# Silly φ and π crackpottery

Over time, I’ve come to really, really hate the number φ.

φ is the so-called golden ratio. It’s the number that is a solution for the equation (a+b)/a = (a/b). The reason that that’s interesting at all is because it’s got an interesting property when you draw it out: if you take a rectangle where the ratio of the length of the sides is 1:φ, then if you remove the largest possible square from it, you’ll get another rectangle whose sides have the ratio φ:1. If you take the largest square from that, you’ll get a rectangle whose sides have the ratio 1:φ. And so on.

The numeric value of it is (1+sqrt(5))/2, or about 1.618033988749895.

The problem with φ is that people are convinced that it’s some kind of incredibly profound thing, and find it all over the place. The problem is, virtually all of the places where people claim to find it are total rubbish. A number that’s just a tiny bit more that 1 1/2 is really easy to find if you go looking for it, and people go looking for it all over the place.

People claim it’s in all sorts of artwork. You can certainly find a ton of things in paintings whose size ratio is about 1 1/2, and people find it and insist that it was deliberately done to make it φ. People find it in musical scales, the diatonic and pentatonic scales, and the indian scales.

People claim it comes up all over the place in nature: in beehives, ant colonies, flowers, tree sizes, tree-limb positions, size of herds of animals, litters of young, body shapes, face shapes.

People claim it’s key to architecture.

And yet… it seems like if you actually take any of those and actually start to look at it in detail? The φ isn’t there. It’s just a number that’s kinda-sorta in the 1 1/2 range.

One example of that: there’s a common claim that human faces have proportions based on &phi. You can see a bunch of that nonsense here. The thing is, the “evidence” for the claim consists of rectangles drawn around photographs of faces – and if you look closely at those rectangles, what you find is that the placement of the corners isn’t consistent. When you define, say, “the distance between the eyes”, you can measure that as distances between inner-edges, or between pupils, or between outer edges. Most of these claims use outer edges. But where’s the outer edge of an eye? It’s not actually a well-defined point. You can pick a couple of different places in a photo as “the” edge. They’re all close together, so there’s not a huge amount of variation. But if you can fudge the width a little bit, and you can fudge other facial measurements just a little bit, you’ve got enough variation that if you’re looking for two measurements with a ratio close to φ, you’ll always find one.

Most of the φ nonsense is ultimately aesthetic: people claiming that the golden ratio has a fundamental beauty to it. They claim that facial features match it because it’s intrinsically beautiful, and so people whose faces have φ ratios are more beautiful, and that that led to sexual-selection which caused our faces to embody the ratio. I think that’s bunk, but it’s hard to make a mathematical argument against aesthetics.

But then, you get the real crackpots. There are people who think φ has amazing scientific properties. In the words of the crank I’m writing about today, understanding φ (and the “correct” value of π derived from it) will lead humanity to “enter into a veritable Space Age”.

I’m talking about a guy who calls himself “Jain 108”. I’m not quite sure what to call him. Mr. Jain? Mr. 108? Dr 108? Most of the time on his website, he just refers to himself as “Jain” (or sometimes “Jain of Oz”) so I’ll go with “Jain”).

Jain believes that φ is the key to mathematics, science, art, and human enlightenment. He’s a bit hard to pin down, because most of his website is an advertisement for his books and seminars: if you want to know “the truth”, you’ve got to throw Jain some cash. I’m not willing to give money to crackpots, so I’m stuck with just looking at what he’s willing to share for free. (But I do recommend browsing around his site. It’s an impressive combination of newage scammery, pomposity, and cluelessness.)

What you can read for free is more than enough to conclude that he’s a total idiot.

I’m going to focus my mockery on one page: “Is Pi a Lie?”.

On this page, Jain claims to be able to prove that the well-known value of π (3.14159265….) is wrong. In fact, that value is wrong, and the correct value of π is derived from φ! The correct value of π is $\frac{4}{\sqrt{\phi}}$, or about 3.144605511029693.

For reasons that will be soon explained, traditional Pi is deficient because historically it has awkwardly used logical straight lines to measure illogical curvature. Thus, by using the highest level of mathematics known as Intuitive Maths, the True Value of Pi must be a bit more than anticipated to compensate for the mysterious “Area Under The Curve”. When this is done, the value, currently known as JainPi, = 3.144… can be derived, by knowing the precise Height of the Cheops Pyramid which is based on the Divine Phi Proportion (1.618…). Instead of setting our diameter at 1 unit or 1 square, something magical happens when we set the diameter at the diagonal length of a Double Square = 2.236… which is the Square Root of 5 (meaning 2.236… x 2.236… = 5). This is the critical part of the formula that derives Phi $\frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}$, and was used by ancient vedic seers as their starting point to construct their most important diagram or ‘Yantra’ or power-art called the Sri Yantra. With a Root 5 diameter, the translation of the Phi’s formula into a geometric construct derives the royal Maltese Cross symbol, concluding that Phi is Pi, that Phi generates Pi, and that Pi must be derived with a knowledge of the Harmonics of Phi. When this is understood and utilized, we will collectively enter into a veritable Space Age.

