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Is There Anybody Out There?

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the E.T.-phone-home dept.

Space 188

DrZoom writes "The Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan 9, 2001 is an image sent into space by the Cosmic Call project. This is yet another interesting picture from APOD." Try to figure it out without reading the solution.

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wow, primes. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#517350)

imagine that. a series of primes. i could've guessed without having to actually look at the damn picture.

About page 15... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#517351)

They really should have made his wang bigger.

It would have raised our status in the intergalactic empire.

Re:Selected Interpretations (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#517352)

The two maps that you call pangea + partially split continents are just 2 halves of one map - a normal equiarea projection of our earth's surface *today* . Yes, Asia and africa really are THAT big. Don't forget, to project the surface of a sphere onto a flat plane, you have to distort it. The system these people used is in fact "fairer" than most maps you'll have seen - giving equal weighting to the land area of every continent. Look at a globe some time (the only really fair way to represent the earth's surface), and imagine how their map would be wrapped around it - it'd be a better fit than the normal rectangular projection maps.

Irresponsible? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#517353)

Is it just me that thinks sending this message out was irresponsible?

This message reveals quite a bit of information about us. A receiver will know not only details about our solar system, but even fundamental details of how we are constructed (DNA, etc.). The message also reveals quite a bit about the resources of our solar system.

If this message is received by smart aliens intent on conquering systems then from this info they given that knowledge they should be able to build a weapon to wipe us off the face of this planet.

Whilst there are many people that theorise that aliens capably of interstellar travel will be friendly there are no guarantees. By sending this message we may have doomed us all to death, or enslavement.

Re:What is with those squiggly things?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#517354)

With "our" symbols, we would either have to lenghten the message significantly or raise the resolution of each of the pages.

sigh. did you even attempt to decipher the message? there's nothing in there that cannot be said (with even fewer pixels) using ordinary "glyphs".

the real (non-slashdot) explanation can be found in the cosmic call press release:

The message has been built to minimize the loss of information due to noise introduced into the signal during its interstellar flight. To minimize the risk of confusion, a set of characters was created which are fairly different from each other. Redundant information is included to allow cross-checking of the message

Re:What is with those squiggly things?? (1)

tamyrlin (51) | more than 13 years ago | (#517355)

5,010,240,000 Hz

As detailed in page 21 of the message: http://pages.infinit.net/lachapel/seti/page21.html

Re:Space Invaders? (1)

tamyrlin (51) | more than 13 years ago | (#517356)

And wouldn't _that_ be an interesting message to get as a reply from an alien civilisation :)

Re:Encoding? (1)

tamyrlin (51) | more than 13 years ago | (#517357)

Actually there is a one pixel wide frame around every page, so it would not be very difficult to discover it.

Re:first (1)

shogun (657) | more than 13 years ago | (#517358)

I am somewhat forced to agree, considering the difficulty finding intelligent life on just this planet...

Why use decimal and kilograms? (1)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 13 years ago | (#517359)

This is nice in some ways, but it seems pretty bizarre to go to all this effort to teach them decimal and kilograms. Why not make things more universal by using binary exclusively for numbers? Why not use a more "universal" measure of weight, like the weight of a proton? Why go to the effort of teaching them meters, seconds, and kilograms?

Sheesh, they even use superscript notation for exponents! Just explain about brackets, and use "^"!
--

Re:Why is this necessary... (1)

jCaT (1320) | more than 13 years ago | (#517360)

what they didn't show you is the last page of the series, that shows how to decode TV signals so that they can watch leave it to beaver. In contact they sent plans on how to make a space ship... I'm pretty sure we would send plans on how to make a TV.

Re:The solution! (1)

Joe Rumsey (2194) | more than 13 years ago | (#517365)

I think that's about right, in a galactic sense. Is this message anything more than posting a "Hey, lookit us! We's smart!" to all the advanced races out there? It's just like those first posters trying to get attention. Just like them, I say. We as a race will say any stupid thing in order to get attention.

Do you really think any race capable of receiving this doesn't already know what a prime number is? They'll just moderate us to -1, and if we're lucky someone will tell us, "Duh! Go away you damn trolls, we know that already."

Re:Space Invaders? (1)

dangermouse (2242) | more than 13 years ago | (#517366)

And wouldn't _that_ be an interesting message to get as a reply from an alien civilisation :)

I say bring it on. We've had 21 years of practice at repelling Space Invaders, and that's with only one gun. ;)

Re:They respond with squigles we dont understand (1)

dangermouse (2242) | more than 13 years ago | (#517367)

Presumably, if we're smart enough to throw squiggles at them and they're smart enough to read them, it should work both ways. Especially considering the time it'll take their squiggles to get back.

The decimal digit glypgs (1)

Mawbid (3993) | more than 13 years ago | (#517369)

Does anyone know why they are the way they are? I guess one of he design considerations was to fill out the cell more than our regular symbols so that it would be clearer whether a "white" pixel was part of a symbol or not. This makes spacing easier to comprehend. Any other thoughts?
--

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

Ross C. Brackett (5878) | more than 13 years ago | (#517370)

Just like the Canadian commercials:

"2**3021377 - 1, a prime number to call our own"

Re:I'm not convinced aliens are out there (1)

Delphis (11548) | more than 13 years ago | (#517371)

What about the Dinosaurs?

The Dinosaurs didn't kill *themselves* off.. they just got screwed by a very large rock.

