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codes: Indus Script

Posted by on in codes gives us more code:


Thousands of artifacts bearing Indus Script, a more than 4,000-year-old writing form tied to the prehistoric Indus Valley Civilization, have been discovered over the past century. However, the meaning of these ancient hieroglyphics has remained a mystery to anyone looking to decipher them.

Although a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified patterns in the symbols taken from different artifacts bearing this text, the language remains a mystery.

In fact, some archaeologists have questioned whether the script represents a language at all, or "merely pictograms of political or religious icons," as reported in a related release from Science Daily.

With the discovery of sequences and patterns in the script, however, those looking to decode these ancient texts are more confident that the codes reflect an underlying logic of a verbal system.

codes: Phaistos Disk

Posted by on in codes gives us more code:


Discovered in 1908 in Crete, the Phaistos Disk is a Bronze-Age relic containing a script that dates back about 4,000 years.

Measuring around 16 centimeters (6.3 inches) in diameter and containing some 45 symbols repeated throughout the artifact, the pottery disk contains a mix of figures resembling humans, plants, weapons and animals.

Since its discovery, the authenticity of the Phaistos Disk has been questioned by some archaeologists who argue it's a forgery. But most scholars accept it as a genuine product of its time.

codes: The Voynich manuscript

Posted by on in codes gives us some more codes:


The Voynich manuscript, a 15th-century parchment containing both a coded script and mysterious drawings, was discovered in 1912 in the Villa Mondragone near Rome. Even since its discovery, it has confounded cryptographers. Only this year did researchers even determine how old the text is.

Even the true author of the text is something of a mystery. Theories range from a 13th-century friar named Roger Bacon to a religious sect hiding their customs and rituals in the pages of the manuscript.

Although the book contains nearly a quarter of a million characters, they are of such variety as to further complicate deciphering the text. Some resemble Latin letters and Roman numerals, while others are completely unique. The drawings only serve to further confuse anyone looking to see through to the meaning of the text.

codes: Copiale Cipher

Posted by on in codes brings us some codes:


Known as the Copiale Cipher, the mysterious text seen here was the work of a secretive 18th-century society. Discovered in East Germany and first examined in the 1970s, the 75,000-character cipher details the operations and rituals of this 300-year-old group.

The cipher was cracked by a team of U.S. and Swedish researchers led by University of Southern California computer scientist Kevin Knight. Interestingly enough, the code revealed the political leanings of the organization and its curious fascination with eye surgery.

Although a combination of human ingenuity and computing power solved this centuries-old text, there are still other codes, both modern and ancient, whose meanings have eluded even the most skilled cryptographers.

Michael Santo on write about Larry - the vomiting robot.

Researchers at the Occupational Hygiene Unit at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Great Britain call the robot "Vomiting Larry." The robot is not designed to simply disgust the public, but to simulate the effects of norovirus projectile vomiting. That simulation can be used to determine how far the highly contagious norovirus particles travel when somebody with the illness throws up.


"Vomiting Larry" consists of a cylindrical body filled with water mixed with florescent liquid, a humanoid head with an open mouth, and a pump to propel the water through the mouth, in a manner similar to projectile vomiting.

After Larry vomits the florescent water, researchers measure how far the airborne particles travel.

Catherine Makison-Booth, who has the claim to fame of being dubbed Larry’s creator, said:

Under normal lighting, you can only see the main area where Larry actually vomited. However, under UV light, you can see the particles spread much further than that -- in excess of three meters.

what a character

Posted by on in writerly advice
Agent TA writes in:
I'm having a problem with my characters. They don't want to tell me anything about themselves. Any advice?

our answer:
If your characters won't tell you anything about themselves force them into difficult situations and then see what they do. That'll teach 'em! And it will teach you what they are like.

You Can Now Apply to Be a Mars Colony Pioneer

Posted by on in sciencey stuff


If you think you have the right stuff to help colonize Mars, you'll soon get your chance to prove it.

The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which hopes to put the first boots on the Red Planet in 2023, released its basic astronaut requirements.

Final astronaut candidates will be selected after review by Mars One experts and a global TV event. Those chosen will be employed by Mars One during their Earth-based training and for the length of their time on the Red Planet, officials said.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 5.07.30 AM

i forgot what i was going to name this post

Posted by on in sciencey stuff

Eleanor at explains to us why we sometimes walk into a room and forgot why we went in:

The researcher Gabriel Radvansky discovered that just passing through a doorway creates an “event boundary” in the human mind. This means that the boundary is separating episodes of activity in the brain and storing them away. In other words, crossing the doorway puts a barrier between the action you were doing (or thinking about) and the one you’ll be doing once you pass through the doorway. This boundary effect is the reason why sometimes we can’t remember why we’ve entered the living room or the kitchen.

The “event boundary” effect is something very common and it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with your brain or memory function. It just means that sometimes you’ll need to work hard in order to remember what you were about to do before you entered the room.


this post is ironic

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Maria Popova wrote about irony, and Keith Houston's book on the subject on

In Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks language-lover Keith Houston traces the secret history of punctuation, spanning from antiquity to the digital age, from the asterisk to the @-symbol, chronicling the strange and scintillating lives of the characters, glyphs, and marks that populate the nooks and crannies of human communication

"The concept of irony got its name — though not yet an attendant mark of punctuation — in ancient Greece, where playwrights employed a cast of stock characters made recognizable by their physical characteristics, props, and personalities. One such staple of comic plays was the eirôn, a seeming buffoon who would best the alazon, his braggart opponent, by means of self-deprecation and feigned ignorance, and it was the cunning eirôn who gave his name first to the Greek eirôneia and then to the modern term “irony.”