How did we get the wrong value? It’s based on the “fact” that the computation of π is based on the use of “logical” straight lines to measure “illogical” curvurature. (From just that one sentence, we can already conclude that Jain knows nothing about logic, except what he learned from Mr. Spock on Star Trek.) More precisely, according to Jain:

In all due good respects, we must first honour Archimedes of Syracuse 2,225 years ago, who gave the world his system on how to calculate Pi, approximated to 22÷7, by cutting the circle into say 16 slices of a pizza, and measuring the 16 edge lengths of these 16 triangular polygons (fig 3), to get a good estimate for the circumference of a circle. The idea was that if we kept making the slices of pizza smaller and smaller, by subsequently cutting the circle into 32 slices, then 64, then 128 then 256 slices, we would get a better and more accurate representation for the circumference. The Fundamental Flawed Logic or Error with Archimede’s Increasing Polygon Method was that he failed to measure The Area Under The Curve. In fact, he assumed that The Area Under The Curve, just magically disappeared. Even in his time, Archimedes admitted that his value was a mere estimate!

This explanation does a beautiful job of demonstrating how utterly ignorant Jain is of math. Archimedes may have been the first person from the western tradition to have worked out a mechanism to compute a value for π – and his mechanism was a good one. But it’s far from the only one. But let’s ignore that for a moment. Jain’s supposed critique, if true, would mean that modern calculus doesn’t work. The wedge-based computation of π is a forerunner of the common methods of calculus. In reality, when we compute the value of almost any integral using calculus, our methods are based on the concept of drawing rectangles under the curve, and narrowing those rectangles until they’re infinitely small, at which point the “area under the curve” missed by the rectangles becomes zero. If the wedge computation of π is wrong because it misses are under the curve, then so will every computation using integral calculus.

Gosh, think we would have noticed that by now?

Let’s skip past that for a moment, and come back to the many ways that π comes into reality. π is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its radius. Because circles are such a basic thing, there are many ways of deriving the value of π that come from its fundamental nature. Many of these have no relation to the wedge-method that Jain attributes to Archimedes.

For example, there is Viete’s product:

$\frac{2}{\pi} = \left(\frac{\sqrt{2}}{2}\right)\left(\frac{\sqrt{2 + \sqrt{2}}}{2}\right)\left(\frac{\sqrt{2 + \sqrt{2 + \sqrt{2}}}}{2}\right)(...)$

Or there’s the Gregory-Leibniz series:

$\frac{\pi}{4} = 1 - \frac{1}{3} + \frac{1}{5} - \frac{1}{7} + \frac{1}{9} - ...$

These have no relation to the wedge-method – they’re derived from the fundamental nature of π. And all of them produce the same value – and it’s got no connection at all to φ.

As supportive evidence for the incorrectness of π, Jain gives to apocryphal stories about NASA and the moon landings. First, he claims that the first moon landing was off by 20 kilometers, and that the cause of this was an incorrect value of π: that the value of π used in computing trajectories was off by 0.003:

NASA admitted that when the original Mooncraft landing occurred, the targeted spot was missed by about 20km?
What could have been wrong with the Calculations?
NASA subsequently adjusted their traditional mathematical value for Pi (3.141592…) by increasing it in the 3rd decimal by .003!

Let’s take just a moment, and consider that.

It’s a bit difficult to figure out how to address that, because he’s not mentioning what part of the trajectory was messed up. Was it the earth-to-moon transit of the full apollo system? Or was it the orbit-to-ground flight of the lunar lander? Since he doesn’t bother to tell us, we’ll look at both.

π does matter when computing the trajectory of the earth-to-moon trip – because it involves the intersection of two approximate circles – the orbit of the earth around the sun, and the orbit of the moon around the earth. (Both of these are approximations, but they’re quite useful ones; the apollo trajectory computations did rely on a value for π.

Let’s look at earth-to-moon. I’m going to oversimplify ridiculously – but I’m just trying to give us a ballpark order-of-magnitude guess as just how much of a difference Mr. Jain’s supposed error would cause. THe distance from the earth to the moon is about 384,000 kilometers. If we assume that π is a linear factor in the computation, then a difference in the value of pi of around 1 part in 1000 would cause a difference in distance computations of around 384 kilometers. Mr. Jain is alleging that the error only caused a difference of 20 kilometers. He’s off by a factor of 15. We can hand-wave this away, and say that the error that caused the lander to land in the “wrong” place wasn’t in the earth-moon trajectory computation – but we’re still talking about the apollo unit being in the wrong place by hundreds of kilometers – and no one noticing.

