Srange Tales 016 (Reprint) 015

Illuminating the Illuminated – Part Three: Topics of Invention | Topic Modelling the Voynich Manuscript

Our earlier experiments derived some of the darker statistics of the Voynich Manuscript supporting the conjecture, but not erasing all doubt, that the manuscript’s cryptic graphemes are drawn from some natural, or shudderingly unnatural, language. Despite our beliefs regarding its authenticity, however, the statistical tools we have employed so far can tell us little about the structure, and almost nothing of the meaning, of the Voynich Manuscript. […]


Illuminating the Illuminated – Part Two: Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est | Power Laws in the Voynich Manuscript

In the previous post in this series we coyly unveiled the tantalising mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript: an early 15th century text written in an unknown alphabet, filled with compelling illustrations of plants, humans, astronomical charts, and less easily-identifiable entities. Stretching back into the murky history of the Voynich Manuscript, however, is the lurking suspicion that it is a fraud; either a modern fabrication or, perhaps, a hoax by a contemporary scribe. […]


Illuminating the Illuminated Part One: A First Look at the Voynich Manuscript

While the world abounds with strange phenomena ripe for analysis in their raw state, there is a peculiar pleasure in scrutinising arcane information curated and obscured by the human mind.

The Voynich Manuscript is one of the most well-known and studied volumes of occult knowledge. The book’s most recent history involves its purchase in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich, a rare book dealer, from a sale of manuscripts by the Society of Jesus at the Villa Mondragone, Frascati. […]

beyond the veil

Bayes vs. the Invaders! Part Four: Convergence

In the previous three posts in our series delving into the cosmic horror of UFO sightings in the United States, we have descended from the deceptively warm and sunlit waters of basic linear regression, through the increasingly frigid, stygian depths of Bayesian inference, generalised linear models, and the probabilistic programming language Stan. In this final post we will explore the implications of the murky realms in which we find ourselves, and consider the awful choices that have led us to this point. We will therefore look, with merciful brevity, at the foul truth revealed by our models, but also consider the arcane philosophies that lie sleeping beneath. […]

beyond the veil

Bayes vs. the Invaders! Part Three: The Parallax View

In the previous post of this series unveiling the relationship between UFO sightings and population, we crossed the threshold of normality underpinning linear models to construct a generalised linear model based on the more theoretically satisfying Poisson distribution. On inspection, however, this model revealed itself to be less well suited to the data than we had, in our tragic ignorance, hoped. […]

beyond the veil

Bayes vs. the Invaders! Part Two: Abnormal Distributions

This post continues our series on developing statistical models to explore the arcane relationship between UFO sightings and population. The simple linear model developed in the previous post is far from satisfying. It makes many unsupportable assumptions about the data and the form of the residual errors from the model. Most obviously, it relies on an underlying Gaussian (or _normal_) distribution for its understanding of the data. For our count data, some basic features of the Guassian are inappropriate. […]

beyond the veil

Bayes vs. the Invaders! Part One: The 37th Parallel

From our earlier studies of UFO sightings, a recurring question has been the extent to which the frequency of sightings of inexplicable otherworldly phenomena depends on the population of an area. Intuitively: where there are more people to catch a glimpse of the unknown, there will be more reports of alien visitors. Is this hypothesis, however, true? Do UFO sightings closely follow population or are there other, less comforting, factors at work? […]


Missing Links: Density of Bigfoot Sightings in North America

Sightings of homo sapiens cognatus, or homo sylvestris, are well-recorded, with a particular prevalence in North America. Bigfoot, otherwise known as the Sasquatch, is one of the most widely-reported cryptids in the world; it is the subject of documentaries, film, music, and countless books. The Bigfoot Field Research […]