Paul Vigay looks at the Chilbolton ‘Arecibo message’ Formation of 2001 and compares it with the original SETI transmission.
On Tuesday 21st August 2001 two new crop formations were reported near Chilbolton radio telescope in Hampshire, UK. Both were very impressive looking and consisted of a large number of small ‘pixels’, which when viewed from the air formed a recognisable shape – unlike many other crop formations.
One represented a ‘human face’ and the other resembled a radio transmission that SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) sent from the Arecibo radio telescope in 1974. This latter formation will be examined in this article, in which I hope to not only describe and explain the original transmission, but also to examine and decode a number of significant changes occurring in the crop formation.
After speaking to witnesses, it would appear that the ‘Arecibo’ formation was created on August 20th. Although I could roughly make out the binary pattern of the formation from aerial photographs, some aspects were not quite clear enough to discern individual ‘digits’. Therefore I visited both formations myself (they are about 200m apart in the same field) on Saturday 25th August 2001.
The Arecibo message
First, I will give some background to the original message sent from Arecibo, back in 1974.
Arecibo is on the northern coast of Puerto Rico and contains a natural disc-shaped hole in the rock. Inside this bowl was constructed the world’s largest radio-telescope, with a diameter of 1000 feet.
In 1974 a number of modifications had been carried out to the transmitter, enabling it to broadcast signals at a power of up to 20 terawatts (1 terawatt = 1 trillion watts) and as an inaugural test of these improvements it was decided by SETI to transmit an encoded message to the heavens. This signal was aimed towards the globular star cluster M13, some 25,000 light years away and consisting of some 300,000 stars in the constellation of Hercules.
The message was actually transmitted on November 16th 1974 and consisted of 1679 pulses of binary code (0’s and 1’s) – which took a little under three minutes to transmit. It was transmitted on a frequency of 2380MHz (which is significant later).
Why 1679 digits?
The reason for this is down to mathematics. 1679 is the unique product of two prime numbers; 23 and 73. Any sufficiently intelligent lifeform would no doubt look for unique, universal constructs – such as prime numbers, chemical element frequencies and binary digits. Don’t forget that because we could be trying to communicate with an intelligence completely different to our own, we cannot talk in terms of ‘human’ systems, such as centimetres, feet, decimal numbers etc.
Because ONLY the two prime numbers 23 and 73, when multiplied together, produce 1679 there can only be a single way to arrange the signal, if you were converting it into a matrix grid – 23 squares by 73 squares.
The original binary code is shown in figure 1.
In order to fully understand the message encoded in the transmission, it’s essential to
understand the binary code. This is actually much simpler than our base 10, decimal system. Whereas in base 10 we count from 1 to 9 and then carry 1 into the 10’s column and start again in the units column, until we’ve got 9 in the 10’s column and 9 in the units column. Then we have to carry 1 into the 100’s column and start again in the 10’s and units columns, and so on and so on.
In binary each column goes up in powers of 2, hence the columns are units, 2’s, 4’s, 8’s, 16’s etc. Because we can only deal in 1’s and 0’s, we rapidly move up through the columns – because as soon as we exceed 1 we carry into the next column. For an example of counting in binary, see the table to the right.
To go back to the original transmission of binary pulses (fig.1), by converting it into 23 columns of 73 rows we get the matrix shown in figure 2
You can now see a graphical pattern depicted by the 1’s and 0’s of the code. For clarity I’ve converted this into black squares (representing 1’s) and white (empty) squares (representing 0’s). You can see that viewing it like this, makes the actual message a lot clearer, as shown below, in figure 3.
This is where a slight puzzle becomes visible. By performing the steps described above, the literal translation of the original pulses is on the left of figure 3. However, the image printed in a couple of my books is that shown on the right of figure 3. This is an exact left-right mirror image of my decoding. I suspect that this is possibly an error which went un-noticed when the book went to print – although I have checked two books which both depict the same pattern as shown on the right of figure 3.
The pattern which occurred in the Chilbolton crop field, is the same image as shown in the books (ie. the one on the right of fig.3 and the mirror image of the original decoding). This could imply that IF someone hoaxed the formation, they copied the incorrect pattern printed in a book. Alternatively, I may have converted the original pulses by mapping left to right when converting into a 23×73 grid, instead of going from right to left – which personally doesn’t seem correct to my interpretation of the original binary sequence.
If anyone can explain this discrepancy, I would love to hear your comments. However, for the purposes of the rest of this article I shall refer to the pattern physically laid in the crop field. The results are the same because the actual code remains unchanged irrespective of whether it’s the original or a mirror image anyway – as the binary coding remains unaltered.