What if the problem was in the computation of the trajectory the lander took from the capsule to the surface of the moon? The orbit was a nearly circular one at about 110 kilometers above the lunar surface. How much of an error would the alleged π difference cause? About 0.1 kilometer – that is, about 100 meters. Less than what Jain claims by a factor of 200.

The numbers don’t work. These aren’t precise calculations by any stretch, but they’re ballpark. Without Jain providing more information about the alleged error, they’re the best we can do, and they don’t make sense.

Jain claims that in space work, scientists now use an adjusted value of π to cover the error. This piece I can refute by direct knowledge. My father was a physicist who worked on missiles, satellites, and space probes. (He was part of the Galileo team.) They used good old standard 3.14159 π. In fact, he explained how the value of π actually didn’t need to be that precise. In satellite work, you’re stuck with the measurement problems of reality. In even the highest precision satellite work, they didn’t use more that 4 significant digits of precision, because the manufacturing and measurement of components was only precise to that scale. Beyond that, it was always a matter of measure and adjust. Knowing that π was 3.14159265356979323 was irrelevant in practice, because anything beyond “about 3.1416” was smaller that the errors in measurement.

Mr. Jain’s next claim is far worse.

Also, an ex-Engineer from NASA, “Smokey” admitted (via email) that when he was making metal cylinders for this same Mooncraft, finished parts just did not fit perfectly, so an adjusted value for Pi was also implemented. At the time, he thought nothing about it, but after reading an internet article called The True Value of Pi, by Jain 108, he made contact.

This is very, very simple to refute by direct experience. This morning, I got up, shaved with an electric razor (3 metal rotors), made myself iced coffee using a moka pot (three round parts, tight fitted, with circular-spiral threading). After breakfast, I packed my backpack and got in my car to drive to the train. (4 metal cylinders with 4 precisely-fitted pistons in the engine, running on four wheels with metal rims, precisely fitted to circular tires, and brakes clamping on circular disks.) I drove to the train station, and got on an electric train (around 200 electric motors on the full train, with circular turbines, driving circular wheels).

All those circles. According to Jain, every one of those circles isn’t the size we think it is. And yet they all fit together perfectly. According to Jain, every one of those circular parts is larger that we think it should be. To focus on one thing, every car engine’s pistons – every one of the millions of pistons created every year by companies around the world – requires more metal to produce than we’d expect. And somehow, in all that time, no one has ever noticed. Or if they’ve noticed, every single person who ever noticed it has never mentioned it!

It’s ludicrous.

Jain also claims that the value of e is wrong, and comes up with a cranky new formula for computing it. Of course, the problem with e is the same as the problem wiht π: in Jain’s world, it’s really based on φ.

In Jain’s world, everything is based on φ. And there’s a huge, elaborate conspiracy to keep it secret. Any Jain will share the secret with you, showing you how everything you think you know is wrong. You just need to buy his books ($77 for a hard-copy, or$44 for an ebook.) Or you could pay for him to travel to you and give you a seminar. But he doesn’t list a price for that – you need to send him mail to inquire.

# Numeric Pareidolia and Vortex Math

Update: as of 8/8/2012, the youtube video has been pulled at the request of the TED organization. They’ve also asked me to help them figure out how to keep crackpots like this out of their conferences. I turned them down: if they want help, they’ve got the money to hire a legitimate professional, someone who actually knows what they’re doing – i.e., not me.

I’m not a big fan of the TED phenomenon. In my opinion, it’s basically an elaborate scheme to help make a bunch of self-important rich guys show off their importance by getting people to come give them speeches that, ultimately, serve to reinforce their self-importance.

But there’s another reason that I dislike it. In addition to the self-importance of its audience, as it’s grown, it’s also turned into a forum where other self-important twits can pretend that they’re actual scientists presenting important scientific work.

A great example of this is something called “Vortex Math”. An idiot by the name of “Marko Rodin” came up with this ridiculous idea, wrote up a website talking about how wonderful it was and how brilliant he is, and then worked out an invitation to talk at one of the TEDX conferences, which he’s then used to further promote himself – after all, he must be a genuine genius in order to have been allowed to present to such an important group of people!

Vortex math is an example of what I called numerical pareidolia. For those who haven’t heard the term, pareidolia is seeing patterns in randomness. For example, the common event seeing the image of jesus in a piece of toast, or in a mildew stain, or… We find these images, and then believe that they’re not just an illusion, but that they’re a real, deliberate, meaningful reality.

Paradeidolia isn’t limited to seeing images. We humans are natural pattern seekers. We can find patterns in dirt, in words, and in numbers. Numeric pareidolia is finding patterns in numbers. The most common version of that is numerology, where you assign meanings to numbers, and then find more meanings by performing arithmetic to combine numbers with arithmetic, and finding meaning in result.

In Vortex math, Mr. Rodin has done something interesting, for some definition of that word. He’s found a numeric pattern, and he believes that not only is that a pattern, but it is the pattern, the fundamental structure of the universe. And what is this oh-so-awesome pattern, this vortex that defines the entire nature of the universe?

