Note to readers: I have a little more detail (including an explanation for the spelling of “BASSE”) up at Fermilab’s Strange Letter – Interlude.

Well, now we’re getting somewhere with the strange letter Fermilab received. For context, Fermilab (a theoretical physics laboratory) recieved a strange letter in code a year ago that they’ve now released to the public. It can be seen here.

Ternary Paragraph

The first paragraph is made entirely of three different symbols, I, II, and III.

If we let I=1, II=2, and III=0 we have:

020 200 001 112 102
000 201 022 120 012
111 001 102 012 200
000 212 120 210 110
011 000 010 001 110
110 000 202 022 100
201 000 112 120 100
201 012

Note that this transcription assumes that the “I” at the end of line 6 and the “II” at the start of line 7 are in fact a single “III”. Now let’s assume that since there are 27 possible combinations in these ternany units, each corresponds to a letter of the alphabet (26 total) or a space (add 1 for 27). A naive mapping would be:

Combination Mapping 1
000 A
001 B
002 C
010 D
011 E
012 F
020 G
021 H
022 I
100 J
101 K
102 L
110 M
111 N
112 O
120 P
121 Q
122 R
200 S
201 T
202 U
210 V
211 W
212 X
220 Y
221 Z
222 (space)

This gives:

G S B O L
A T I P F
N B L F S
A X P V M
E A D B M
M A U I J
T A O P J
T F

“GSBOLATIPFNBLFSAXPVMEADBMMAUIJTAOPJTF” doesn’t seem too helpful. Perhaps a different map would be more appropriate? Let’s vary the first naive mapping slightly.

Combination Mapping 1 Mapping 2
000 A (space)
001 B A
002 C B
010 D C
011 E D
012 F E
020 G F
021 H G
022 I H
100 J I
101 K J
102 L K
110 M L
111 N M
112 O N
120 P O
121 Q P
122 R Q
200 S R
201 T S
202 U T
210 V U
211 W V
212 X W
220 Y X
221 Z Y
222 (space) Z

This is a very simple mapping, we just set space to be 000 instead of 222. We get a very interesting result:

F R A N K
S H O E
M A K E R
W O U L
D C A L
L T H I
S N O I
S E

“FRANK SHOEMAKER WOULD CALL THIS NOISE”. Frank Shoemaker worked on the main ring of Fermilab. It seems very unlikely to me that this is coincidence.

Binary Paragraph

Now if we look at the last paragraph, it’s clearly different than the first in terms of notation. Only I and II are used.

However, if we assume that “II” is a separator and “I”=1 “I I”=2, and “I I I”=0, we get the following:

012 111 121 110 120
221 012 012 000 112
210 111 002 012 200
000 002 001 201 201
012 000 201 100 220
202 012 012 112

Note that this transcription assumes an error. At the end of line 2 and the beginning of line 3 there is a section “I I I I I I I I” that is assumed to mean 000 when it should read “I I I II I I I II I I I”. If we use Mapping 2 to substitute in a manner like before we get the following:

E M P L O
Y E E N
U M B E R
B A S S
E S I X
T E E N

“EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN” – which clicks with the hexadecimal numbers and corresponding symbols in the middle! Note that the mapping is simply the first “naive” mapping offset by one.

So lets assume the single “word” in the bottom middle of the page is an employee number. If we decode it using the symbols, we get (something)FC. (something) is an undefined symbol, and the only undefined numbers are 1 and A.

So the “employee number in base 16” that “frank shoemaker would call noise” is either 1FC or AFC.

My guess? It’s AFC (employee number 2812), who works on the AFC (Absorber Focus Coil, a component of a “neutrino factory” current being studied at Fermilab) – a coincidence Frank Shoemaker would call noise. The employee number is reasonable and fits with the established pattern at Fermilab, see this Fermilab newsletter (page 5) which states “At 802, with only three digits, Matthews’ employee number reflects the length of his 25-year tenure at the Lab”.

The only thing left is rigorously figuring out the meaning of the hexadecimal section in my opinion. What does everyone else think?