--

Re:Let's see *you* decipher Morse code (1)

Stimpson (12035) | more than 13 years ago | (#517372)

Because assuming that space aliens understand English would be pathetically stupid? If Star Trek has taught us nothing else - and it hasn't - its that all sentient biengs in the universe speak English as their mother tongue. This is of course at odds with the beliefs of the hitchhikers who get around that by sticking a fish [h2g2.com] in their ear.

Re:I'm not convinced aliens are out there (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#517374)

> To make an assumption based on current data, we have 1 civilization that has not managed to kill itself off, and 0 civilizations that have not. ... I realize until we have at least ONE civilization that HAS killed itself off, we won't be able to do a real comparison

What about the Dinosaurs?

--

Live Nude Teen Earthlings! (1)

majcher (26219) | more than 13 years ago | (#517376)

I see the hidden agenda here - slowly, but surely, we are broadcasting all of Earth's pornography [matessa.org] into space. This way, when the hammer finally comes down on the perverts here, we will have ensured the preservation of one of our most precious resources. Brilliant.

Maybe its a bit too complex (1)

FlexAgain (26958) | more than 13 years ago | (#517377)

Whilst some elements of this message are very clever and clearly show a great deal of thought I find other elements very odd.

As others have pointed out, the inclusion of the largest currently known prime is rather odd and would probably not help decode the message. It also introduces concepts like "raising to a power" in a very human-centric manner. Using some form of operator as is done for many other mathematical symbols would probably be much easier to understand. There is little point in using representative systems borrowed from our own evolved systems, rather than going for a totally new and clear system. Using a simpler base, such as binary, and maybe a system using postfix rather than infix notation.

The symbols themselves seem to owe something to existing symbols, several of the numbers and symbols such as equality appear to be based upon our own symbols, I would have thought that using totally arbitrary symbol, with a great deal of redundancy (to allow for the inevitable noise and degradation in the recieved message) would make more sense.

The use of arrows and lines pointing to graphs seems also to represent traditional human ways of doing things.

Overall the message appears to be trying to say so many different things. I think they may have been better off trying to explain a few more simple concepts repeatedly, and in different manners, rather than try and show how "clever" we are.

Re:What is with those squiggly things?? (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 13 years ago | (#517379)

The symbols are designed to withstand some noise on the transmitted signal. They are sufficiently big, and different, that a few flipped pixels will not turn them into another symbol, and confuse the recipient.

Also, the code is sent in the form of simple images so that it is easy to include a few drawings. The invidual pages are also outlined by a single pixel, which should make it really easy to figure out that you're on the right track when you try to decode the message.

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

_ECC_ (43365) | more than 13 years ago | (#517380)

also.... the 'largest known prime' has all kinds of useful properties... it can be used as a chronometer... a sign that we're still kicking... our rate of technological advancement... a whole bunch of things. (some assume we send multiple msgs with a different 'largest prime'... btw there's a new largest prime since this was published)

Then again... they won't hear the msg for another 300+ earth yrs.

No (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#517382)

Obviously not, or at least not many... This story has been up for 20 mins now and the responces are so slow. Forget alien life, wheres life on slashdot?!

The message says... (1)

TheHornedOne (50252) | more than 13 years ago | (#517387)

After hours of deliberation and a pass through my extra-terrestrial bound communications decoding algorithm, i find that the message reads

FIRST POST!!!!

Re:Surprised (1)

vulgrin (70725) | more than 13 years ago | (#517395)

Well, if you've seen any sci-fi movies in the 50s or 60s, you'll realize that its better for US to find them, rather than for US to just broadcast out and leave it to chance. If we find them before they find us, we have the chance to prepare the planet.

Otherwise we find out that our message really said: "Eat at Joe's. Humans are tasty." as thousands of alien's drop ship to the surface...

Vulgrin the MAD

Looks like... (1)

dimator (71399) | more than 13 years ago | (#517396)

Looks like a game of centipede to me... that or any other 80's arcade game.


--

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 13 years ago | (#517398)

Seemed pretty obvious to me. After a list of the lowest primes it suddenly goes to a new line with a new format show the symbol for 2 then a number in a new relationship to the 2 (they know our number system from the previous stuff) followed by a symbol then 1. Seems obvious it is a Mersenne Prime.

Some of the original broadcasts sent from Arecibo were far more confusing than this this almost kindegarten level in comparison. Which was my complaint with the previous messages. Although superscripting is not explained it surely wouldn't take long for a team of mathematicians / scientists to figure it out.

Peter

puzzle (1)

mach-5 (73873) | more than 13 years ago | (#517399)

Why is there some preoccupation with sending out a message that is highly undecipherable even by humans? Shouldn't the message be very simple, needing almost no translation, other than the binary structure itself which is a challenge as well.

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

muwahaha (85166) | more than 13 years ago | (#517402)

I got it, but it seems rather culturally specific.
It's not clear to me primes of that form would be
so well known to a completely independant
Mathematical culture. (It's not even clear to me
that Natural numbers need to be a dominant notion
in the development of Mathematics, but I suppose
they had to use something of the sort.)

Alex.

Re:They respond with squigles we dont understand (1)

nz (86669) | more than 13 years ago | (#517403)

Probably no one would understand that.

IIRC some scientist made similar message, and gave it to his collagues. Result no one did understand the message. Message was supposed to be as simple as possible.