It’s a sequence of 1-digit, base-10 numbers. To get it, you start, obviously, with 1. So take the number 1. Double it. You get 2. Double it again, and you get 4. Again, 8. Again, 16. But 16 is two digits – so add them together: 7. Double 16 again, and you get 32, 3+2=5, so 5 is next. Double 32, and you get 64. 6+4=10, 1+0=1. Etc. You get a repeating cycle.

That’s it.

Of course, this only works in base-10. It’s a result of the interaction of doubling with the base. So you won’t get the same pattern in any other number system! According to Rodin, because of the significance of this pattern, that means that base-10 really is the only correct number system.

And what is the significance of this base-10 pattern? Let’s let Rodin and his supporters explain, shall we?

Marko Rodin has discovered the source of the non-decaying spin of the electron. Although scientists know that all electrons in the universe spin, they have never discovered the source of this spin. Rodin has. He has discovered the underpinning geometry of the universe, the fabric of time itself. He has done this by reducing all higher mathematics – calculus, geometry, scalar math – to discrete-number mathematics.

With the introduction of Vortex-Based Mathematics you will be able to see how energy is expressing itself mathematically. This math has no anomalies and shows the dimensional shape and function of the universe as being a toroid or donut-shaped black hole. This is the template for the universe and it is all within our base ten decimal system!

The potential scope and breadth of the Rodin Solution is staggering; it is universally applicable in mathematics, science, biology, medicine, genetics, astronomy, chemistry, physics and computer science. The Rodin Solution will revolutionize computer hardware by creating a crucial gap space, or equi-potential major groove, in processors. This gap space generates underpinning nested vortices resulting in far higher efficiency with no heat build-up. The Rodin Solution replaces the binary code with a new code called the binary triplet which will revolutionize computer operating systems. It will transform physics and astrophysics by finally answering how black holes and pulsars work. Space travel will be revolutionized by reactionless drives that are unaffected by the weight they pull, making the present day combustion engine obsolete. The revolution brought on by reactionless drives will far surpass the societal changes wrought by the shift from steam engines to the present day combustion engine. The Rodin Solution can even be applied to ending pollution and drought by creating an inexhaustible, nonpolluting energy source. Because Rodin´s Vortex-Based Mathematics enables him to condense a trillion-fold calculation to only a few integer steps and because he is able to solve all the mathematical enigmas, the Rodin Solution will revolutionize computer information compression.

Pretty impressive, eh?

And what would crackpottery be without at least a bit of conspiracy? See, the government knows all about it, and they’re actually secretly using it to protect us:

Rudimentary versions of the Rodin Coil, or Rodin Torus, have been created and tested by leading scientists and are presently being used by the U.S. Government in antennas that protect the four corners of the continental U.S.. Life-saving medical devices based on crude approximations of the Rodin Coil Torus are being manufactured and used in the treatment of cancer patients. Microsoft´s former senior researcher is using the Rodin Coil to research, develop and patent new computer information-compression schemes.

Nifty!

Alas, it’s all bullshit. It’s not worth spending too much time on this, but I’ll grab a couple of the claims that are close to my interests, and briefly explain why he’s so full of shit.

One of the claims in the passage above is how he’ll revolutionize computer operating systems:

The Rodin Solution replaces the binary code with a new code called the binary triplet which will revolutionize computer operating systems

Suppose for a moment, that we replaced binary in our computers with a different underlying representation – any underlying representation. Ternary, quadrary, decimal, or his “binary triplets”, whatever they are. How much difference would that make?

None at all. We’ve had the capacity to create ternary computers for a long time – there’s just no reason to. We have built decimal computers. For many years, IBM had computers for financial systems that used a representation called BCD – binary coded decimal. BCD can be useful in financials, because it’s easier to control rounding errors. Floating point math is a bit weird, because numbers that should be precise don’t necessarily have precise binary floating point representations, so you can get some odd rounding errors if you’re not careful. You don’t need BCD to do this – you can use a variety of notations, so long as you’re doing fixed point instead of floating point, but using a decimal fixed point representation makes it all easier.

The thing is, you can’t do anything with different representations that you can’t do with binary. It doesn’t matter. So we don’t build hardware using different representations. We don’t use binary because we don’t know how to build anything else; we use binary because it’s easiest to build binary hardware, and there’s no benefit to making the hardware more complex.

More important, one of the beautiful things about computers is that computers don’t really do binary numbers. Computers use binary to represent things. Numbers are one example of something we can represent. But we can represent anything we want. When I was in college, one of my assignments in a CS class was to implement ternary arithmetic. It’s a simple enough thing that it makes an easy assignment for an undergrad introductory CS class! We can build any representation that we want, and use it. We do this routinely. We’re constantly building new representations for particular purposes. Some of them are so useful that they’ve been enshrined in hardware. For example, computers used to only come with integer hardware – that is, the only mathematical operations that were implemented in the hardware were operations on integers. The computers still did floating point math – you just needed to implement the representation in software. It was so useful that we added it to hardware in order to make it faster. But it’s not fundamentally different. And if a new representation that worked better than simple binary worked, we could implement it using a standard binary computer.

