder as data is disseminated to reveal what types of viruses are in the local water supply right alongside any bacteria or chemicals. If all goes well with Mario and Luigi, the state of Massachusetts may expand their poop inspection territory. The gringa suspects this will, indeed, be the case considering that even Kuwaiti poopers have been so impressed they have implemented their own poopbots in partnership with Underworlds.

Although MIT has long been heralded for the many scientists and engineers and mathematical geniuses who have graduated there, now, it will forever be remembered as the institute of poop pioneers. Better a pioneer than just a lowly pile, is what the gringa says!

Sources:

qz.com

underworlds.mit.edu

senseable.mit.edu

 

Image Credit: https://blog.adafruit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2368.jpg

 

 

 

Drones, UFOs, and Saving The Planet… They Are ALL Connected


UFO enthusiasts got a thrill recently when news agencies all over the United States were sounding the alarm of a strange light seen hovering, then moving about, near the famous St. Louis Arch. The YouTube video posted below, sourced from streetview citycams, begins by speeding up the video 1000 times so as not to bore the viewer with several minutes of nothingness. Throughout the hi-speed progression lightning can be observed. As viewers watch, they can see the light dim and sometimes disappear because of cloud cover. The video records a strange light approach the Arch from the left side of the screen and do some interesting acrobatics. The gringa has provided a play by play script to refer to as the dear reader views the video.

Video begins 2:19:49 streetcam time (SCT)/0:00 YouTube Time (YTT).

2:25:13 SCT/0:15 YTT First arrow indicates the appearance of the light in the top middle portion of the screen with light becoming visible at 2:25:19 SCT/0:17 YTT and approaches the Arch.

2:26:20 SCT/0:39 YTT Light appears to hover over the Arch, “wink out” a couple of times only to reappear in relatively the same place, indicating it was hovering the entire time.

2:26:41 SCT/0:46 YTT Light winks out.

2:28:06 SCT/0:52 YTT Light reappears as indicated by arrow and seems to be in same position above the Arch which would make it seem that it was hovering the entire time it was not visible.

2:28:54 SCT/0:56 YTT Light appears to be hovering above the Arch.

2:29:36 SCT/1:00 YTT Light winks out.

2:30:01 SCT/1:02 YTT Arrow directs attention to higher point above the Arch, indicating that the light has climbed higher. However, it is not visible.

2:31:00 SCT/1:08 YTT Another arrow indicates the light to be in the upper left corner of the screen but the gringa does not see it appear.

2:31:18 SCT/1:14 YTT The gringa begins to click through each second at the rate of 2 clicks per second so I get to see half of a second in each frame. I see a flash of the light at a higher point above the arch as I begin my second click of 1:15 YTT, going into my first click of 1:16 YTT. There is no arrow used in the video here to direct you to the flash of light. If you are not prepared you will miss it.

2:32:08 SCT/1:22 YTT Arrow again indicates that the light is seemingly flashing in the top left corner of the screen. Then there is a clear winking on and off of a light in the far left top corner of the screen as the light begins a rapid descent, disappearing behind cloud cover, but can clearly be seen descending.

2:32:25 SCT/1:28 YTT The arrow draws the viewer’s attention to the light whose rapid descent has been abruptly arrested and it once again begins to hover.

2:32:39 SCT/1:33 YTT Light brightly blinks out after a short rapid descent. If you begin once again to click through frames, 2 clicks per second/frame, the light can be seen faintly descending, angling off to the left, then hooking sharply right and descending quickly and can be viewed practically all the way to its landing on the ground in the lower left portion of the screen, its final landing at about 2:32:47 SCT/1:36 YTT.

Summary of the mystery light’s activity:

  • About 45 seconds of hovering above the Arch.
  • For about 1 minute the light continues to climb and hover above the Arch.
  • Within about 50 seconds the light manages to travel the distance in the view screen from seeming to hover above the Arch to the upper left corner of the view screen.
  • Within 30 seconds light makes a rapid descent that includes a brief hover before two radical left/right maneuvers, like a zig-zag, and appears to land on the ground.

So what was it? The gringa believes it was a drone, not an extra-terrestrial vehicle. It is pretty obvious by the final descent and apparent landing on the ground that it is a very small vehicle and very much Earthling technology. The gringa doesn’t know all the details on speed and distance relative to the camera and the Arch, but that doesn’t change my mind that it is a drone. And the gringa warns her dear readers to be on the lookout for many more videos and hoaxes to come with drone technology becoming more and more affordable for technology enthusiasts.

Other than making interesting UFO hoax videos, what are some actual practical uses for drones? Well, for one thing, drones may very well help save the world, and the gringa’s not talking about how military personnel are already putting them to use in battle. Using them to target and kill fellow human beings is not the gringa’s idea of saving the world.

Using them as a research tool to monitor dolphin and whale populations is more what the gringa considers saving the world. And that is just what marine biologists are doing in Hawai’i. Ocean Alliance is taking advantage of how drones can monitor wildlife without intrusion by humans. With drones capable of being equipped with high resolution cameras, researchers can get close up views and real time video of what dolphin pods and whale families are doing. Even if weather is bad and ocean conditions rough, the drones can still go out and do their job when a human outing would otherwise get postponed.

Drone technology has allowed researchers to compile a more accurate catalog of whale groups and monitor their health conditions with more detailed analysis. Results from boat-based surveys simply do not compare and marine biologists are excited to go even further with drones.

Now, while some people may be excited at the thought of drones delivering pizza or their mail order of retail goods, the gringa is more excited about drone delivery of medicine to hard to reach vulnerable people around the world.

With successful deliveries to earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2012, Doctors Without Borders were inspired to test drone delivery of  a group of dummy TB test samples in remote villages in Papua New Guinea. The Mayo Clinic recently announced that drone medical delivery is poised to take off and revolutionize healthcare for people around the world where access has continued to be a problem.

So what might be the niche technology career of the future for our youth interested in STEM? Development of drone technology and drone piloting. So, don’t get left behind! Get on board to save the world with a joy-stick, a laptop and a map! That’s all you need today to be a superhero!

Sources:

www.whale.org

www.yahoo.com

www.mayoclinic.org

Image Credit: 1.bp.blogspot.com

What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com