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We humans have a habit that causes extraordinary wasting of time. Erroneous conclusions begin, grow and build when we are in a state of mind is paredolia.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.

We are pattern-recognizers.  We seek order out of the world.  It is so prevalent that our very vision is not as we imagine it – simple neurological maps that project onto the brain a set of pixel equivalents in “x” and “y.”  Our nerves do not merely transmit along their length; they also act the irreducible elements of thinking – that is, passing on information that is processed from synapse to synapse.  What comes out of the brain end of the optic pathways resembles nothing like the image that the eye is seeing.  It contains elements that constitute analysis and conclusion.  In fact, very little of the raw information comes into the brain at all.  Logically, we are still baffled how we can “see” things in the manner of a raster screen, for our optical pathways do not.

The image of the Face on Mars has startled and troubled many.  It contains an assembly of shapes that we tend to gather and integrate into the recognition of “faces.”  I have a lot to say sometime about hard-wired human pattern recognition, and some of our eternally troublesome habits, which may well be hard-wired as well.

But this is about paredolia, and paredolia in medicine.  The skillful practice of Internal Medicine is the comprehension and analysis of patterns, and deducing their cause, based upon physical and biological rules, and the nature of disease.

The perceiving of order from behind a haze, or dia-gnosis, the looking-through of the surface to see the pattern beneath, is one of the great expressions of humanity – the ability to discover essential element in the presence in a welter of findings, many of which are not self-evident.

Things such as the Voynich Manuscript and other cryptic writings fascinate us.  The Voynich represents an attempt to seemingly record a vast quantity of information, but in such a way that the information cannot be extracted from the document.  It is a riddle; and riddles are often fun.

Thinks with simple order and a high degreey of symmetry convey little unique information in proportion to their vastness.  In the Shining, we found that Jack was not creating unique prose or other writings, but merely typing the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  That is a meaningless phrase, a lorem ipsum that exists in English used as raw text in order to go about the process of writing or typing itself, absent anything to say.  The fact that Jack had loaded hundreds of pages with the phrase, with no unique writing, suggested that he had been living in a state of derangement and frustration, a writer’s block of horrific proportions, had become an empty monster of some sort.

It’s hard to fathom the horror in the cut-and-paste world.    One can print reams of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” without spending the hours of lonely frustration that Jack must have felt during his descent into madness.

The appearance of order – those many pages typed on yellow writing paper, some densely crammed with words, others loose and poetic; split into paragraphs and chapterized – leads one to think that he has accomplished a vast corpus of work.  But each page only contained “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

The Voynich Manuscript itself may well be the same – a deterministic congelation of glyphs appearing in the form of manuscript text – but completely meaningless.    The Voynich may well be untranslated to date, because it is untranslatable – that it has no content beyond “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” writ endlessly and ornately onto hundreds of pages of meticulous scrivening.

There are a vast number of things in our daily world which are nonsense – dense bodies of work containing no content, Potemkin Manuscripts which have nothing to say.  Information Technology makes the generation of massive reams of nonsense quite easy.

The cause of generation of reams of nonsense can be driven by several human motives – insanity – the satisfaction of some mysterious impulse to verbigerate on paper; the desire to deceive or confuse or evoke something from another person or persons; and I’m sure, plenty more.

True grammatical nonsense must arise by certain rules of thumb.  There are no words with, for instance, 4000 letters, and few with one.  A compilation of local rules must be used to generate something that is deceptively logical, as Jack did in the Shining.  Usual layouts and words on the page, the repetition of a grammatically correct English sentence – those were all local rules which generated local order in the text.  There was no larger meaning.

The principle of entropy is used in describing information content objectively in a text or numerical collection.  The phrase is “Shannon Entropy,” a very useful principle in cryptanalysis.  Things with low content, such as Jack’s work, have a low entropy; they can be analyzed into a pattern that requires a small number of rules to generate.  Shannon entropy analysis of the Voynich – or the Declaration of Independence, by comparison – suggest that both appear densely packed with information of some sort.

But a high Shannon entropy number does not mean the converse – that there actually IS information in the dataset.  The more one approaches a truly stochastic set – a truly random set of symbols used over and over stochastically, without original meaning – the more one approaches maximum entropy.  The transcendental variables, such as psi, e, pi – these are a fixed and deterministic sequence of numbers in the base-10 system.  They have very high entropy, for they have exact and precise significance.  But so does a purely random number..

I haven’t made it back to healthcare yet.  I’ll do that on the next section on Paredolia,.

[To be continued]

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