So Rodin’s magic vortex binary-triple computer? There’s just nothing special about it. It’s not going to revolutionize computers.

Another example is compression:

Because Rodin´s Vortex-Based Mathematics enables him to condense a trillion-fold calculation to only a few integer steps and because he is able to solve all the mathematical enigmas, the Rodin Solution will revolutionize computer information compression.

Again, it’s stupid. The problem with compression isn’t that it’s too hard to compute. The problem is more fundamental than that. We can’t compress everything – it’s impossible. (I described more about the reason why it’s generally impossible to do universal compression in this post.) The science and math of data compression are based on the fact that we don’t actually want to compress arbitrary things; we want to compress specific types of things: text, images, video. For each of those, common representations contain a lot of redundancies, and compression tries to remove those redundancies. So, for example, by finding regions in successive frames of a video that don’t change, we can reduce the size of a video file. But that technique won’t do anything for a still image or a text file. We exploit the specific properties of the medium to find an effective way of compressing that specific medium.

In fact, we can do better at specific kinds of media with customized hardware. People build custom hardware for things like mp4 compression all the time. But that’s for a specific medium. It’s got nothing to do with general compression. General compression remains impossible, vortex math or no.

# Hold on tight: the world ends next saturday!

(For some idiot reason, I was absolutely certain that today was the 12th. It’s not. It’s the tenth. D’oh. There’s a freakin’ time&date widget on my screen! Thanks to the commenter who pointed this out.)

A bit over a year ago, before the big move to Scientopia, I wrote about a loonie named Harold Camping. Camping is the guy behind the uber-christian “Family Radio”. He predicted that the world is going to end on May 21st, 2011. I first heard about this when it got written up in January of 2010 in the San Francisco Chronicle.

And now, we’re less than two weeks away from the end of the world according to Mr. Camping! So I thought hey, it’s my last chance to make sure that I’m one of the damned!

# The End Of The World is Coming in Just 501 Days!

A lot of people have been sending me links to a numerology article, in which yet another numerological idiot claims to have identified the date of the end of the world. This time, the idiot claims that it’s going to happen on May 21, 2011.

I’ve written a lot about numerology-related stuff before. What makes this example particularly egregious and worth writing about is that it’s not just an article on some bozo’s internet website: this is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, which treats a pile of numerological bullshit as if it’s completely respectable and credible.

As I’ve said before: the thing about numerology is that there are so many ways of combining numbers together that if you’re willing to spend enough time searching, you can find some way of producing any result that you want. This is pretty much a classic example of that.

# Yet Another Bible Code Bozo

I’m trying to get back into my routine, after being really devastated by losing my
dog. To people who don’t love dogs, it probably seems silly to be so upset over an animal, but
he was really a member of the family, and losing him really knocked me for a loop.

I’m trying to first get caught up on my book schedule, so I haven’t had time for any
substantial blog posts. But while I was bumming around, a comment showed up on one of my old
posts. For background, several times in the past, I’ve written about the Lords Witnesses, a
Jehovah’s Witness spinoff group that claims to have discovered a “bible code” by which prophecies
are embedded in the bible. They’ve been predicting that Manhattan will be hit by an atomic bomb.
They’ve proposed somewhere around 20 different dates. Their latest prediction was April 4th of
this year.

My last post about the Lord’s Witnesses and their goofy prophesies was back in 2006. But this week, a new comment on that post showed up.

It’s an amusing comment. The gist of it is that he has discovered the
one true bible code; that everyone else who’s found bible codes is really just being
duped by Satan, and that anyone who doesn’t accept the truth of his one true
bible code is an agent of Satan.

# Numeric Pareidolia and God in Π

There’s one kind of semi-mathematical crackpottery that people frequently send to me, but which i generally don’t write about. Given my background, I call it gematria – but it covers a much wider range than what’s really technically meant by that term. Another good name for it would be numeric pareidolia. It’s been a long time since I’ve written about this kind of stuff, and someone just sent me a pretty typical example, so what the hell. It revolves around a mess that he put together as an image, which is pretty much a classic example of obsessive silliness.

The general idea of this kind of silliness is finding some kind of numeric
pattern, and convincing yourself that there’s some deep, profound truth behind that pattern. There are a couple of typical kinds of this: number/letter correspondence (classical gematria, which uses the fact that the hebrew characters are used both as letters and numbers, so a word can be interepreted as a number, and vice versa), distance coding (like the infamous “torah codes”,
where you find words “hidden” in a text by picking out characters according
to some pattern and using them to form words), and simple numeric patterning (where you take numbers – generally some sort of constant – and find
some sort of pattern supposedly hidden in its digits). Todays crackpottery
is the third kind – it’s written by a guy who believes that there are mystic secrets encoded into π and the square root of two that were put there by God, and that the existence of those patterns are proof of the existence of God.