Keep it simple NASA (1)

slazlo (87565) | more than 13 years ago | (#517404)

I know NASA didnt send this but communication should be like programming. Keep out the fluff or at least be consistent. The binary representation ends after the ninth digit. They should either take it out or extend binary for full alphabet of digits mapping legend. And the large prime at the bottom presumes exponentiation is represented in a very human way, not to mention that how do they know the minus sign? And the heading at top of page is extra noise too. They should keep it simple and tear out the extra stuff so as not to confuse any intelligence trying to decrypt our mathematical hello.

Re:Keep it simple NASA (1)

erlando (88533) | more than 13 years ago | (#517405)

Hmm.. Did you ever think about reading the rest of the message? There's 23 pages you know...
Why extend the binary counting past 10 digits (and not nine as you say) when 10 digits is all we use to represent numbers?
The exponential notation and the minus-sign is explained on subsequent pages. The header is a section-header, this one meaning maths.
I do not agree in "keep it simple". This is not going to be anything else than a one way conversation. We are not going to be able to talk to them over the phone. If they are advanced enough to receive this message they should be advanced enough to understand the math and physics described on the page.
Oh, and btw. This is not sent by NASA.

Re:Keep it simple NASA (1)

erlando (88533) | more than 13 years ago | (#517406)

Sorry.. I didn't see you already was aware of the NASA thing.. Please don't kill me.. ;o)

mistake (1)

peet0r (90149) | more than 13 years ago | (#517410)

i found a mistake on page 2 of thier alian manual where they said 0/1=1. i e-mailed them and told them they should change it because it could mess up the aliens...if they exist. maybe they should put me in charge of their shit because i would fire the shit out of whoever made that mistake.

Re:mistake (1)

masoolsa (100288) | more than 13 years ago | (#517413)

Actually, in the image itself, it is correctly
written as 0/1=0 (page 2, left column, second
from bottom).

It is just a typo in the translation (in the
PDF manual).

Re:The solution! (1)

wunderhorn1 (114559) | more than 13 years ago | (#517419)

"I sat down with pen, paper, and a calculator, and figured it out, using my extrodonary mental powers. It says "first post". :) "

And in the typical troll fashion, they didn't get it [nasa.gov] .

heh.


-the wunderhorn

The squiggly characters (1)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 13 years ago | (#517420)

... are obviously designed to provide maximum redundancy when the received signal is corrupt. There might even be some error-correction logic within the symbol design.

The first page is easy enough to figure out, even with the new - symbol. Once the alien scientist has understood base 10, it's just a short step to understanding that this is a list of prime numbers, and from there it is a short step to realise that big primes are frequently of the form 2**X-1. Once they've made that leap they will either marvel at our mathematical ingenuity, or laugh at it.

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

alexburke (119254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517421)

Turns out they intended this to mean 2**3021377 - 1, which they claim is the largest prime found at the time this was written.

Christ, I stared at it for a while and still couldn't figure it out. Good work!

This seems unnecessarily confusing for some poor alien trying to figure it out. In one step, they introduce a new symbol (without any context), indicating substraction, a method of denoting exponents (without introducing exponents), all to describe a number that provides someone trying to decode it no clue as to what the new symbol and new denotation mean.

Excellent point. I think they should have just kept going with the primes until they filled the page with them.

Leave it to two Canadian scientists to want to show off the size of their prime...

(Sorry, couldn't resist. :)

--

Re:Selected Interpretations (1)

alexburke (119254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517422)

Apparently I got my correction posted after you loaded the comments page and before you posted yours. :)

You're absolutely right -- it was just the East-Up orientation that prevented me from realizing precisely what I was looking at.

--

Re:What is with those squiggly things?? (1)

boldra (121319) | more than 13 years ago | (#517423)

Take a closer look at the symbols - especially the 7 8 9 - they are quite close to modern arabic numbers.

Re:Encoding? (1)

spiro_killglance (121572) | more than 13 years ago | (#517424)

You make the picture a prime number high by a prime number wide. Then is only one way to factorise the length so that there is only one way turning it into a picture. Of course they have to guess thats its a picture.

Re:Selected Interpretations (1)

T. (128661) | more than 13 years ago | (#517426)

What you both refer to is in facat the Dymaxion (Air-Ocean) World Projection. It was published by R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao in 1954. This is an especially poor representation of that projection. It lacks most of the features that make the real map useful such as each icosa triangle face is (circa 1954!) 7 ship-days/14 aircraft hours. Really, why send this out to space?

Largest Prime (1)

Shanes (141586) | more than 13 years ago | (#517430)

At June 1, 1999 the prime 2**6972593 -1 was found, so they really should update their message. The aliens must think we're really stupid and primitive with such a small prime earth record and probably don't want to talk to us. :-)

But this prime number transmission is actually cool and should motivate people further in searching for new largest known prime [mersenne.org] . Imagine one of the first things another civilization reads is your prime!

Something for your great great... ...great great grand children to brag about.

Re:I'm not convinced aliens are out there (1)

Fire Dragon (146616) | more than 13 years ago | (#517431)

Looking at the first 16 posts I am not convinced there is any intelligent life out there.

But if there is alien life, it must be intelligent, because they haven't contacted us.

Re:Why is this necessary... (1)

Donut2099 (153459) | more than 13 years ago | (#517433)

It is obviously a ploy to get alien women interested in cross-stitch so that we can take the alien men out to topless bars. It has got to be the ugliest pattern I have ever seen though.

