Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Sunday, October 08, 2006

All Things Considered

My collaborator A. Zee was interviewed about our paper Message in the Sky (see also here) on last Friday's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered. Harris did a pretty good job of explaining the idea, but I think what most non-experts miss is that it is non-trivial to have a physical mechanism that can place an identical message so as to be readable by all advanced civilizations. Think of the causal structure of the Big Bang -- not all civilizations see the same patch of sky.

Note the pains taken to identify us as "serious" and "well-respected" physicists :^)

Scientists Propose Looking for Big Bang Messages

by Richard Harris

All Things Considered, October 7, 2006 · This year's Nobel Prize in physics went to two men who studied the afterglow of the Big Bang. Earlier this year, two very serious and well-respected physicists suggested that the afterglow should be probed even more carefully -- to see if it contains a message from a creator.


invest said...
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Anonymous said...


What is your response to "The Real Message in the Sky"?


I assume you and Zee are right....


steve said...

We address it in a note at the end of the published version of our paper. They make some additional assumptions (we would say a bit ad hoc, not derived from fundamental physics) and get a lower estimate of 300 bits rather than our rigorous upper bound of 10^{4-5}. But 300 bits is still enough to encode the Cartan matrices we suggest in the paper.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve.

I re-read their paper and I realized that I had misunderstood what they had written...

steve said...

Their paper is very confusingly written. It seems at first they are saying that there is NO observer-indep. message, but a careful read shows that they just think the amount of information it is possible to encode is less than our original bound. Not surprising, since they make additional (we would say ad-hoc) assumptions.

Anonymous said...

Their paper is very confusingly written. It seems at first they are saying that there is NO observer-indep. message..

Amazingly, that was PRECISELY the source of my confusion, i.e., I thought there was no observer-dependent information!

Glad to see it was not just me :-)

Many thanks for clearing that up!

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