Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World by John Man

By John Man

Compliment for Alpha Beta
"This ebook comes on the ideal second as we rediscover the significance in early interpreting of cracking the alphabetic code. the tale of the way that code got here into being is an engaging one, and guy is the best author to inform it." instances academic Supplement

"A richly soaking up exploration, from B.C. to computers, of the evolution of the main primary characters of our cultural historical past, the alphabet we a lot take with no consideration. John guy writes with a compellingly stressed interest and immediacy. The ever impressive, exotically exact narrative in his informative ebook makes it as undryly relaxing as a winning archaelogical dig of 1 of Alan Moorehead s colourful histories of African exploration." David Grambs, writer of The Describer s Dictionary and The Endangered English Dictionary

"Text that's crisp, taut, and as transparent as a bell.... a desirable tale with many a beguiling subplot alongside the way." New Scientist

"Letter excellent the simplest histories and mysteries of our ABC s!" Jeff McQuain, writer of by no means adequate phrases and tool Language

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Sample text

Everything worthwhile demands effort! That’s just the way life is if you want to be educated and successful. So for three millennia, successive and related cultures used cuneiform not only for practical purposes, but also to record their greatest cultural achievements. Akkadian kings commissioned scribes to transcribe the poetry that told them of their heroic ancestors. The most famous of the epics concerned the hero, Gilgamesh, who had sought the secret of immortality from the immortal Uta-napishti and heard from him the story of how he, Uta-napishti, survived a great Flood by building a boat.

Would it be possible to communicate this information in a form so pure that it would be independent not simply of language and script, not simply of human culture, but of human intelligence? Was there a way for intelligence to speak to intelligence in written form? Sagan suggested that there was, if the message were engraved on a plaque in a language that is woven into the fabric of the universe. This, he argued, would provide the link with any culture advanced enough to find the Pioneers (for the same plaque was also attached to Pioneer 11, which was also due to leave our solar system).

Despite its complexity, the plaque contains not a shred of human information, other than the shape and size of its two puzzling exemplars, because to convey any more information about us demands language, and language cannot leap the gulf to the stars. Or even leap cultures. In the early 1980s the US Nuclear Regulatory < previous page page_28 next page > < previous page page_29 next page > Page 29 Commission, part of the Department of Energy, was wrestling with the problem of nuclear waste. The government was considering a number of short-term solutions, which included burying the waste hundreds of metres deep in remote desert areas.

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