Re:Minus sign?? (1)

Gibbys Box of Trix (176568) | more than 13 years ago | (#517436)

The minus sign is defined on page 2 [infinit.net] of the message. Also, in response to a post above (sazlo #34) the exponential system is described on page 3 [infinit.net] .
--
01 13 19
TVDJC TDSLR AZNGT NWQSH KPN

Maybe not too bad (1)

revin (191651) | more than 13 years ago | (#517441)

Maybe its not too bad to do the things you mention "in a very human-centric manner". Because isn't the meaning of this project making some earthling messages over to space?

Rupert (1)

alephnull42 (202254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517444)

Amnesiac aliens are monitoring my every move from the 10th planet and beaming them to DrZooms brain.
I stumbled over this page last nite for the first time ever, after clicking through Yahoo in boredom(Science/Astronomy/Humour).
A few hours later, its on /.
"Just because they're out to get you doesnt mean you're not paranoid"

Re:Explains why SETI is unsuccessful... (1)

Thackeri (203958) | more than 13 years ago | (#517445)

I think "they'd" be able to pick it up because it's beamed directly at an area of space - it's a relatively string and tight beam. The general emissions our planet gives off are (at that distance) very weak and diffuse.

Re:I'm not convinced aliens are out there (1)

Thackeri (203958) | more than 13 years ago | (#517446)

I know it may seem pedantic but we do know of dead civilisations - the Incas come to mind.

If you're thinking 'intelligent' species Neanderthal man was made extinct by Cro Magnon (sp?) man (out direct ancestors). We have made many species on this planet extinct.

You seem to be assuming that the count of 1 live civilisation (i.e. man kind) versus 0 extinct ones proves something. It doesn't: if we're killed off instead of 1-0 we get 0-1 but there's no-one left to keep score so it doesn't matter does it?
Until we find proof of other planets that support (or supported) inteligent life then one cannot make this kind of extrapolation! Also if you do use 1/0 = infinity then we would have already contacted and been contacted by ETs!

How do they convert from bitstream to image (1)

akc (207721) | more than 13 years ago | (#517449)

Whilst all this looks wonderful, it already assumes you see an image. What is actually transmitted is (presumably) a bit stream. How do you decode this into being an image?

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

seefried (211451) | more than 13 years ago | (#517450)

Actually I did work out that that was the largest prime found to date, but only because I had heard of Mersenne Primes before (which is any prime of the form 2^n-1). However, I entirely agree with all the negative comments aimed at the simultaneous introduction of both exponentiation and subtraction. Sending prime numbers on the other hand. A very good idea. Sean Seefried

Re:chutzpah (1)

abdulwahid (214915) | more than 13 years ago | (#517451)

Funily enough my first reaction was to try to read the puzzle from right to left. It kinda seems natural to me. I then found it strange how Western minded thinkers always create puzzles from right to left. I wonder if any E.T. would have a bias to one direction of thinking.

Anyway, a Hebrew or Arabic puzzle would have just been a mirror image I guess. And I am sure this puzzle will get distorted on transit by not being in the ET's network byte order.

We'll get there before the message (1)

pyrrhos (227998) | more than 13 years ago | (#517457)

Within 50.000 years we will have mastered wormhole travelling and allready be for generations long in M13.

Some amateur future M13 radio archeaologist will then accidentally discover this weak radio signal and wonder where the hell it came from!

chutzpah (1)

zencode (234108) | more than 13 years ago | (#517460)

that's some serious chutzpah, sending them a message in hebrew. yeesh.

My .02,

we blew it (1)

H*rus (237994) | more than 13 years ago | (#517461)

After this, they are not going to want to speek to us again, or if they're realy angy they'll respond by sending angry messages back:

Stupid humans.....3,142857142857.....kill, kill, kill.....-273,10547832.....:-(o)

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

NSObject (250170) | more than 13 years ago | (#517464)

The equation 2**n - 1 was once thought to produce only prime numbers, at least for exponents that gave numbers that were practical to factor by hand (circa 1500 - 1600). This was later disproved, by Fermat and Euler. Marin Mersenne conjectured which results for n &lt 257 were composite and which were prime. He was wrong, but we call prime numbers of this form Mersenne primes anyway.

I recognized it only because Mersenne primes were covered in a book I read as a kid (Excursions in Number Theory). This formula was considered interesting for a couple of other reasons (which I forget) from Euler.

A society with a history in number theory may have run across this same thing; I've never seen it anywhere else. Naturally there's a web page [mersenne.org] for it.

Orange schuuur-bert (1)

Alistair Graham (254201) | more than 13 years ago | (#517465)

I must go across the street and get you your orange Schuuur-Bert........ why do i feel like drinking a coke ?

Re:Explains why SETI is unsuccessful... (1)

siliconowl (258491) | more than 13 years ago | (#517466)

The basic problem here is that aliens, by their very nature, are alien so we can't assume anything about how they will react to a given set of stimulie. However for an endevour of this nature to work you have to make certain asumptions. An obvious one to make is that alien geeks (scientists and engineers) are going to be a little like human geeks in the way they think. Give any scientist or engineer a proboblem and sooner or later they are going to grab some paper and a pencil and start drawing diagrams. Therefore we assume that aliens trying to decode this message are going to notice that there are large strings of 1's regularly spaced and maybe try using them as the boundry of an image. Once they do this they will see that there are repeating symbols throughout the frames they create this way. This will hopefully cause them to realise that what they have is a 2D image in which information is convayed through symbolic means.

