Fermilab’s Strange Letter – Interlude

Hi Slashdot! You guys can be proud to be the first stress test of my new host – and they appear to have passed with flying colours (yes, flying Canadian spelled with a u colours).

That being said, progress on the Fermilab letter hasn’t been as good. I’ve tried an absolutely ridiculous number of things, and I get little. So I thought I’d try to present the letter in a more usable form along with the progress so far and any unresolved questions.

For your reference, my cleaned up data can be found in this CSV file. I figured if Slashdot linked to it, I better provide something multiplatform. Please inform me if you find any errors.

Also, please don’t phone/email/stalk Frank Shoemaker! The poor guy is retired after a distinguished career, has been contacted far too many times about this, and say he has no involvement. Pierre Piroue has also been contacted, and has claimed no knowledge of this whatsoever.

If anyone has talked to CF please email me (sorry for being vague, privacy issues).

Ternary Paragraph

Top Grid View

Here’s the first ternary paragraph. If we decode it as in my previous post, we get “FRANK SHOEMAKER WOULD CALL THIS NOISE”. Note that the grey shaded areas are double spaces – if only the I, II, and III symbols mattered, what are these random extra spaces doing in there? A transcription error seems unlikely. To me, it seems like this was written on graph paper in a specific way, then transcribed to a blank sheet of paper. Effort was taken to ensure the symbols reflected the original alignment – while the whole paragraph may be out of overall “grid” alignment, each individual “tic” is well-oriented in relation to it’s neighbours.

Is it on a grid:

  • for simple boring organization’s sake? If so, why the double spaces?
  • to create some sort of bitmap which maps to the symbols? Alone it seems to provide little help, perhaps it is combined with another section?
  • so that “windows” are cut in the grid according to some specification and it is then laid over another section/combination of sections?

Hexadecimal Section

The hexadecimal section consists of two lines of 12 symbol/letter pairs, seen below.

Note that this transcription uses the same images if a hex/symbol pair repeats, for the sake of lazy html/Photoshop and in an attempt to weed out “noise”. Note this will backfire horribly if the point of the letter is in fact noise – from my preliminary analysis I didn’t see anything too significantly different between duplicated hex/symbol pairs, feel free to correct me.

Note that 1 and A are not included in these 24 pairs. 24 is evenly divisible by 3, I’m not sure if this is relevant, but interesting since the other decodings are based off triplets.

After this is a “signoff” with one symbol we’ve never seen before. I hesistate to call it “undefined” since we are not confident that the hexadecimal digits in fact “define” the symbols.

What are the meanings of the symbol/hex pairs?

  • They belong to three/etc “groups” like in an IQ test, and are used to map hex digits to other digits which will create a new message
  • They are a distinct message by themselves. The hex digits were added later to translate an employee number (see Binary Paragraph) out of the “signoff”.
  • The sixteen hex digits map to musical notes and the symbols mean nothing – Update: this has been attempted, and unless Timbaland produces it and the video involves a lot of nudity, it’s far from a number one hit.
  • The symbols are a convoluted mathematical equation, and the hex digits and signoff allow us to decode it somehow

There’s a million more, but there’s a few to start. If you’ve disproved any/have any new ones, post in comments.

Binary Paragraph

Bottom Grid View

I realize this is impossible to read, but the overall view is what we’re after. Grab the raw data at the top if that’s what you want. Note again that the grey spots are “double spaced” and everything is in a grid, leading to the same questions as before.

If we decode this as described in the previous post, we get “EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN”. The spelling of BASE is off, and could be a reference to the French word for low, although I suspect simple repetition of a triad by accident

If we look at how the message is decoded, this has to be a single “I”, however it appears to be significantly out of place compared to all the other marks. A minor transcription error, or a clue? I think it’s a transcription error – because it’s part of the second S in BASSE. I think he accidentally transcribed S (201) twice, then realized his error at the end when the spacing started to go off.

This leads me to believe that there probably aren’t images stored in the “dashes” in some manner (otherwise he would have fixed the second S, or all the information is contained before this), and the grid was simply to organize or for another purpose.

As well, if we decode it based on simple Morse code (I=dot, II=dash) it reads EUREKA until trailing off to gibberish (credit Henry H in comments). It’s possible that it isn’t gibberish, but since Morse letters are different lengths decoding this becomes a huge pain. My guess is it’s a red herring with no real meaning, but still something to note.


All I can say is I hope this helps someone, and if you figure out anything, let me know! The only thing I think I managed to figure out of note is why it’s “BASSE” sixteen instead of “BASE”. I’m insanely busy this week so I can’t put as much time toward it as I like, perhaps this weekend will be more illuminating…