255 thoughts on “Fermilab’s Strange Letter – Progress

  1. I no longer think that there is any significance to the structure (aka. grid) that might have been theoretically applied to the first stanza. Have a look at the following image which shows just how out-of-whack the columns are in the first stanza.

    http://synhxd.sourceforge.net/images/stanza_one.jpg

    I took the first stanza into my trusty Gimp and colorized it, drawing boundaries for the following:

    1. A light-blue boundary was first drawn around each tick mark
    2. A llight-red boundary was then drawn around tick-mark groups, grouping them into trinary values
    3. A green box was then drawn around groups of three trits
    4. Lastly, the trinary triplet is decoded and the corresponding values are overlayed

    Just to show that the author probably didn’t intend to strictly align the tick marks, I have done my best to align the columns. To do this, I first rotated the entire page 2 degrees CCW. Then, after I had bounded each tick mark, I drew a dotted-line from the center of each tick to the center of closest tick in the next row. You can see that it didn’t look very good afterwards (which leads me to believe that he/she didn’t even use graph paper; the rows are straight, but the columns are WAY off).

    In the picture, you can see some question marks. Some seemingly apparent columns disappear, introduce double-spacing, and cause strange formations.

    Let me know what you think and if it gives any idea. Also, let me know if you want the same thing done to the last stanza.

  2. I no longer think that there is any significance to the structure (aka. grid) that might have been theoretically applied to the first stanza. Have a look at the following image which shows just how out-of-whack the columns are in the first stanza.

    http : / / synhxd.sourceforge.net / images / stanza_one.jpg

    I took the first stanza into my trusty Gimp and colorized it, drawing boundaries for the following:

    1. A light-blue boundary was first drawn around each tick mark
    2. A llight-red boundary was then drawn around tick-mark groups, grouping them into trinary values
    3. A green box was then drawn around groups of three trits
    4. Lastly, the trinary triplet is decoded and the corresponding values are overlayed

    Just to show that the author probably didn’t intend to strictly align the tick marks, I have done my best to align the columns. To do this, I first rotated the entire page 2 degrees CCW. Then, after I had bounded each tick mark, I drew a dotted-line from the center of each tick to the center of closest tick in the next row. You can see that it didn’t look very good afterwards (which leads me to believe that he/she didn’t even use graph paper; the rows are straight, but the columns are WAY off).

    In the picture, you can see some question marks. Some seemingly apparent columns disappear, introduce double-spacing, and cause strange formations.

    Let me know what you think and if it gives any idea. Also, let me know if you want the same thing done to the last stanza.

  3. Devin, when tracing something, the overlaying paper shifts if not anchored down properly. I think that your graph paper theory is a good direction. Where you have question marks on you graphic, they correlate with shifts in the paper. There isn’t any meaning there, just poor craftsmanship. I’m thinking the person who wrote this is left handed based on this “paper shift” but a making a version of this graphic for the last stanza could help. Hope that helps

  4. Finished producing the overlays for the bottom portion:
    http://synhxd.sourceforge.net/images/stanza_last.jpg

    @ 203, Pete,

    You may be right, that a grid was still used. Analyzing the last stanza shows that a grid might have been used after-all. The last stanza appears to be a bit more rigid than the first. I also noticed some key areas that have problems such as double-spacing, lack of indentation, and even what appears to be “a period” (directly after the “R” in “NUMBER”).

    By-the-way, you’ll notice that in my analysis of both images, there are “dots” that have been outlined as if they are a stroke. I did not blindly just decide to outline them, rather I ran several Gimp filters on the image to determine what could be a stroke versus specks of dust. The dots, interestingly enough, appear to have direction to them and under certain filters you can see where the pen initially made contact with the paper (on all strokes including the outlined dots). Just thought that I’d mention that.

  5. Devin – I’ve looked at the question of if a grid were applied too and have reached a different way of looking at it:

    http://img92.imageshack.us/my.php?image=gridornotww1.jpg

    I rotated the image to approximate a vertical alignment of the left side, then drew a rough series of verticals between each of the top line marks and the lowest “matching” marks.