Even if they never manage to decode one scrap of information from the stream (which I think is unlikely) they will have made an important discovery. That there is an inteligent species somewhere "out there" who are willing and able to put considerable effort into producing an attempt to communicate. It answers the question "Are we alone in the univers" by saying "There are geeks here". As commented by Terry Pratchett in "Interesting Times" simply communicating with no information at least tells you something.

In direct asnwer to some of your other points, Morse Code would be an extremely bad idea since it assumes the receiver understands English and that lived through the evolution of the human species. Language after all is very much routed in historical and cultural development.

This message was sent using a parabolic reflector which has the effect of amplifying the message compared to the background over a spatialy small area. Thus if the receivers are withing the area covered by the signal it will be much louder than anything else they pick up from us. It does depend on them listening at the correct frequency. However if they are already picking up spurious transmissions from us don't you think they would be listening. I'm sure we would be.

Re:Why use decimal and kilograms? (1)

siliconowl (258491) | more than 13 years ago | (#517467)

I think they teach the aliens decimal because we use decimal. It not only tells them a little of what we understand but more importantly, how we understand it. They may even be able to make the not necesarily logical leep of "if they count in base 10 maybe they have 10 extremities on which to count."

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

BLAMM! (301082) | more than 13 years ago | (#517470)

My first thought (after giving up and checking the solution to that final number) was "WTF?". Granted, any self-respecting alien would eventually figure out what the undefined symbol was and what the super-scripted number meant, BUT what does it say about us that we would send such a message? Sure, its decipherable, but why did they put the cart before the horse?

Naeser's Law:

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (1)

Aunt Mable (301965) | more than 13 years ago | (#517472)

When you have 24 primes in a row it's pretty much assumed the next number will also be a prime. You can assume they already know the result. Assuming this, you might want to have a different but simplistic formula for our notation that's quick to work out by throwing numbers around - as they did.

It teaches them part of our notation. I guess that's why they did it.

Now who's for pie?

-- Eat your greens or I'll hit you!

I am the smartest one here! (1)

orion1973 (303401) | more than 13 years ago | (#517474)

Hello, My name is Lord Braniac from the planet zoltron. Located in a galaxy very far away. I received your silly message from you stupid humans, and I can't even figure that damn thing out, even with my 349 I.Q. Have you humans ever heard of a thing called "English"?

Suppose we get an answer. What then? (2)

alumshubby (5517) | more than 13 years ago | (#517476)

(Given the speed-of-light limitation, we won't have snappy conversation even if the other civilization is relatively close by.)What do we say? "Hi, were Humanity; here's as much of our understanding of the history of the universe as we've gotten so far; here's our understanding of physics and chemistry; here's how our biology works; here's the history of our species and the content of our various cultures." Does that about cover it? How many bytes do you estimate that breaks down to....a few Tb?I'd hate to be the guy who has to proofread everything.

Explains why SETI is unsuccessful... (2)

The Dodger (10689) | more than 13 years ago | (#517479)


If this is the sort of thing that "intelligent" life broadcasts into space in an attempt to contact other civilisations, then it's no fucking wonder we've not yet got any evidence that we're not alone in the Universe.

Didn't some scientist put together a message like this, years ago, and show it to all his colleagues at a conference, only to discover that none of them could decipher it.

And what's the whole idea with using pictures anyway? Before the aliens even get to figuring out how to interpret/understand it, they've got to get displaying it right (hmmmm - mental images of alien scientists rushing home to grab their kids' Atari 2600s).

Why don't people who are trying to communicate with the rest of the Universe stick to the basics - i.e. morse code?

Finally, given how much electromagnetic radiation the Earth radiates into space, what's the likelihood of an alien civilisation being able to pluck these sort of messages out from all the other broadcasts we regularly send out?

D.

Re:Largest Prime (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#517484)

> The aliens must think we're really stupid and primitive with such a small prime earth record and probably don't want to talk to us. :-)

Actually, that's the Intergalactic Protocol for deciding who gets to invade whom. If you know a bigger prime than they do, you probably have a more advanced technological society, and are therefore also probably able to kick their asses.

And the neat thing about it is, it's really hard to bluff. If you just pick a big number and they know it isn' prime, then they'll know you don't know any real primes on that scale.

--

Re:I'm not convinced aliens are out there (2)

Restil (31903) | more than 13 years ago | (#517485)

You forgot to consider the fact, that while we MIGHT kill ourselves off in a few years, it hasn't actually happened yet. It may never happen. However, even if it does, that doesn't necessarily mean that everything will be over and done with. Humanity may survive on a limited basis and over a few hundred or even thousands of years end up at the same point again (and may proceed to kill themselves all over again) Think Canticle of Leibowitz.

Still, we have no statistical base to work from on this. To make an assumption based on current data, we have 1 civilization that has not managed to kill itself off, and 0 civilizations that have not. This means that there must be an infinite number of civilizations that have survived. (I realize until we have at least ONE civilization that HAS killed itself off, we won't be able to do a real comparison) :)

-Restil

Re:Irresponsible? (2)

hey! (33014) | more than 13 years ago | (#517486)

If this message is received by smart aliens intent on conquering systems then from this info they given that knowledge they should be able to build a weapon to wipe us off the face of this planet.

Well, if they have the technology to deliver a weapon here across interstellar space and were motivated to use it, we're toast. They'd hardly need detailed intelligence.

What is with those squiggly things?? (2)

chewy (38468) | more than 13 years ago | (#517488)

Well.. why don't they just use *our* symbols, and teach ET that from the very beginning.

