In 1974, the Arecibo radio/radar telescope transmitted a message designed by Frank Drake toward globular star cluster M13. Drake designed a message, transmitted as 1679 bits, which encoded an image of 23 by 73 pixels, the dimensions specified by the two prime factors of the message size. It was assumed aliens who received the message would observe the length was the product of two primes, arrange the bits in a rectangle, and begin to puzzle out its meaning. Here is Drake’s Arecibo message, with colour added to identify components.
How much can you figure out without reading the description?
Now, in a paper posted on arXiv on 2022-03-04, “A Beacon in the Galaxy: Updated Arecibo Message for Potential FAST and SETI Projects”, a group of authors present an updated message for potential future transmissions from Earth. Here is the abstract.
An updated, binary-coded message has been developed for transmission to extraterrestrial intelligences in the Milky Way galaxy. The proposed message includes basic mathematical and physical concepts to establish a universal means of communication followed by information on the biochemical composition of life on Earth, the Solar System’s time-stamped position in the Milky Way relative to known globular clusters, as well as digitized depictions of the Solar System, and Earth’s surface. The message concludes with digitized images of the human form, along with an invitation for any receiving intelligences to respond. Calculation of the optimal timing during a given calendar year is specified for potential future transmission from both the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope in China and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California to a selected region of the Milky Way which has been proposed as the most likely for life to have developed. These powerful new beacons, the successors to the Arecibo radio telescope which transmitted the 1974 message upon which this expanded communication is in part based, can carry forward Arecibo’s legacy into the 21st century with this equally well-constructed communication from Earth’s technological civilization.
The message consists of 13 panels which begin describing numbers and progress to more complex concepts in mathematics, physics, biology, and the location of the solar system in the galaxy. Here is the panel describing basic particle physics and defining units of time, frequency, and length in terms of the spin-flip of the hydrogen atom which could be observed by any recipient of the message.
How much can you figure out from the message images in the paper? Should such a message be sent out into the galaxy?