Astounding Discovery! Look What I Found from NASA on Linear B! You’ll be amazed! PART 1
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Once you open the NASA PDF file, just scroll down the Table of Contents to Chapter 5: Beyond Linear B. You will then need to continue scrolling until you reach page 79. You can then scroll page by page through the whole of Chapter 5. I am willing to bet this is going to be as mind-blowing a read for you as it was for me. Here are just a few tantalizing excerpts from Chapter 5:
Excerpts from Chapter 5, by Richard Saint-Gelais
... the deciphering of coded messages or inscriptions written in extinct languages — may provide a fresh look at the problems involved.
At first glance, the difficulties involved in the decipherment of coded messages or ancient scripts suggest a rather pessimistic view of the interstellar communication challenge, for if it took specialists many years to solve the enigma of writing systems devised by human beings... passim ... it seems unrealistic to imagine that our messages could be easily understood by beings whose culture, history, and even biology will differ vastly from ours. How can we be sure that some well-meaning interpreter will not misread our intended message?
On a semiotic level, the similarity between the three kinds of situations is readily apparent. Deciphering inscriptions in unknown languages or messages in secret codes implies coping with strings of signs without having any prior knowledge of the encoding rules, so recognizing these rules become one of the ends (instead of the means, as is usually the case) of the interpretive process. The decipherer of unknown languages tries to establish the phonetic and/or semantic value of symbols... passim ...
I use the word signal instead of sign because at the early stage of interpretation, decipherers must still identify the relevant semiotic units. They are confronted with signals — i.e., material manifestations of some kind (strokes on clay tablets, microwaves of a certain frequency) — that may be signs. A sign is more abstract in nature: it is a semiotic configuration that is relatively independent of the concrete signals that embody it because it is defined by a limited number of relevant features,...
The second way is to think up self-contextualizing messages — or, in other words, self-interpreting signs. A self-interpreting sign is easier conceptualized than created. Let’s consider, for instance, the pictograms imagined by H. W. Nieman and C. Wells Nieman, which would be sent as sequences of pulses that correspond to the dots into which an image has been decomposed. In order to reconstruct the correct image, the recipients would need first to convert the linear signal into a bi-dimensional structure and then to interpret that structure to determine what it might signify or represent... passim ... Frank Drake imagined an easy and ingenious way to point to this, by making the total number of dots equal the product of two prime numbers, say 17 and 23, so that the transmitted message can be construed only as a 17-by-23-cell grid. Such a signal is as close as we may come to a message embodying an interpretive instruction. It assumes only a basic knowledge of prime numbers, which is not asking too much. So this instruction looks promising, but only insofar as the recipient deduces that the signal corresponds to a rectangular grid (See next post for more).
We must remember that a message is composed not of one isolated sign but of (sometimes complex) combinations of signs, which may contribute to their mutual elucidation. This is precisely the idea behind Vakoch’s proposal of a sequence of frames, each of which would contain six distinct areas: one for the picture; four for different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs); and one for the interrelationship between two successive frames (a meta-sign, then). Here we have a combination of icons (the shape of a human body, or of parts of it) and symbols: nouns for what is shown in the picture, adjectives for properties of that object (e.g., high, low, etc.), verbs for actions performed by the character between two successive frames, and adverbs for characteristics of that action (fast, slow). At first it may seem dubious that a recipient could establish a correlation between a given symbol and what it is intended to designate, or even that this recipient could identify it as a symbol and not as part of the picture. What may decisively help this eventual recipient is the mutual interpretation that parts of the message provide for one another ... passim... and the systematic interplay of repetition and variation between frames, which will give recipients the opportunity to make conjectures — abductions — that the subsequent frames may either confirm or inform... passim...
What we know of interpretation shows that this inability to control reception is always the case anyway, and that it is not necessarily a bad thing. A widespread conception of communication rests on the premise that successful reception of a message is one that recovers the meaning its sender meant to convey through it. But the history of the decipherment of unknown languages shows that things are never so simple, and that oblique ways of reading sometimes lead to unexpected breakthroughs. In his book on extinct languages, Johannes Friedrich points out that the direction in which a script should be read can sometimes be deduced from the pp. 92-93 (ff.) empty space at the end of an inscription’s last line. Here we have an index, a sign caused by its object: the direction of writing is concretely responsible for which side of the last line is left blank. But this is not so conspicuous a sign that it does not require a piece of abductive reasoning. Strange as it may seem, I see in this small example some grounds for hope regarding interstellar communication. We tend to conceptualize communication with extraterrestrial intelligences in terms of the successful transmission of intended meanings. But the production and reception of signs cannot be restricted to an intentional plane. An important feature of most indices is their unintentional nature.
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