Maybe it has something to do with export restrictions... :>

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (2)

_ECC_ (43365) | more than 13 years ago | (#517489)

If you read on.. you'll see that the second page:
http://pages.infinit.net/lachapel/seti/page2.htm l
defines mathematical operators.

Nearly the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the 2 (superscript)3021377(/) ? 1 was.... its a power with an operation followed by one... and since this whole page was about defining prime #'s... it must be (the largest) prime we currently know of. So the ? was either + or -.. .since 'even' numbers can't be prime... and you can't get an odd number by multiplying or dividing from 2. (And yes i figured that out without lookin' at the solution, in answer to your question 'did anyone figure this out?')

Anyways... if the alien's had figured this out right away is really not important... its just one part of a very very long and complex msg... hell.. page 8 introduces Hydrogen's spectra... .0001% of the population of earth even knows what this is heh... and only the brightest minds of the alien species will be decyphering this text. If they have the technology necessary to receive this message... then they MUST possess all the knowledge in this entire text.

Chances are they don't hear the message.. if they do... they might not realize the static is a signal. Then they've got to put it into a viewable page format (for them)... and they probably don't use base 10 as their standard numerical base... oh the complications are endless =]

cheers,
ecc

Let's see *you* decipher Morse code (2)

devphil (51341) | more than 13 years ago | (#517491)

Why don't people who are trying to communicate with the rest of the Universe stick to the basics - i.e. morse code?

Because assuming that space aliens understand English would be pathetically stupid?

Don't get me wrong, I mostly agree with the rest of your article. But if you take a fellow Earthling who can't speak English, doesn't know the Roman alphabet, and isn't aware of the truly fucked-up spelling rules we use, and send him a message in Morse, he isn't going to get it either.

Yet another consequence of speaking a language whose vocabulary came from German but whose grammar comes from Latin. :-)

Re:What is with those squiggly things?? (2)

hernick (63550) | more than 13 years ago | (#517493)

Why indeed ?

This message is 127*127*23 (pix*pix*pages*). With "our" symbols, we would either have to lenghten the message significantly or raise the resolution of each of the pages.

By using specially made, compact symbols, we can send a message that's easily readable by people, no matter what their language is or what symbols they use. A message that contains theory on number systems and complex number representations, equations, particles and waves. Measurement of pressure, power, energy, speed, temperature, time. The size of the planets, astronomical and geographical information about earth. Sensory capabilities, DNA, general appearance and other details about humans.

And all of that takes what ? 46 kilobytes ! 46 !

Creating that message is quite a feat if you ask me. It would have been impossible to do it that well with "our symbols".

This picture makes US look like aliens! (2)

PhatKat (78180) | more than 13 years ago | (#517495)

When we finally do make contact, their scientists, intellectuals, techheads and terminally ill are going to be seriously bummed out when they learn that of all the space aliens, they made contact with us: the race that came up with boy bands, electric nose hair trimmers, and beer dispensing hats.

Do them a favor. Encode a message that says "Sorry, Keep trying. Aim a bit more to the left next time."

"p.s. -- we apologize for any movies broadcast to you in the past, present, or future featuring professional basketball players. Especially Shaq. We are so so sorry about Shaq."

Re:What is with those squiggly things?? (2)

erlando (88533) | more than 13 years ago | (#517496)

Not only is it conserving bandwidth, it's also exploiting one of the thought-to-be universally known mathematical concepts: primes. 127 is prime. The symbols are 5x7 pixels. Both primes. All in all this will help (hopefully) the recipients to line up the message.
Hats off to the creators of this message. What frequency did they broadcast it on..? Hydrogen * pi GHz? :o)

They respond with squigles we dont understand (2)

bug1 (96678) | more than 13 years ago | (#517497)

If some aliens got this pictore of squigles, comprehended it and sent back a response in similarly encoded squigles who would understand it ?

Minus sign?? (2)

Lionfire (103856) | more than 13 years ago | (#517498)

Erm... maybe it's just me, but how are you (or they :) supposed to know that the weird, second-last glyph is a minus sign, and what it's for?

Maybe I missed it, but I don't see it described anywhere.

Also, what is the glyph in the middle at the top for?

Space Invaders? (2)

alexburke (119254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517502)

Is it just me, or does the image [nasa.gov] bear a shockingly uncanny resemblance to Space Invaders [atari2600nexus.com] ?

--

Re:I'm not convinced aliens are out there (2)

Jebediah21 (145272) | more than 13 years ago | (#517505)

Looking at the first 16 posts I am not convinced there is any intelligent life out there.

More complicated messages (2)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 13 years ago | (#517508)

People are talking about posting more complicated messages to give instructions on building devices for communication.

In the least, this would show a need for communication between ourselves and another civilization; I believe it would be possible for 1 very simple reason.

The periodic table is as self-evident to an advanced culture as the number system, elements are formed in the table one after the other, and so with a little work we could send anything so long as we use diagrams.

I think it would be a great cosmic disaster to send plans for an atomic bomb [myhometechie.com] to a race which has just mastered radio communications; what's more is, it would be very very funny.