    Doing so, shows excellent alignment for the top row and the bottom 3, and most of the 2nd row. The 3rd – 5th rows however each appear to show an approximate slip to the left of one space starting roughly where I’ve placed the pink rectangle. Most of the rest of the marks (from left to right) on those rows appear to be approx 1/2 to 1 space out of line then.

    Given how well the top and bottom rows match the grid, I’m suspecting this is an example of poor draftsmanship in transferring the code to the blank page before sending rather than hidden additional information, although if sufficient care were taken then it is conceivable that deviations from the exact spacing may in itself contain deeper coded information. This would seem unlikely given the apparent pen man ship and that only part of the code appears to have “slipped”. My best guess would be that the code was initially created on a grid (perhaps even using a computer to print it) and then traced onto the blank sheet to be sent – but that in the process, the sheet being traced slipped a few times slightly. I further suspect that the tracing wasn’t done systematically from top to bottom/left to right, and that the top and bottom rows were traced first, then the left side, and then the central “block” – and the slip happened during the last block. Perhaps the coder was becoming tired of it, or moved the sheet to check their progress and then failed to align it accurately again.

    Given this level of error in the tracing (if true), I further suspect that the speculation that the dots on the page, line lengths or other details of the marks contain further information will prove fruitless as it would appear that the coder does not posses the necessary degree of accuracy to have conveyed details of that subtly.

  6. @ 205, Nick,

    I tried the same thing that you are attempting to do in your graphic. Attempting to draw lines in-between each supposed column doesn’t work and will cause errors in the decoding process if you attempt to draw straight lines down the page (regardless of whether you rotate CW or CCW to straighten any edge). For more information, see my post/reply on the interlude page.

    I actually found it more beneficial to rotate CCW to align the right-side. However, if you REALLY want to align columns, the only way that it can be done is to mimic the paper-shift that occurred during the encoding process. It looks like to me that the paper-shift happened in different degrees in different areas. You could really align these buggers pretty well if you give a 1.5 degree CCW shift up to 30% in from the left, 2 degree CCW from 30% to 60%, 2.2 degree up to 75%, 2.3 degre up to 90% and 2.4 degree CCW for the far-right.

    YMMV

  7. Hi,

    I was looking into the seemingly random dots on the sheet. As suggested before, they could be a map overlay of some kind.
    If that is true, we need a couple of things.
    1. what is the scale of the overlay (SFC)
    2. what are the anchor points on the labs domain (center of the cheveron, probably, but we need two)
    3. what was the projection base of the original map. (this might be a topo map, or an ortho photo)

    With one overlay I got pretty close so that the dots indicated junctions, however they seemed a bit rotated, about 1 to 2 degrees off. Needs further investigation.

    My best guess till now is :
    First Stanza : Frank and the noise, mean the dots on the sheet
    Second Stanza : Indicate that the dots are actually a map, by using the symbols a route description towards the middle of the accelerator (as explained in my previous post), and meanwhile giving us one or perhaps two of the anchor points.
    The hex notation might still be the employee’s number in some base 16 format.
    SFC: Scale of the map? (1:252000)
    Third stanza: Signature of the author (or the way to find his employee number)

    Okey, it seems a long shot. 🙂
    Greetz,
    Nico

  8. Oh, BTW as I was just looking a the bottom part as if it were a stereogram, lo and behold,
    a slew of the ticks jump to the foreground and the others to the background. I guess the
    sequence just needs to be decoded.

  9. First row is HIGH byte
    Second row is LOW byte.
    1111011000001100101101111110100101011101100000101111111000100100
    Break into 4 bit groups.

    Value of bits, in binary =

    15 6 0 12 11 7 14 9 5 13 8 2 15 14 24 (plus 64 for ascii)

    O F @ L K G N I E M H B O N B D
    H@ (Hbomb Ferguson)
    BBKING
    MENOFOLD

    This very well could be noise to F.Shoemaker.

    Um… Still need to figure out the picture part of it…. but.. we’re close.