Decoding the original message
The original message was comprised of several ‘sections’, each depicting a particular aspect of ‘our civilization’. At the top are binary representations of the numbers one through to ten, interestingly showing the numbers eight, nine and ten as two columns. This shows anyone decoding the message that we can specify that numbers too large to be written on a single line can be ‘carried over’.
The next section contains the binary values 1,6,7,8 and 15 which indicate the atomic numbers of the primary elements for life on Earth; Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and Phosphorus respectively.
The larger section of three rows, represents the formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA. Beneath this is a graphical representation of our DNA ‘double helix’ either side of a ‘straight vertical bar’ which indicates the number of nucleotides in DNA.
Directly below the DNA double helix is a small representation of us – humans – with a body and two arms and two legs (like a little stick man). On the left is a binary value of the population of Earth. This can be calculated as roughly 4.29 billion, which is roughly the population of the world, back in 1974. On the right of the humanoid form is a binary code for the height of humans. Because we cannot communicate in ‘human’ measurements (such as feet and inches) the height is represented in ‘wavelength units’. As mentioned earlier, the actual message was transmitted on 2380MHz. To convert this into a wavelength we divide into 300, to obtain a wavelength in metres. 300/2380 = 0.12605042m = 12.6cm. This is our ‘wavelength unit’.
From the code for the height of a human, we can see that the value is 1110 in binary, or 14 in decimal. If we multiply 14 by our wavelength unit (12.6) we get 176.4cm, or roughly 5’9″ – the average height of humans.
The next section is a simplified representation of our Solar System – where we live. It shows the sun and nine planets, roughly representative of size. By moving the third planet up slightly it highlights that something is significant about the third planet from the sun – Earth.
The last section depicts the origin of the message itself – the Arecibo radio telescope, which is the curved structure. Underneath this, as the last two lines of the message, is another binary number. This time it’s 100101111110 (split onto two lines in the centre) and equates to 2430 in decimal. Again, using our universal ‘wavelength units’ we get 2430*12.6cm which is 30618cm – or approx 1000′, the diameter of the Arecibo radio dish.
What’s different in the Crop Formation?
After extensive analysis I have discovered nine major discrepancies between what we see in the crop field at Chilbolton and the original message that we transmitted to the stars in 1974. I shall leave any interpretation until later, but for now just highlight the differences. The exact detail of these changes couldn’t be confirmed until I actually visited the formation on the ground, in order to accurately check the binary code – reading flattened crop as a 0 and standing crop squares as 1’s.
Rather than point out the differences in order of importance or anything, I shall merely start at the top of the pattern and work downwards.
The numbers 1 to 10 appear exactly the same in the formation.
However the atomic numbers indicating the prevalent elements making up life on Earth, has an additional value inserted into the binary sequence. This is precisely added in the correct location, and in the original binary code (therefore it can’t be a mistake). Decoding from the crop formation, this additional element has an atomic number of 14 = Silicon.
Moving down, the next change is an obvious one – consisting of an extra strand on the left side of the DNA double-helix. Another, less obvious, change is in the binary coding of the number of nucleotides in DNA itself (in the center). If you look in the diagram above, I’ve highlighted the changes more accurately on the right, by using red squares and outlines to indicate which ‘digits’ have been changed in the crop formation.
There are quite significant changes to the shape of the humanoid, which becomes almost ‘alien-like’ and to the diagram of the Arecibo dish. For clarity, I’ve not bothered going over these in red because the differences are easily apparent.
Either side of what is now an ET, there are changes to both the ‘population’ figure and also the height value. The latter is now 1000 in binary, or 8. If we multiply this by the original ‘wavelength unit’ we get 8*12.6cm = 100.8cm which is roughly 3’4″ – interesting, because this would correlate with ET witness accounts.
Below this we notice additional changes to the Solar System chart. The third planet from the sun is not the only one ‘highlighted’ now. The fourth and fifth are as well. The fifth even appears to be emphasised even more, with three additional ‘pixels’.
Lastly, what was representative of the Arecibo transmitter in the original message is even more cryptic and would imply a diagrammatic version of the formation which appeared in the same field at Chilbolton last year, in 2000. This can be viewed in my database, referenceuk2000ee.
The binary code for the size of the transmitter is also altered. I’ll leave the reader to work out the new value….
What does it all mean?
I am hesitant to make too much of an interpretation myself, preferring to share the research and information with which to enable readers to continue the search for answers and further their own knowledge.
However, there are some fairly obvious implications from the crop formation. First, and quite obvious from the aerial view is the shape of the ET figure. This clearly has the little stick-like body with two arms and two legs, but has a much larger head and two distinct eyes. This is almost reminiscent of the ‘Greys’ of popular UFO culture. Indeed, the modified ‘height’ code corresponding to just over three feet would also confirm this aspect.
