A message that will be broadcast into space later in 2002 has been released to scientists worldwide, so that they can test that it to make sure it be decoded easily. If the new message was based on language, it would be impossible for an alien intelligence to decode it. So the designers converted a two-dimensional image into a binary string of ones and zeros that can be easily be transmitted as a radio or laser signal.

The image has not been revealed to the scientists who are testing it, and about 10 per cent meaningless noise has been added to the data. Some parts have even been deleted. This degradation of the message is intended to simulate the interference that might be experienced during transmission to distant planets.

The binary string is designed to provide clues that should make it decipherable even with significant disruption. A previous message written by Dutil and Dumas was found to contain an error that could have seriously confused an alien recipient if it had not been corrected before it was transmitted. They plan to develop a software system that can automatically decode alien messages, regardless of excess noise. A number of telescopes around the world are used to search for patterns in the radio waves that reach Earth. If a message were identified, it might be possible to decode it using an automated system based on well-developed techniques used in cryptanalysis, as well as principles of linguistic and statistical analysis.

Douglas Vakoch, head of the Interstellar Message Group at the SETI says that deciphering a reply may prove very tricky. ?Our biggest challenge will be to keep open to new types of messages that we had not previously considered,? he says.

The researchers hope to transmit the message by laser in February 2002 through Celestis, a U.S. company specializing in space projects. Will we again get a reply in the spring, in the form of a crop circle?

To read the new message,click here.

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