    ~William Fisher…

  10. Men of Old

    As with gladness, men of old
    Did the guiding star behold
    As with joy they hailed its light
    Leading onward, beaming bright…

  11. Pingback: The Fermilab Shoemaker Cryptogram | Marriage Blog
  12. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article , but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  13. Hrm. Seems my software likes to eat bits.
    It’s safer to ignore anything i’ve posted, unless it inspires you to double-check output.

    *sad sigh*

  14. Just a bizarre thought. Could f0be58f2fd63 and 6c79d2e493e6 be translated to f0:be:58:f2:fd:63 and 6c:79:d2:e4:93:e6 and be mac addresses. It just looks like a simple mac address.

  15. Adding to the noise – late…

    note: 2nd stanza has exactly 10 unique characters in each 12-character line?

    While the F & C symbols are singled out in the last line, the F occurs only in association with the first glyph/hex couplet and the C only with the second.

    Someone is having fun watching us make wonderful, elaborate, theories about his/her message. There will turn out to be a UFO/Templar connection soon 😉

  16. I have figured it out… It is coordinates. Convert the hex to decimal you get 264700326772067 / 119270485038054. Add the decimal which if you add the decimal is latitude 26.4700326772067 / longitude 11.9270485038054. This comes back in Lybia. I am not sure where the Lybian desert glass (glass created from an impact in the desert) but possibably it is located close to these coordinates.

    I would love to know what this is 🙂

  17. By the way you want a UFO connection, it is the gray beings leting us know it was them that did the desert glass while mining the desert for something very rare, Sand. 🙂

  18. The is a gentelman named Nils Plesner Basse who is a scientist specializing in plasma physics, fusion, and high voltage gas insulated circuit breakers. He also lives in Switzerland. Any change that this fellow is connected in some way with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN?

    I would check your possible employee numbers against a list at CERN or the LHC for Mr. Basse.

    This could be a little joke on Fermi from their colleauges at CERN.

    …or it could be a warning (sent back through time) about the upcomming “end of the world” that will happen when the LHC is activated. (humor).

    Mr. Basse email is: nils.basse@npb.dk

    His PH# is: +41 79 830 47 25 (cell)

    -T.

  19. I have also noticed several instances of the term basse-temperature used in reference to lowest temperature required to maintain the cooling of powerful magnets… such as those used at the LHC.

  20. When I input the letter/numbers into hexadecimal color codes, it produces a series of orange, yellow, and blue colors, I’ve found used in diagrams online of the Absorber Focus Coil.

  21. I think it is instructions “EMPLOY NUMBER BASE SIXTEEN” , not employEE.

    If you take the extra letters from “EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN” you get “E E S”

    Add “E E S” to the two letters that have values in the key: “F C”

    You get: FECES

  22. I only just saw the code, so only begining to see what i can make of it. I read all the above stuff, and think a few things:

    1: the map thing is kinda far fetched…parts of what you are using on the map are not part of the fermi property anymore, and some were never part of it. id be willing to guessthose shapes could really be put on any map in such a fashion.
    2: i definately feel that there was a grid used, because i noticed that the 3rd stanza is the exact same total size as the 2nd stanza, and as the gap between. Though, im not sure if that has any significance.
    3: im a studying to be a math major, and have seen some basic cryptology stuff, nothing too deep. I was curious as to if the 1st and 3rd stanzas could make some sort of matrix, and some sort of code from that…?

  23. Crossposted from Digg:

    Ok, after a day of thought, I have one last post with a full summary of my thoughts. Does this register with anyone else?

    “FRANK SHOEMAKER WOULD CALL THIS NOISE.”
    “EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN.”

    ..IS..

    From the center section, the first two lines are key mapped to hex numerals, with the 3rd line being the employee #, or “message”.

    Sym #1 = 0, because:
    -In order for the sentence to be valid, one s should be dropped from “BASSE.” ie: it equals “NOISE”. The same should be done with Sym #1.
    -BASSE = LOW in French. Note the existence of Basse-Normandie, aka “Lower Normandy” Zero is damn low, too.
    -i and s are the only two keys that are also lower case letters (emphasis on “lower”) i = s = 0 = NOISE.
    -A is another possibility for Sym #1, but I’m going with 0.