John Wilkins declared that irony should be punctuated with an inverted exclamation mark (¡).

Here are some other marks suggested:

 shadycharacters brahm

shadycharacters ironieteken

"Long ago the late Tom Driberg proposed that typographers should design a new face, which would slope the opposite way from italics, and would be called “ironics”."


Wow! How interesting.

suspicious email

Posted by on in Email of the day

Agent A wrote in to tell us:
You're a really suspicious character. . .
Our response:
Your suspicions have been correct so far. You're just the kind of reader we want on our side!

A review you wrote about WRITE THIS BOOK

Posted by on in Email of the day

Some very kind Secret Agent wrote this about WRITE THIS BOOK:

I have been waiting all year. It's just as awesome as i'd expected.


Thanks so much! Our deal remains ... if you write this one, Mr. Bosch will write the next.


Posted by on in Email of the day

Sometimes Agents write in, not quite positive they'll actually be reaching Team Bosch. Lots of people ask us, is this an automated message?
... run program, respond to email ...
beep boop ... this is not ... beep boop ... an automated message ... beep boop.

MS sighting

Posted by on in Email of the day

Agent M sends in this report from right around Christmas time ...


I regret to inform you that the Midnight Sun has risen again. (no pun intended). I have spotted them on the ordinary day of December 24th, 2013.

They were spotted kidnapping a rather fat man in a red suit with the most peculiar car that looked like a sleigh, attached to many moose..or at least I think they were moose.

Ms.Mauvais was saying something about the Secret, and how he was living for so long.

The man, who's name was apparently " Santa", shouted, " You are getting coal in your stocking for the 613th time, Antionette!"  

And then these strange little people armed with hammers, paint, and glue pushed Ms. Mauvais to the snow and told a moose called Rudolph to guide the sleigh into the night.

And then the car flew away. Yes, flew. I do have evidence of this happening, for I have a picture of the snow angel Ms. Mauvais made when she was shoved into the snow by the elves.



Well! Coal for 613 years ... Bah humbug. Though she probably deserved it.


Posted by on in words of the day

The Word of the Day for January 14 is:

wangle   \WANG-gul\   verb

1 : to resort to trickery or devious methods
2 : to adjust or manipulate for personal or fraudulent ends
3 : to make or get by devious means : finagle


"Wangle," a verb of uncertain origin, has been used in its sense "to obtain by sly methods" since the late 19th century.

We always love to wangle up some chocolate.

We also love that no one is certain where this word comes from - a word about getting something through devious means. How fitting!

this lake ... PETRIFIES US

Posted by on in sciencey stuff

Rowan Howard shares this interesting story about a LAKE THAT PETRIFIES!

Photographer Nick Brandt photographs animals from northern Tanzania's Lake Natron. Lake Natron is named for natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate, with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) thrown in. Here, this has come from volcanic ash, accumulated from the Great Rift valley. Animals that become immersed in the water die and are calcified.

petrified bird

"No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake's surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake."

petrified bird2


Posted by on in Email of the day

Here is a little review of WRITE THIS BOOK that was written by Agent Snitch. If his books are as good as his reviews, we're excited!

I just bought this book from Barnes and Noble today and I am nearly done with it. It is, in all simplicity, a guide for how to write a novel. I plan to become a novelist in the next few years, so I find it quite helpful, though I don't know your intentions for your slightly later years. O.o Anyways, PB basically is urging you to re-write The Secret Series, but with a few little quirks and differences. Irritating, yes, but it helps since you know the basic flow of the story. And, like in all of his books, PB adds his odd-yet-halarious sense of humor to the book. I'll stop a-talking (No, I'm not really talking to you...probably. o.O) so you can get a-reading/a-writing.-Agent Snitch (A ten year old.)

cocoa info graphic

Posted by on in Chocolate

The Rainforest Alliance posted this neat cocoa-info-graphic on


Check it out and click to see more.

snow patterns

Posted by on in Email of the day

Pinar writes about Simon Beck, an English artist who walks and leaves tracks making large-scale murals of geometric patterns in snow.

Check out his work and click on any image to go to to see more.




These snow patterns are very cool. LITERALLY!

unnecessary info

Posted by on in Email of the day

(double?!) Agent KG writes in with this:

In my first message I forgot one major detail, the amount of chocolate I'd be giving you.  Well, lets just say, how many trucks can you fit in your Arctic hide-out?

Pretty sneaky, KG! We fear you must be using this information in order to figure out our location - or resources. Very suspicious that your name is so close to KGB. We'll have to pass on this offer for now - as painful as it is to say no to chocolate.


laws? don't make me laugh.

Posted by on in words of the day

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for December 21 is:

scofflaw   \SKAHFF-law\   noun
: a contemptuous law violator


We know some evil alchemists that this word describes!!


Did you know?
In 1924, a wealthy Massachusetts Prohibitionist named Delcevare King sponsored a contest in which he asked participants to coin an appropriate word to mean "a lawless drinker." King sought a word that would cast violators of Prohibition laws in a light of shame. Two respondents came up independently with the winning word: "scofflaw," formed by combining the verb "scoff" and the noun "law." Henry Dale and Kate Butler, also of Massachusetts, split King's $200 prize. Improbably, despite some early scoffing from language critics, "scofflaw" managed to pick up steam in English and expand to a meaning that went beyond its Prohibition roots, referring to one who violates any law, not just laws related to drinking.

Copyright © 2010-2013. All rights reserved.  Illustrations by Gilbert Ford