Re:Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (2)

hawkear (172947) | more than 13 years ago | (#517509)

Well, on the next few pages of the transmission, the explanations of +, -, and power notation are given. It would be difficult to comprehend that line without the rest of the message, definitely. Matt

Babel Fish for Aliens (2)

SubtleNuance (184325) | more than 13 years ago | (#517512)

Lets not assume if they receive this message it will be clear. Earth bound people have created a single paradigm for 'written' communication: 2 dimensional images on a flat surface. It is highly unlikely that another civilization uses this same paradigm. Consider: Who's to say that these Aliens wont use a system of arranging 3D rings of differnent colours to convey information. Whats to say they dont simply vomit on the floor and play with it with their appendages? Who says they have appendages? Maybe they blow smoke rings - or exhale globs of frozen methane which they then decorate their 'bodies' with to convey messages??? Who's to say they will have the faintest clue?

By the same logic; are they already sending messages to us? Maybe we are receiving/seeing them and are just so oblivious to their 'communication paradigm' that we dont even recognize it? Maybe the craters on the moon have been 'purposely built' to convey information to us? What about weather patterns? or the frequency of comets?

If these Aliens receive our message I find it very unlikely they will decifer it - they will try to apply the patterned info send in the radio waves to their paradim: and trust me; it wont look like that page of 'digits' we sent...

Do I think this is worthwhile? Absolutely! Its the only method we have - the reward is so great it is beyond imagination - the exploration/colonization of space should be the #1 priority of the planet, instead it seems we have chosen 'other' priorites (consumerism). Really a sad fate for us all - I just hope 250000 years from now 'we' have our priorities on this straight on this planet.

Why is this necessary... (2)

Sabol (210513) | more than 13 years ago | (#517517)

when they are probably too busy trying to decipher the meaning of all the Leave it to Beaver episodes.

Re:Selected Interpretations (2)

flumps (240328) | more than 13 years ago | (#517518)

http://www.matessa.org/~mike/dutil/p8.html [matessa.org]


"And this, Mr Alien, shows you just how memory intesive Windows is..."

~matt~
0
o
.
><>

Moratorium on transmissions (2)

gpig (244284) | more than 13 years ago | (#517519)

I'm sure I saw something on the TV about an international treaty which banned deliberate attempts to contact extraterrestrials, on the grounds that they might come and eat us.

Couldn't find it after a few minutes' googling, so perhaps some of the UFO nuts out there could provide a link or a refutation ....

GUINEAPIG

The solution! (2)

dasunt (249686) | more than 13 years ago | (#517520)

I sat down with pen, paper, and a calculator, and figured it out, using my extrodonary mental powers. It says "first post". :)

Shouldn't this Be Simpler? (2)

egommer (303441) | more than 13 years ago | (#517521)

We as humans believe we have come a long way in science and technology. Yet our own SETI program is simply looking for any simple artificial signal that has a clue intelligent life. Since that is what we are looking for shouln't we be sending that type of signal. A very simple short and repetative signal. Instead many seem set on sending math equations and DNA sequences that may otherwise be missed by other worlds simply looking for a just simple sign of life. Instead they keep trying to send the Libray of Congress. It would thing It would be more effective to send a simple straight forward repeating signal such as a rising and falling tone followed by a short beep. Kind of like a FAX carrir signal. Just let them know we are listening.

Space Spam Earth Troll bit bucket (3)

gelfling (6534) | more than 13 years ago | (#517522)

Not those damn earthlings again! dump 'em in the bit bucket and block all future messages. Stupid kindergarten drivel !!!! Stupid earth trolls. Fuck em.

It's Intergalacticode 26.373 bit encoding. (3)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#517524)

And it says,
By opening this message, you agree to hand over all your tangible assets and intellectual property to the sender.

Moreover, you agree to use our spyware without complaint, to read all the spam we send you, and to buy at least 12% of the products offered.

You are entitled to forward this message to any two additional planets that have not already received it, but half your proceeds from that act must be forwarded to us, 1/4 quarter to the assholes who sent us this message, 1/8 to the assholes who sent this message to them, and so forth, yea unto the seventh iteration.

To opt out of further offers such as this one, please paint your entire planet pink and notify us of your IG address so our astronomers can verify it. Be warned that they will watch your planet for a complete rotational period, so do not skimp on painting the far side. Please include 3 Union currency to cover our expenses.

Notice that opt-outs are only valid until we decide to reset our database to the default values. At such time you may be required to pay an additional small fee if your settings did not correspond to the default at the time of the resetting.

Disputes pertaining to this contract shall be settled in the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia on the Planet Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy.

If you do not like the terms of this license, please contact your friendly Customer Service Representative at 347 5417, 455 4013.

Thank you for being a sucker.

--

Re:Explains why SETI is unsuccessful... (3)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#517525)

> And what's the whole idea with using pictures anyway? Before the aliens even get to figuring out how to interpret/understand it, they've got to get displaying it right

The real tragedy is that it was received on Achernar VII, where the symbol for "=" looks like their 2/3males, the symbol for "1" looks like their 2/3females, and the symbol for "2" looks like their 1/3male1/3females, and the combination "=12" at the middle right, which uses those three symbols, looks like a carnal conjunctive configuration that is not approved by their majority religion. Worse, if they count to 12 on their fingers it leaves the hand in the shape of an obscene jesture.

We are now at war with the Achernar VIIlings. Their High Thwip has ordained 3.26 fippur lashings for every citizen of the planet that sent the foul message, as soon as his god teleports us there so he can administer them.

May our own gods postpone that day: they're really going to be offended if they discover that we don't have fippurs to receive the lashings on!

