Alien Decryption Challenge –“Could the Citizens of Earth Decode a Message from a Civilization a Billion Years Older than Ours?”




Last year, Rene Heller from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research created a simulated message from an alien civilization a billion years older than Earth, and released it on Twitter and Facebook for the world crowdsource and decode.

“On Tuesday, 26 April 2016, I submitted a fake SETI message to the social media Twitter and Facebook and called it the SETI Decrypt Challenge,” say Heller, asking the citizens of Planet Earth to imagine that Earth has received a message in the form of series of radio pulses from a fixed, unresolved source about 50 light years from Earth. These pulses have been received in a narrow band around an electromagnetic frequency of 452.13 MHz, a frequency that is pi times the emission frequency of neutral hydrogen atoms.

(In the image below Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in locations around the world in the brilliant 2016 science-fiction epic, Arrival. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to to decipher the otherworldly language of the Heptapods, an alien race who has descended across the earth).



The Challenge ended on June 3rd. Today, Heller publishes the results of this experiment reported by the MIT Technology Review, showing how the world cracked the alien code. Heller placed an audio version of the message on Soundcloud (LISTEN HERE), using prime number techniques employed in messaging extraterrestrial intelligences. The message consists of a number of pictures that can be constructed by arranging the data in an array of specific dimensions: 359 by 757 pixels (both prime numbers) and are defined at the beginning of the message by sequences 757 0s and 359 1s. This encodes the first page of the message, which is otherwise blank. In total, the message contains seven pages (another prime number).

The final page encodes two numbers equivalent to a distance about 100 times larger than the Earth-moon distance and six billion years. It also displays an image of four astronomical objects, one of which is next to an image of an alien. The implication here is that this depicts ET’s home planet, which is a billion years older than ours.

Here’s Heller’s challenge: Suppose a telescope on Earth receives a series of pulses from a fixed, unresolved source beyond the solar system. The source is a star about 50 light years from Earth. The pulses are in the form of short/long signals and they are received in a very narrow band around an electromagnetic frequency of 452.12919 MHz.

A computer algorithm identifies the artificial nature of the pulses. It turns out the pulses carry a message. The pulses signify binary digits. Suppose further that you were, by whatsoever reason, put in charge of decoding this message. If you successfully decrypted the message, you should be able to answer the following questions:

1. What is the typical body height of our interstellar counterparts?

2. What is their typical lifetime?

3. What is the scale of the devices they used to submit their message?

4. Since when have they been communicating interstellar?

5. What kind of object do they live on?

6. How old is their stellar system?
The competition closes on 3 June.

Heller released this message on social media on April 26, 2016, and it didn’t take long for the world to respond. Heller received the first correct solution by e-mail the following day, and the number of responses increased as news of the challenge spread resulting in 66 correct solutions, two of which were from high school students.

But Heller’s work shows that the global community is capable of decoding such a message. “Distribution in the social media would not only offer an efficient means of decryption but also offer an unprecedented opportunity to unite humans all over the globe in a common scientific and cultural effort,” he concluded.

Ref: Decryption of Messages from Extraterrestrial Intelligence Using the Power of Social Media—The SETI Decrypt Challenge

The Daily Galaxy via MIT Technology Review, and  Daily Mail


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