    -Syms #2 and #3 are then straight mapped to f and c respectively using their keys. Sym #2 appears three times, with #3 once (*1).

    -So, this forms 0fc hex or 252 dec.

    As shown in a previous post, employee 00252V at Fermilab = “Pierre Piroue” He’s working on the Large Hadron Collider. His name is French, so the French use of “BASSE” should once again be noted.

    -’fc’ could correspond to areas on the LHC. Just through examination of LHC imagry, it is *very* visibly divided into 16 distinct regions (look around the perimeters of the outer framing and inner “core”). This explains the use of hex. Positioning hex digits clockwise around the LHC (There is a noticeable area at the top of the “core” that I think should mark the location of zero) Regions f & c (again….the employee #) seem “special.”

    -The original symbol for f is a counter clockwise pointing arrow. This could relate to the direction attached to position f. c should of course then be pointing clockwise (how does Sym #3 relate to direction?).

    (*1): Could 3 and 1 represent settings of some sort? Beam crossing angles for f and c?

  24. Hmmm. not much interest anymore. LIke I said before. The third part provides a stereogram although the first part does not. No one seems interested in this. My eyes is goin crazy when I try it though.Hence. I have not tried to decode it myself.

  25. i read it as:
    Shoemaker would call this noise:
    (the symbols part)
    (signed) Employee Basse 16

    assumed SFC part was ‘solution = FC’ or something.. 1512??

  26. What if the extra S in “EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN” should be used to decipher the second stanza? From the mapping used to decode stanzas 1 and 3, S = 201 (base3) = 13 (base16). That leads to employee number 13FC = 5116 (base10).

    How do we find out who employee number 5116 is?

  27. I have very limited experience with this, so I’ll just share the one thought that’s been stuck in my mind.

    RE:

    EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN

    I will refer to Basse’s employee number as Basse.

    Could it be:

    Basse + 16?

    (Base)16?

    (Base)^16?

    Others may have thought of this already, just wanted to throw it out there to be thorough

  28. Forgot to note: the two lines over lap only in this order without any of the symbols or numbers touching/overlapping. a slight tweak making the “D3” symbols closer together makes all the hex values look more arranged by pairs, too.

  29. What if the sFC was a date: 1/15/12 or 10/15/12. I searched around a bit, but didn’t find anything for any of the dates that I tried. Perhaps someone else knows something interesting that happened on one of these dates in history..

  30. One of the patterns I have time to post fairly quickly is this: when you take the hex and swap F and C and turn it to Unicode chars, you get alternating Mongolian and Korean characters (I think that’s what they are, I forget)

    C0BE58C2CD636F79D2E493E6 as Unicode
    삾 売 쵣 汹 틤 鏦

    to turn Hex to Unicode (simply) take the 4 digit hex code i.e. C0BE and put it in wordpad and press Alt+X.

    More later when I have time…

  31. Hello to all

    Maybe I’m too naive, but is it possible that the double ‘s’ in BASSE means that we should correct the double character mistake ALSO in the word “SIXTEEN”?

    I mean:

    EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN

    maybe shoult be corrected as follows:

    EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASE SIXTEN

    And also it may bring us the real worker number, maybe number 610?

    (I already said it is too naive 😉

    Best regards from Murcia, in Spain. David C.M.

  32. Breakthrough (!)(?)…

    An article ( http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/08/06/0043220 ) was posted on slashdot (/.) today. In the article, titled “Theorists Make Quantum Communications Breakthrough”, they talk about scientists Graeme Smith and Jon Yard making a breakthrough in Quantum Computing. The breakthrough [possibly] lays to rest a problem with a 1948 conjecture made by Claude E. Shannon of Bell Labs (1948) regarding the given capacity of a channel to transmit data (bits) via a noisy channel. The problem with the conjecture, which “describ[es] how information can be moved from one place in the universe to another using an idea called the channel capacity,” is that it does not play well when Quantum mechanics are applied in the study of qubits used in Quantum Computing.