This little bundle of rubbish – like all of the kinds of things I described
above – are examples of pareidolia involving numbers. As
I’ve written about before, we humans are amazingly good at finding patterns. We’ve
got a strong natural talent for looking at things, and finding structures and
patterns. That ability serves us well in many of our ordinary endeavors. The
problem with it is that there are apparent patterns in lots of things. In fact, if
you look at things mathematically, the odds of any text or constant not
containing interesting patterns is effectively nil. If you’re willing to consider
all sorts of patterns, then you can find patterns in absolutely everything. The question that you need to ask is whether or not the pattern is simple the result of our ability to find patterns in noise, or whether it’s something deliberate.

# More Old Friends: The Bible Code Guys

Time for our second visit with old friends. This time, we’re going to check up on “The Lords Witnesses”, the bible code geniuses who made somewhere around a dozen attempts at using their code to nail down a date at which the UN building in NYC would be blown up.

These nutters are a spinoff of the Jehovah’s witnesses. They believe that there is a secret code
embedded in the bible. They agree that all of the other people who claim to have found secret codes in
the bible are all just a bunch of crackpots – but they have the truth.

# Return of the Bible Code Bozos

Remember back in the end of june, when I [talked about these insane bozos][code] who were [predicting that a nuclear bomb would be blown up in the UN plaza?][firsttime] And they were on their fourth prediction about when this would happen? And how each time they blew it, [they came up with an excuse for why they were wrong?][update]
I thought it would be fun to take a look back at them, and see what they’re up to six weeks later. Naturally, [they’re still at it.][bozos] They’ve updated their prediction 5 more times now.
But there are a couple of really amusing things about what they’re up to now.
First, they’ve declared victory:
>We correctly predicted that the UN would lose its headship in 2006Tammuz (this
>being the 2nd head of the image of the Beast of Revelation 13) which gets a
>death stroke but then recovers. It lost its head on 2006July12 when Israel
>invaded Lebanon without a UN mandate. The UN lost credibility and lost control >for a month. It lost headship over Israel for one month. But the image of the
>Beast does not lose two heads, it only loses one head. Each of the 7 heads of
>the image of the UN Beast stands for one month of military headship over the
>governments of the world, just as the 7 heads of the UN Beast itself each stand
>for one year of military headship over the governments of the world. So we knew
>it had to regain headship this month and it did by virtue of the multilaterally
>agreed UN Security Council ceasefire resolution of Friday 2006August11. Now the
>UN will declare Peace and Security and then sudden destruction will befall them
>according to 1 Thessalonians 5:3. So please leave NYC for the sabbath!!!
And second, they’ve worked *their errors* into their code. That is, they’re now saying that their bible code *predicts* that they’d get it wrong seven times, so that their *eighth* prediction will be right. But they’ve made 9 predictions! So what to do? Well, hedge of course. You see, only the *correct* incorrect predictions count. So they have an explanation for why *some* of the incorrect predictions were *correct* incorrect predictions, and some were *incorrect* incorrect predictions.
>On April 29th we started predicting dates for a terrorist Nuclear Bomb at the
>UN in midtown. After making several mistakes we realised that 1 Kings 18:43
>declared we would get it right at the 8th attempt (Since Elijah asked his
>attendant to go and look for a man made mushroom cloud 7 times after the first
>no show, making 8 attempts in all). The trouble is that we have found it hard
>to decide just what a valid attempt is. Here are all the incorrect dates we
>have so far proposed…
>
>2006Iyyar21 (May 19/20) [7 days after 2006Iyyar14]
>2006Iyyar28 (May 26/27) [7 days after first mistaken date]
>2006Iyyar11 (June 8/9) [First day of the 2,000 pigs of Mark 5 incorrectly calculated]
>2006Sivan12 (June 9/10) [First day of the 2,000 pigs of Mark 5 correctly calculated but misinterpreted]
>2006Tammuz2/3 (June30-July2) [7th sabbath after first mistaken date/7th sabbath omitting 2006Sivan5]
>2006Tammuz4-6 (July2 – July 4) [7th sabbath day when we asked people to lookout]
>2006Tammuz28/29 (July 25 – 27) [Assumed contest began on 911]
>2006Ab3/4 (July 30 – August 1) [Assumed second ‘day’ of contest began when wheat went limit up in Chicago]
>2006Ab8 (August 4/5) [Assumed second ‘day’ of contest began on non BLC day of 2006Adar28 so that 1750th day is sabbath]

