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The Drake Puzzle

The Drake Puzzle is an experiment in communication, based on an original concept by the astronomer Frank Drake. Drake was pondering the question of communication without preamble: can an unsolicited message sent by one civilization be received by an unknown extraterrestrial intelligence, decoded and understood.

To test this question, Drake composed a message which he sent to many of his astronomy colleagues around the world without any explanation. The message was simply a string of 1's and 0's. Everyone who received the message was able to interpret it -- the 1's and 0's were simply the information to form a digital picture of sorts. The picture encoded some fundamental concepts from math and astrophysics that any science aware intelligence should understand.

The most famous implementation of the Drake Puzzle concept is the Arecibo Message, which was sent from the Arecibo Radio Telescope toward the globular cluster M13 in 1974.

The puzzle here is a simple hueristic exercise in interpreting and writing your own Drake Puzzle. The messages shown here are not reasonable ones since they are rooted in the precepts of human culture, but the puzzles will teach you the basics of constructing the binary message to start with.

Adler Planetarium -- Conversations with the Cosmos (Fall 2013) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
Starhouse Discovery Center (Dec 2010) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
Montana (Jan 2010) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
Astro 1040 (USU Fall 2008) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
WSU Physics Open House (April 2008) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
Astro 1040 (WSU Spring 2008) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
Frontiers (Spring 2007) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)
Astro 1040 (WSU Spring 2007) Puzzle (PDF) Solution (PDF)


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