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Comment Re:Wrong dates, and more info ... (Score 1) 613

In theory, yes you are correct. For this specific case, it is unlikely.

I detailed that in my comment.

The professor who did the research says that it is not a palimpsest, i.e. the parchment has not been reused and rewritten on, e.g. like the Sanaa 1 Manuscript, which is a palimpsest, with older writing on it.

In the case of the Birmingham manuscript, I doubt very much that someone created parchment and it was left blank for a century.

Besides, the use of the Hizaji script shows that it is within 50 years or so from the start of Islam. After that date, the Kufi script dominated almost all Islamic writing for a century or two.

Comment Wrong dates, and more info ... (Score 4, Informative) 613

The article and summary are bogus.

The parchment carbon dating gives a range on when the animal (sheep, goat, camel) died, not when the actual writing was done. But it does establishe an "parchment made no later than X" and a "writing can't be earlier than Y" scenario.

Muhammed died in 632 AD, and the parchment is dated up to 645 AD (latest). So it is most likely a copy written by a companion of Muhammed, possibly in his lifetime, or shortly after.

What this dating refutes beyond a doubt are the now discredited theories about Muhammed being a mythical figure, and the Quran invented in the late 7th century. For example, the Hagarene theory by Crone and Cook and the Nevo-Koren Crossroads to Islam theory are untenable now. This manuscript is earlier than all these theories claim.

It is written in the Hijazi script with no dots or diacritics. This script originated in Hijaz (Arabian Peninsula west coast), and was dominant in the few decades following the death of Muhammed, before the Kufic script dominated (from Iraq). The amazing thing is that I can read most of it, almost 14 centuries later!

By the way, I contacted Dr. David Thomas, one of the researchers, to ask if the ink was carbon dated, or just the parchment. He said just the parchment, so as not to affect the writing. I also asked if this was a palimpsest (older parchment that was washed and written over at a later date), and he said that it is not, since there are markings that show in that case.

So, this is as early a written copy as can be.

The interesting part is that the 645 AD date pre-dates the standardization of the Quran that was done around 650 AD by the 3rd successor to Muhammed, Caliph Uthman. Research shows minor variations, but nothing significant.

Here is his full reply:

1. Has the testing methodology taking into account the ink as well as the parchment?

DT: No, only a tiny corner of the parchment. The test involves the destruction of the object, and we did not want to lose any text.

2. The reason I ask about the dating of the ink is this: What is the possibility that this manuscript is a palimpsest? Could the parchment be indeed from 645AD, but the ink was washed away and the parchment recycled at a later date?

DT: There are usually signs of underwriting in palimpsests, though there are none here. It is theoretically possible that the ink, and therefore, the Qur'an, was written on parchment that had been prepared earlier, but our assumption is that this parchment was prepared expressly for this Qur'an and therefore the writing would have been applied very soon after the surface was prepared.

3. Caliph Othman's unification of the Quran was around 650 AD (he died in 656 AD). Has there been any text variance analysis on this document to see if it is a pre-Othmanic or post-Othmanic variant of the Quran text? For example, similar to the work on Sanaa 1 Manuscript.

DT: This analysis was the subject of Alba Fedeli's PhD thesis (which involved the research that led to the discovery of this date). There are some minor variants from the standard 'Uthmanic text, though in these fragments nothing significant.

In later emails he says that Fedeli's thesis is due to be published soon.

Comment Wanted UNIX at home ... (Score 1) 136

Like some old timers around here, I was using UNIX professionally since 1987, and had to use a modem over metered calls from 1989 to learn more about UNIX.

I heard about Minix, and was following the Usenet group for it, when I saw a post by a student in Finland called Linus. It was not ready for installation on PCs.

I looked for other options, such as the various UNIX SVR4s from the likes of Dell and Everex. They required an expensive tape drive. CD-ROMs were not yet popular in the early 1990s.

Then in 1995, I bought a CD set which has a bunch of Linux distros, from Walnut Creek Software. The set included Slackware, Red Hat, and Debian. That was a life changing moment.

Fast forward a couple of decades, I am a full time consultant on open source (mainly Drupal and LAMP), running on top of Linux (mainly Ubuntu Server LTS). And I am typing this from my main laptop, which runs KDE Ubuntu.

Thank you Linus, and thank you Ian, and a few thousand more people who made all this possible.

Comment Yes, and for many months now (Score 1) 136

I have the same experience. For many months now, Gmail has been overzealous in marking stuff as spam. Stuff like daily emails from servers I manage with log digests. Emails about pending security package upgrades. Even when I specifically say that a certain subject string (e.g. "logwatch") is to be excluded, Gmail ignores that rule. It has been very frustrating trying to exclude stuff via filters in Gmail.

Comment Re:Who's gonna monitor the Saudi and Egyptian nuke (Score 1) 79

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are signatories in the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). So, it would be very unlikely that either would start developing nuclear weapons now.

The general consensus is that it was a stupid move to sign for that while Israel, a neighbor and foe, did not sign the same terms.

Comment 2008 Toshiba Laptop (Score 1) 558

I am typing this on a 2008 Toshiba laptop. Nothing fancy. Intel Core2 Duo T6500 @ 2.10GHz. Upgraded the memory to the maximum of 8GB a year or two ago, and that made it fast enough. Of course it runs Linux (Kubuntu 14.04 LTS, yes KDE, not Gnome nor Unity). As long as it does the job, and fast enough, why replace it?

Comment Very popular in third world countries .... (Score 1) 66

The cheap Nokia feature phones are very popular in developing countries.

They are inexpensive, durable, the battery last for many days, and they do the job. Moreover, accessories are dirt cheap as well.

Need a charger? Need a battery? They are sold in haberdasheries and corner stores for very little local money.

It would be really dumb if Microsoft just killed that revenue stream.

"Can you program?" "Well, I'm literate, if that's what you mean!"