>
>What we now propose is…
>
>2006Ab15 (August 11/12) [7th sabbath lookout period after first mistake]
>
>So one could say you have had 9 attempts, you screwed up each time, give up and
>try doing something less dramatic! But although our repeated failures would at
>first sight take more and more credibility away from our work, the world
>security situation is for a fact moving in a direction that lends more and more
>credibility to our work. We started behaving as prophets of Doom for the UN and
>for Manhattan on April 29th 2006, when we proposed 2006Iyyar11 (June 8/9) as
>the date of the first nuclear terrorist attack. At that time the following
>global security situation existed…
Gotta love it, eh?
I’ll give ’em credit for their persistence, if not for their intelligence, or their sanity, or their rationality, or even their theology.
[update]: http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/07/an_update_on_the_bible_code_bo.php
[code]: http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/07/bible_code_bozos.php
[bozos]: http://www.truebiblecode.com/index.html

# An Update on the Bible Code Bozos

About 10 days ago, I wrote a post about a group of bozos who believe they’ve found a secret code in the bible, and that according to them, there was going to be a nuclear attack on the UN building in NYC by terrorists. This was their fourth attempt to predict a date based on their oh-so-marvelous code.
Well, obviously, they were wrong again. But, do they let that stop them? Of course not! That’s the beauty of using really bad math for your code: you can always change the result when it doesn’t work. If you get the result you want, then you can say your code was right; if you don’t get things right, it’s never the fault of the code: it’s just that you misinterpreted. I thought it would be amusing to show their excuse:

We made another mistake. The monthly Sabbath of 2006Tammuz is not 30 individual daily Sabbaths, but is one month long Sabbath. Our new predicted date for a Nuclear Attack on the UN in New York City launched from the Sea or a great River is Sundown Tuesday July 25th – Sundown Thursday July 27th.

Yeah, they got days and months mixed up. That’s the ticket! So now it’s another three weeks off. But they’re still right! They still know the truth, and want to save us!