    Well, since Quantum Computing has been around, scientists have struggled with Shannon’s theory of communication.

    The abstract on arXiv is proposed to answer the question of “how much quantum information can be sent from one point to another.” Previously, it was not known how to calculate the capacity of a quantum channel.

    Why mention all this?

    I am revisiting my theory that the second stanza is an equation.

    I do realize however, that these two things may be entirely unrelated. However, before you discount the possibility that this paper is a teaser for a soon-to-be published miraculous work, look at the equations from the abstract.

    🙂

    BTW, in the abstract, you’ll see mention of a Schumacher. This is not Frank. Still, … have fun (I know I did).

  33. One thing I have not seen anybody do… is take that middle section, and group it into threes like everything else is.

    If you take that, and turn it into trinary code like the rest, you get a really strange pattern. (replacing letters with zero and numbers with 1, or vice versa)

    101 100 101 100 010 010 100 010 011 or
    010 011 010 011 101 101 011 101 100

    Notice a lot of the groupings are repeated… converting these to letters using the already determined code gives me gibberish though:

    JIJICCICD or
    CDCDJJDJI

    Seems far too coincidental to be ignored though…

    • Hi Greg – Nope, your MAC address is (normally) set during manufacture of your network hardware. Changing the network card will certainly result in your MAC address changing, but swapping out a graphic card won’t cause this.

      • The Message in parts –
        1. Frank Shoemaker would call this noise
        2. Cryptic
        3. Employee number basse sixteen.

        Personally I believe the reference to ‘basse’ to not be a typo. There are 16 stories at the Fermilab building.

        A number of employees below (basse)the 16th floor in the Central Lab building, specifically the Controls Group responsible for interfacing. I believe the Cryptic found in the center of this letter refers specifically to the Controls Group and the … The Main Ring / Accelerator.

        “The earth was firm and the atmosphere bright as the formal start of work began on the main accelerator enclosure for the world’s largest scientific instrument – the 200 Billion Electron Volt proton synchrotron. The Main Accelerator enclosure will cover an area approximately four miles in circumference and 1.24 miles in diameter on the 6,800acre NAL grounds.”

        ^^ Your true answer to what Shoemaker would consider.. Noise.


        About the controls group:

        “Right on the heels of the workmen completing Phase I of the Central Laboratory high-rise building, came the first NAL employees to move in to the ground floor in the industrial area — the Controls group of the Accelerator Section.

        Deeply and closely involved in producing the control systems for all of the accelerators, and in the Main Ring in particular at the moment, the 19 technicians represent a consolidation of five groups previously associated with the Beam Transfer, Booster, Linac, Main Ring, and R.F. Sections. Under the direction of Bob Daniels, Controls Commissioner, the united group now has space to work, producing the components that will give interface between the accelerators and the computers – the Sigma 2 in the main control room and the Mac 16’s interspersed throughout the systems. When they have finished Main Ring modifications and maintenance, they will turn to controls for the neutrino and meson experimental lines.

        Working in the midst of the array of electronic equipment that is the mark of their trade — livened by the spools of colored wire, the soldering irons, and the many, many circuit boards — the group, under the immediate supervision of Tony Tummillo, is getting the job done in spite of the heavy construction that goes on over their heads. Phase II of the building construction, now underway, will extend the building upward to the l6th floor and the top out. A tunnel, also completed, connects the high-rise to the Cross Gallery.

        A “hats off!” to the Controls group who work under conditions somewhat less than ideal — sometimes without power and heat; sometimes with water dripping on their desks — to add their important contribution to the completion of the Laboratory.”

        — Sourced from: History and Archives Project

  34. So it’s been a while since anyone has really said anything or progress has been made. I’ll preface my question by saying I know nothing about cryptology but I find this and things like Kyrptos extremely intriguing!

    So here goes, the symbols that are part of the 2nd portion, they bear resemblance to some of the symbols from the Rosetta Stone. I googled Fermilab and Rosetta Stone together and the hits don’t mean anything to me however they could mean something to someone with more knowledge.

    If this is a crazy idea I apologize in advance!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *