Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sci-Fi Contest!

On November 16, 1974 the Arecibo radio telescope sent a coded message toward the globular cluster M13, 25,000 light-ears away. The message was 1,679 bits of data and was a pattern that an alien civilization is supposed to decode. The message contains crude images of numbers 1 to 10, a stick-figure of a man, chemical formulas, including the code for DNA, a sketch of the Solar System, and an image of the radio telescope. If we received a message like that from the stars, could you decode it? Let's find out -- here's the challenge:

It's late at night. You're monitoring shortwave signals on 2380 MHz and you suddenly get some slight frequency shifts. You decide to hit the record button on your data scope, and the message completes in less than 3 minutes. Now what? Have you received a real message from an alien civilization or is it just a hoax? You better be right before you call a press conference! You don't need a deep understanding of mathematics, science or cryptology to solve "The Three Trees Riddle" -- it's just for fun, and you'll know if you're right.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Arecibo Message, Cyberwizard Productions and Abandoned Towers Magazine are offering a reward to kick off a new puzzle page. Besides receiving "bragging rights", which will include listing your name as the Winner of the First Contest, you'll receive a 1-year subscription to the printed issues of the best web magazine on our planet. The contest begins now, and ends at midnight (UTC) November 16, 2009, as the original signal passes the 210 trillion mile mark, on the interstellar highway to unknown civilizations.

After you decode the "Three Trees Riddle", which was developed by fiction writer Doug Hilton, please send your results to

with the subject line Arecibo Message Contest

One winner will be picked at random from all correct entries, and will be notified by email. Once the winner is notified, the correct solution will be posted on the original contest page.

The contest page can be found by going to Abandoned Towers Magazine and clicking on the button marked Puzzles on the home page, choosing Puzzles from the drop down Things to do menu on the table of contents page or by going to the direct link which is

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