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Mysterious Letter Sent To Fermilab

  1. Jul 11, 2008 #1


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    So, did anyone here participated in trying to http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-fermilab-code-both-11jul11,0,1755934.story" [Broken] sent to Fermilab a few weeks ago?

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  3. Jul 11, 2008 #2


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    Here is the whole letter.


    Perhaps the noise was made to look like symbols in the middle and the message looks like noise as the preamble/postamble?
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  4. Jul 11, 2008 #3
    Weird notches in an archaic language? This is a job for FORTRAN.
  5. Jul 11, 2008 #4


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    The top and bottom just look like binary code with the spaces representing zeros.

    Of course, if the person isn't very intelligent, what makes sense to them may not make sense at all. I wouldn't assume the sender is intelligent about code. And adding things that aren't there in order to create a message, I don't know.

    But what do I know? Why even bother sending such a thing?
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2008
  6. Jul 11, 2008 #5
    Now both of you are actually giving excellent clues ! :approve:
    It is ternary code and has been deciphered as such already. But what people might not have thought about is the concept of top and bottom !
    I think it might be worth to give it a try ! Considering that it is very likely an insider...
  7. Jul 11, 2008 #6
    The top and bottom parts say
    The name is a not-very-well known fermilab physicist (now retired).
  8. Jul 11, 2008 #7


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    Still probably some kid. Why would an older person send such a pointless message?

    Didn't the article say the pesron that deciphered the message use base 3 and add to it?
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2008
  9. Jul 11, 2008 #8
    The top and bottom part making sense, there is a good deal of chance that physicists will want to figure out the rest of it, especially if it is difficult. So, since it must be an insider who knows about the retired guy, we have only two possibilities : either it is a very very bad joke and the middle is noise, or it actually makes sense and those guys will eventually figure it out. The sender must have knows that they would decipher the top and bottom easily. There remains a possibility that he is testing them, trying to see if they can make sense out of noise ! (that is, be fooled that there is sense, find one, but there really was not). Whatever, in any case, I think it is quite amusing.
  10. Jul 11, 2008 #9


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    Yes, I see your point.
  11. Jul 11, 2008 #10
    It is especially interesting that the bottom part says "basse 16", and the middle part has numbers and letters up to G attached, like in base 16. It might not be an error that "base" has been written with two "s".

    Still being aware how silly this is, but not being ashamed to admitting having fun :crazy:
  12. Jul 11, 2008 #11


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    Maybe you'll be the one to solve it.
  13. Jul 11, 2008 #12
    What else do old people have to do? Kids don't go on their lawns anymore because of video games, so they have nobody to yell at.
  14. Jul 11, 2008 #13
    You think too highly of me. :smile: But we'll see, I wish ! :tongue2: jimmysnyder is very good in the brain teaser section, maybe he'll crack it first !
  15. Jul 11, 2008 #14
    My guess is that the first and third part would be deciphered easily, like humanino said--- and that its the code for deciphering the center part.


    The 'BASSE' is the hint for the rest with the two letters, I'm guessing. --And maybe it was needed to emphasize or to place a needed 'S' in the taking of the words with double letters in them. 'L' 'E' 'E' 'S' 'E'----(nois'ee'mploy'ee')--

    -and why would 'number' be separated from 'sixteen' ?----'employees base' --'number sixteen' ?

    and they both could be anagrams to help decipher the center part

    Money Experiment Useless, Babe
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2008
  16. Jul 11, 2008 #15
    It's a publicity stunt to get more cash from the government.
  17. Jul 11, 2008 #16
    I agree with you..

    Even if that's not the case, I wonder if curiosity should drive people this far.

    That would just be a useless even when fully decrypted.
  18. Jul 11, 2008 #17


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    Whatever the case, the middle message is surprisingly sparse - information-wise.

    There are 2 rows of 12 couplets giving no reason to suppose that a symbol above can ever not be paired with whatever is below. Hence the couplets themselves can only be considered as joined and representing a single unit of information, or at the very least convey an equivalence.

    The 3 stragglers on the last line, absent the companion symbols below for the last row, still show an uncoupled "s" (from the rows of couplets above) as the first character. "F C" finishes the section of the message, if there is an intended translation. The extra "s" being thrown in to possibly confuse as in the last section with the extra "s" in "BASSE".

    It is for that reason that I initially suggested that it was challenging the notion about what was noise and what was not. Possibly even a message from Shoemaker himself wanting to challenge his old colleagues. (Check it for prints.)

    Regardless, whatever the middle message may be, it is apparently not a long message. And if it was important would, or will be, revealed by other means.
  19. Jul 12, 2008 #18


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    Weird, The symbols in the center part remind me of character gens from some of the original ASCII terminals.
    They varied a bit for different makes/
    That equipment is a good 35 years old now and that kind of detail is a little fuzzy.

    For example the symbol shown above the 6 would be produced by hitting the shift + 6-key or the one with the F would be cntrl + F (it would rotate with T, G and V or something like that).

    Perhaps you need to apply decryption algorithm to the symbol bit pattern
  20. Jul 12, 2008 #19


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    I did note a couple of other considerations about the original letter image.

    That is looking at the shading on the blank unlined 3 hole paper and the hole punches of the image - such as it is - it might be reasonable to think it came from a 3 ring binder with the middle ring bent slightly toward the top. Moreover, inferring from the curvature of the paper I'd guess it was a 1" thick binder, and not a 2" or greater. Also as a guess I'd say it was one of the few papers in the binder or it was toward the back.

    What is not known is whether the Fermilab itself punched the holes and kept it in a binder in this manner as part of their filing or whether that image is the original as received.
  21. Jul 12, 2008 #20
    Here's what the original Fermilab blog post about it said:

    "Note that this scan is from a fax of the original. The holes punched in it were not in the original and a tiny sliver has been cut off the top of the page where the fax information was printed."

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