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  1. Feb 22, 2010 #1

    BobG

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    By 1960, new radio telescopes were capable of detecting radio signals from at least the nearest stars and scientists began to consider what a message from outer space might look like.

    Dr. Frank Drake (the originator of the Drake Equation) came up with this first attempt at what a message from a race similar to ours, but from a different solar system, might look like. As a test, he sent this 551 character message to virtually every scientist with a serious interest in searching for extra-terrestrials - all eleven of them!

    This is the message Drake came up with:

    Deciphering it will be hard since, being from an alien solar system, a lot of clues that might be present in a message from Earth will be non-existent in a message to Earth. The only things that the two races will share will be mathematics, physics, chemistry, celestial mechanics, etc. i.e. - science and math are the most likely common links between the two races.

    If you can't figure it out, don't feel too bad. Of the scientists Drake sent his message to, only one, Barney Oliver, was able to decipher at least enough of the message to get the gist of what Drake was doing. He understood enough that he was able to construct his own reply asking if Drake wanted to meet for a drink.
     
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  3. Feb 22, 2010 #2

    BobG

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    Not only did Oliver decipher Drake's message, but he helped develop an improved format. A "good" message should be easier for a completely alien race to decipher and Oliver and Drake figured the main problem with Drake's message was cramming too much info in too short of a message. A little less ambition with a little longer message should make the message more understandable.

    In other words, even though this one's longer at 1271 characters, it should be easier than the first one to decode:

     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2010
  4. Feb 22, 2010 #3

    BobG

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    And, finally, by 1974, a new transmitter at the Arecibo Observatory was powerful enough for planet Earth to actually transmit messages to space instead of passively awaiting messages. Actually, we've been transmitting messages into space ever since the invention of radio, but, in practice, those signals would be so weak and jumbled with so many other signals that they won't convey much. The Arecibo antenna could focus half a million watts of power on a small area of space. To increase the chance of someone receiving the signal, the signal was aimed at a globular cluster of stars in the constellation Hercules.

    With years of working on the idea of communicating with alien races, the message actually transmitted from Arecibo on Nove 16, 1974, is probably the easiest of the three messages to decipher. It's 1679 characters long.

     
  5. Feb 22, 2010 #4

    Borek

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    Let's start with something that can be solved much faster, but is based on the same principle.

     
  6. Feb 22, 2010 #5
    Code (Text):
    0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
     
  7. Feb 22, 2010 #6

    BobG

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    I like hamster's and wonder why Drake, Oliver, et al chose the format they did. With the square of a prime number, there's only one way the message could be laid out.
     
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