--

Message SHOULD include non-obvious information. (3)

hey! (33014) | more than 13 years ago | (#517526)

If they already know this prime it's be pretty easy; especially if they had anything like 'IT'. I tried a google search on 3,021,377 and in turned up lots of stuff about (2 ^ 3,021,377) - 1.

If they don't know this prime already and don't know about Mersenne primes, it's going to be pretty tricky, but they may be able to figure it out given that they can decode later parts of the message. Maybe they'll start looking into Mersenne primes if they didn't know them already.

I think encoding some non-obvious data is a really interesting idea. Sure, start with the lowest primes, but once you get past 13 or so you're just wasting space -- they're sure to have figured it out and if they haven't its hopeless. BUT -- when the first alien geek figures this out, there is going to be a moment of "aha" -- a meeting of minds across interstellar space.

Formatting (3)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 13 years ago | (#517527)

They must have used windows to make this.

I'm getting an extra ^M at the end of each line. This is sure to cause "stair stepping," as any superior alien race is sure to be using UNIX.

-Peter

There's more than one image! (3)

alexburke (119254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517529)

The linked page is the first of 23 such images that made up the complete transmitted image. Here's a list [matessa.org] of all of them.

--

Selected Interpretations (3)

alexburke (119254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517530)

Some of the other 22 images making up the complete transmitted message deserve, IMO, a closer look:

A lot of thought obviously went into the preparation of the complete message. My hat's off to the team that came up with it!

--

Correction to Selected Interpretations (3)

alexburke (119254) | more than 13 years ago | (#517531)



My bad: these two images are two halves of one image (indicated by the alignment marks on the right-hand side of 19 and the left-hand side of 20) and depict Earth's continents in today's layout, but with an East-Up layout that confused me at first.

--

Surprised (3)

T. (128661) | more than 13 years ago | (#517532)

I am surprised that this sort message has not been sent out many, many times already. But, after reading the links, it appears that this is the longest message and the first since 1974. (Correct me if I am wrong here.) It would seem that the chance would be vanishingly small that any alien intelligence will intercept this message as it would require a series of increasingly improbable events. To see why, consider what is needed for successful reception (ingoring the possibility for successful message interpretation): (1) An alien intelligence; (2) an alien intelligence in at least one target location; (3) an alien intelligence in at least one target location that will have a 1 km^2 radio anntenna array; (4) an alien intelligence in at least one target location that will have a 1 km^2 radio anntenna array and will have detectors tuned to 5 GHz; (5) an alien intelligence in at least one target location that will have a 1 km^2 radio anntenna array and will have detectors tuned to 5 GHz and will be analyzing signals originating from our region; (6) an alien intelligence in at least one target location that will have a 1 km^2 radio anntenna array and will have detectors tuned to 5 GHz and will be analyzing signals originating from our region for one of 60 of a possible 180 minutes sometime within the next 70-100 years. Now, being intelligent ourselves and seriously hoping that this far-fetched scheme works, why are we not sending these messages out more frequently? Was the message SETI is hoping to recieve sent out 20 (or even 20 million) years ago?

We should be asking them questions... (3)

Sabol (210513) | more than 13 years ago | (#517534)

maybe they know what 'IT' is!

Re: Just submit a patch... (3)

Fortyseven (240736) | more than 13 years ago | (#517535)

...Incoming Patch...
CRYPTIC ALIEN MESSAGE 2.0

What's New:

- Updated largest prime.
- Added new page with my world (now galaxy) famous chocolate cookie recipie.
- Removed Iraq from world map just to be a jerk, but may return in a future patch...

This is the message: (5)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 13 years ago | (#517536)

Holy Cow,
this is almost plaintext in the Furth language, just shifted 13 places in the alphabet.

The message reads:

Greetings Furths,
The race of humans has just learnt of your existance, after polluting our own planet, strip-mined it and centuries of brutal war with machines of devastating descruction, we finally found your planet.

Please prepare for our resource probe fleet, due to land in 378 years (203 Furth years).

Looking forward to meeting you.

- The Eartlings

--
Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

Seems poor method for "largest prime found" (5)

samorris (125056) | more than 13 years ago | (#517537)

Unless I missed something, I disagree with their method of denoting the "largest prime found so far"...

They start out by defining a series of symbols and methodology of representing base 10 numbers and equality using a set of (apparently) arbitrary symbols, by displaying the base 1 and base 2 equivalents. This seems fair, though I'm not sure I would have bothered with base 10.

They then include the first 24 prime numbers using the notation introduced above, which seems good.

Then suddenly they jump to including something that the decoded as:

3021377
2 ?1

with the "?" being a symbol that was not included anywhere else on the first page. This caused me quite a bit of confusion... especially the unknown symbol. I was beginning to think they had made a typo, or that it was one of the number symbols garbled. It looked more similar to the number symbols than the equality symbol, so I assumed that it was a number or letter, not a non-number symbol, such as a arithmetic operation or decimal point.

The number itself didn't seem to give any hints either... I was assuming that it was going to be something like pi or the natural log of 10... but the number wasn't familiar.

Turns out they intended this to mean 2**3021377 - 1, which they claim is the largest prime found at the time this was written.

This seems unnecessarily confusing for some poor alien trying to figure it out. In one step, they introduce a new symbol (without any context), indicating substraction, a method of denoting exponents (without introducing exponents), all to describe a number that provides someone trying to decode it no clue as to what the new symbol and new denotation mean.

Did anyone else figure out the "largest prime" on their own? Is there some other clue that I missed?

-- Scott
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