If you decode the ‘population’ binary sequence in the actual crop formation you get a value of approx 21.3 billion – a lot bigger than the original transmission, and indeed Earth’s current population? Perhaps this is the population of their own planet, or even the combined humanand ET population of Earth – if you believe, like some researchers, that Earth is already populated by an unseen ET contingency?? If you assume that the alterations to the ‘Solar System’ section in the crop formation refer to several planets, then this could also indicate the combined population of inhabited planets somewhere. I leave this for the reader to decide.
There is also some indication of a change in the basic DNA structure of ET. The additional (third) strand shown on the left and also a change in the number of nucleotides indicates a different DNA to ours. It seems quite similar to ours, so perhaps it’s a genetic alteration or even a mutation of ours?
The difference in the Solar System information could indicate one of two scenarios; Either it still refers to our own Solar System, but in addition to highlighting Earth is also highlighting the fourth and fifth planets – Mars and Jupiter. Of course, the additional highlight on the ‘fifth planet’ could actually refer to the asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter and is in reality the ‘fifth element’ from the sun. Alternatively, it might not correspond to our own Solar System at all, but to the ET’s own solar system – which would also appear to consist of nine planets. The sun is also depicted in the crop formation as slightly smaller. Could this be their smaller sun, or could it be supposed to represent some point in our own future – perhaps when the sun has become smaller and we’ve populated the other planets? This latter idea, although highly speculative, could even indicate the DNA modification through increased genetic experiments….?
The representation of last years formation in place of the Arecibo dish is possibly the most difficult to interpret. It could indicate a number of things, or merely indicate that ET saw the formation of last year and saw that as representative of the home of the message – ie Chilbolton.
However, if you look at the whole message on a more philosophical level, it’s all centred around communication – and notifying the heavens of our existence. Could the representation of a crop circle (the shape, merely chosen because it was the one at the same ‘home’ location of the message) be to indicate that crop circles are indeed a form of communication? Irrespective of the origin of this formation, you cannot dispute the fact that people the world-over are communicating more because of their crop circle experiences!
Lastly, one significant difference that I also find very intriguing, and which I can exclusively reveal for the first time, concerns the table at the top containing the atomic numbers. The crop circle has an additional column added. However, as mentioned above, it’s not an error because it’s re-encoded and inserted in the correct sequence. Silicon? Could this be an additional pointer to the physiology of ET? Perhaps ET is a silicon based lifeform instead of carbon based, like us?
I haven’t fully explained every discrepancy, merely because I’m deliberately keeping a couple of subtle aspects back so that we can ask for further explanation, should anyone claim it as a hoax.
I should point out at this point that the actual quality of the formation on the ground was remarkably good. However, it did appear to have been flattened in terms of a grid – ie. going across the formation and down the formation. The nearby ‘face’ formation was more elaborate in terms of the ground lay, as each individual circle appeared to have been swirled separately to the rest of the formation, indicated by a smooth swirl of crop around each circle, instead of being brushed across the formation, forming pathways between each circle.
However, both formations would represent an immense effort required in order to portray what we see in the field and from the air. To create either within the constraints of a few hours of darkness is extremely impressive irrespective of their origin; terrestrial or extra-terrestrial.
Again, irrespective of origin, both have taught me personally a great deal about SETI, human physiology, binary encoding and more importantly – communication, both in transcribing this for you the reader, as well as academic conversations I’ve had with people as a result of doing this analysis.
While reading this, I hope that you feel the sense of wonder and learning that I felt whilst writing it.
As always, comments and feedback are welcome.
Paul Vigay, 26th August 2001
Footnotes: (added 2nd September 2001)
Predictably, I’ve received a huge volume of emails in response to this article. Firstly I would like to thank everyone who has contacted me in the past week or so, and offer my apologies for any delay in replying. I always endeavour to reply to all emails, but the sheer volume I’ve received mean that it could be a few days before I get back to people.
I’ve also received numerous very interesting theories and additional information regarding this formation and possibly implications that can arise from it, if indeed it’s genuine (personally I’m undecided!). However, I’m intending to paraphrase some of the feedback I’ve received, perhaps into a followup article which might in turn promote further discussion and understanding. Watch this space for further announcements.
Other links: (updated 11th Aug 2002)
- An official statement from SETI, entitled “Is the Latest Crop Circle a Message from E.T?”
- Chilbolton Code Analysis – A very good analysis article by Brian Crissey, Ph.D.
- Self-Decoding Messages – A very detailed analysis of the original, 1974 Arecibo message, by John Walker
- Encounter 2001 – A repeat broadcast of the 1974 transmission, made in May 1999
- Lucy Pringle’s Aerial photos of the formation
- Are Crop Formations at Chilbolton Observatory a response to 1974 Earth Transmission? – Linda Moulton Howe’s Earthfiles (subscription required)