# Bible Code Bozos

Earlier this week, I posted [a brief article][nyc-boom] about the [“True Bible Code”][tbc] folks who claimed that NYC was going to be hit by a terrorist nuclear weapon this weekend.
I was looking at the rest of their site to see what their “true bible code” was. I was expecting something along the lines of the gap codes or yet another low-budget gematria. It turns out to be much more humorous than either of those.
Most of the bible-code type nonsense you find is based on simple rules. There’s a good reason for that: the more complex the rules get, the more likely they are to be artifacts. The more elaborate the rule, the less convincing it’s going to be as a real code, and the more likely it is to be an artifact of the natural structure of the language combined with that human pattern-finding ability.
The gap-coding is a good example of what a hidden-code system might really look like. It’s not obvious; but it’s simple enough to be able to look for the patterns. If it had turned out that the bible really had patterns coded that way, but you couldn’t find similar patterns in other texts, that would have been interesting. (In the original publication, they claimed only the old testament contained those patterns; but numerous folks [have shown that claim to be false][bc-debunk]. It’s an artifact of the natural structure of the hebrew language.)
In contrast – the more complex a system of rules gets, the more it includes special cases, conditions, alternatives, and subjective choices, the less likely it is to have any possibility of representing anything real. Language is complicated enough that if you take any text, and start adding rules, you can develop a system of rules which will describe properties of that text.
It’s a lot like working with machine learning algorithms. A machine learning algorithm is trained by taking a sequence of stuff as input (called training data), and analyzing it. The idea is that you feed it a bunch of data that has some property that you’re interested in; and after it’s been trained, it will be able to recognize other things with that property. Some machine learning algorithms [like decision trees][decision-tree] actually generate human-readable rules to describe the procedure it’s going to follow. One other thing that these kinds of algorithms can often do is provide an *exemplar*: a datum that is a typical example of a datum that matches a rule.
When you use machine learning on a set of data, and you set the parameters to make it very sensitive, very precisely selecting properties of the input data, you tend to get very strange, elaborate rules. For example, on the linked wiki page, they show a decision tree for helping you determine whether or not you should play golf on a particular day. Some of the rules are things like “If it’s sunny and the humidity is less than 70%, then you should play”. If the parameters were set to be too sensitive, you might end up with a rule like “If it’s sunny, and the humidity is greater than 12% and less than 42%, or greater than 51% but less than 68%, and it’s a tuesday or friday before 12pm in the summer, or it’s a wednesday after 4pm in the autumn, and at least one person you’re going to play with has a name that starts with ‘J’ or ‘P’, then you should play.”
The point of this little aside is that if you’re determined to find a set of rules that specifically describes one particular set of data, you can. But it’s going to be a very bizzare set of rules that really makes no sense.
So… Back to these “True Bible Code” guys. They’ve got incredibly elaborate rules. Twenty of them. Each of which has multiple cases and conditions. Let me give an example – what they call [the symbolic structure principle][tbc-symbolic] – which is one of their initial rules, and *not* one of the most complicated.
>Every literal account in the bible has the normal literal meaning.
>
>Every non literal account, such as a dream, a parable or a vision, has a
>straightforward symbolic meaning, which is the symbolic meaning of the
>events described in the account. We call this the Event Symbolic meaning, or
>the Event Symbolism.
>Every interpretational sub account in the bible has its normal literal
>meaning which describes the event symbolic meaning of one or more symbolic
>sub accounts. If the interpretation has symbolic sections then these have
>event symbolic meanings.
>
>Every account in the bible, which:
>
>[1] contains a ‘countable noun’, which is a noun acting as a noun (or a
>participle which declines as a noun which is used as a noun, such as a
>’baker’ – the one causing [things] to be baked – a Hiphil participle in
>Hebrew) which is repeated an even number of times (wherein all repeated
>words take the same meaning in the literal account or in the event
>symbolism), and which does not contain a double designation – see [Code6b]
>or which
>
>[2] has a parallel account elsewhere in the bible,
>
>has a further set of one, two, three or four (so far as we have found) word
>symbolic meanings.
>
>The number of Word Symbolic meanings in a sub account is determined by the
>Successive Designations Principle below – see [Code6b]. These greater
>meanings are in addition to the literal meaning, in the case of a literal
>account, and are in addition to the straightforward symbolic meaning, the
>event symbolic meaning, in the case of a symbolic account such as a dream, a
>vision or a parable. They are in addition to the literal/event symbolic
>meaning of an interpretational sub account.
>
>If a bible account contains an interpretational subaccount (typically an
>interpretation from Jesus, Daniel or Joseph), then the literal meaning of
>the interpretation is the event symbolic meaning of the symbolic subaccount
>which it is interpreting. Obviously since the narrative is also literal, its
>literal meaning sets the scene for the event symbolic meaning of all of its
>symbolic subaccounts.
>
>The first word symbolic meaning of any interpretational subaccount is the
>first word symbolic meaning of the symbolic subaccount which it interprets.
>Furthermore the existence of a first word symbolic thread in an
>interpretational subaccount unites the first word symbolic meaning of the
>narrative to the first word symbolic meaning of the symbolic subaccount
>which the interpretation is explaining.
>
>Likewise the second, third, fourth word symbolic meanings of any
>interpretational subaccount (if they exist) are the second third fourth word
>symbolic meanings of the symbolic subaccount which it interprets.
>Furthermore the existence of a second, third, fourth word symbolic thread in
>an interpretational subaccount unites the second, third, fourth word
>symbolic meaning of the narrative to the second, third, fourth word symbolic
>meaning of the symbolic subaccount which the interpretation is explaining.
>
>Likewise the non existence of a first second third fourth word symbolic
>thread in an interpretational subaccount decouples the first second third
>fourth word symbolic meaning of the symbolic account which it interprets
>from the first second third fourth word symbolic meanings of the narrative
>respectively.
After that whopper of a rule, they go through six examples; followed by four “proofs”. The proofs are pretty much indistinguishable from the examples. For example, here’s the shortest one, the fourth “proof”.
>Finally we have the shortest parable in the bible which is:
>
>33 Another illustration he spoke to them: The kingdom of the heavens is like
>leaven, which a woman took and hid in three large measures of flour, until
>the whole mass was fermented/leavened (Matthew 13).
>
>Ok, you young paduan learners! If it is the most insignificant and smallest
>of the parables in the whole bible, then what does this tell you about its
>spiritual meaning in this upside down world in which we live?
>
>Yes, it is the greatest of them all in meaning. Well, the event symbolic
>meaning is as follows:
>
>The woman is the holy spirit, the leaven is the bible code, and the three
>lumps of flour are the literal, the event symbolic and the account symbolic
>meanings of the bible. When the whole mass is fermented/leavened (decoded),
>then we can truly eat the whole book and see both the code and the truth and
>God and the true religion and his plan and his love and his humour and his
>righteousness, and our total and utter pretentiousness and stupidity
>stretching over 3500 years. As regards the account symbolic meaning of
>Matthew 13:33 and the parallel account in Luke 13:20 please see section[69].
>
>This leaven is not the wicked teachings of the Pharisees but is rather the
>good teachings of the true priesthood of God. This website is the result of
>such leaven. We are expanding the bread of heaven to make it fully
>digestible.
This looks a *lot* like what I would expect as the output from a rule-generating machine learning system – right down to that so-called “proof”, which isn’t a proof, but an examplar. As a computer scientist, if I saw my system generating a rule like this, my reaction would be to adjust the parameters – because I’m clearly generating garbage. For *any* large set of documents, you *can* come up with a set of rules that matches them. The question is, do they matter? Do they have any real meaning, or are they just coincidental? The answer is usually that elaborate multicondition rules, particularly when they involve subjective terms, is that they’re meaningless coincidence. Like the ones here.
[tbc]: http://www.truebiblecode.com/
[tbc-symbolic]: http://www.truebiblecode.com/code.html#c5
[bc-debunk]: http://www.postfun.com/pfp/bible/code.html
[decision-tree]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_tree