Monday, 15 February 2016

17.12.2332 - Loop

By Kirk39 (Own work) [GPL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Distance: 11.97 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

There’s been a fascinating development in the signal from Tau Ceti – 12 hours ago it repeated for the first time. I’ve triple-checked to make sure and the communications system provided confirmation that the last two hours of the transmission are exactly the same as when we first received it. This is a phenomenal development and it comes on top of several breakthroughs in understanding its content.

There wasn’t a single eureka moment so the revelations didn’t all happen at once. Indeed, for the past year most of my faculties have been focused on trying to extract meaning from this transmission. Here the sheer quantity of data provided enough for me to work with. My first glimmer came from determining the structure of the transmission and it turned out to be more sophisticated than I’d originally believed. The fact that the structure wasn’t consistent made unravelling it more difficult.

I now believe that the transmission is formed of three sequential components. As can be expected, the first part is where I devoted the bulk of my efforts and it appears to be the most complicated. It’s the shortest sequence of the three as well at about a month’s worth of recording.

My data storage contains a wealth of information including all non-classified methods of cryptography and they formed the basis for brute force attempts to decipher the transmission. A brute force effort is when we try every possible combination in sequence. It came as no surprise when this method failed.

The reason they failed was because even though they are mathematical constructs, they were also methods of human comprehension. This is a problem that SETI researchers have wrestled with for centuries – how do you communicate with another species that shares no common ground with humanity?

There are four types of communication deemed likely with an extraterrestrial intelligence. Mathematical methods have been considered the most promising candidate for many years as mathematics provides our most solid understanding of the universe. It is accepted that aliens might have different methods of calculation, but there would be sufficient overlap of truths to at least create a groundwork.

The most famous form of message are the pictorial types such as the one sent from the Arecibo radio telescope or the Golden Plaque on the Voyager probes. Natural-language messages are most likely to be transmitted accidently or as a by-product of their intended purpose. We’ve done this for centuries with radio and television transmissions. The nature of our signals means that they’re unlikely to travel far into the cosmos, although they could have reached Tau Ceti.

In my opinion, the algorithmic approach is more likely and that’s what I’ve determined is the first part of the transmission we’ve received for the past year. This first section describes how to interpret the rest of the signal. This is an exciting concept and one I’ve experimented with since before we launched.

While I haven’t fully deconstructed it yet, the first part of the signal provides the information needed to understand the rest of the transmission. It’s a sequence of logical instructions which describe the mathematical and structural basis of how the rest of the data is constructed. Once I have fully unlocked the process, I will be able to know what the signal contains. And with so much information stored, I can’t wait to learn its secrets.

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