A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

New clue to Fermilab code

07/25/08

Local media interest in deciphering the coded message that Fermilab received last year continues.  On Wednesday, Naperville Community TV came to the laboratory to interview me (I'm the Fermilab PR director) and Eric Prebys, a Fermilab physicist who worked with Frank Shoemaker at Princeton University.

Eric Prebys.  Photo courtesy of Fermilab VMS

Eric Prebys. Photo courtesy of Fermilab VMS

Code crackers, who learned about the message from symmetry breaking, have determined that the first section of the message reads "FRANK SHOEMAKER WOULD CALL THIS NOISE." Shoemaker, a physicist, worked at Fermilab in the early days of the laboratory.

The bottom part of the message, the on-line code crackers tell us, says ""EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN." What could this mean? Is "BASSE" a misspelling of "BASE"? To prepare for the TV interview, I called Fermilab's Human Resources section to ask about Frank Shoemaker's employee number.
Fermilab assigns employee numbers sequentially. Robert Wilson, the laboratory's legendary first director, was employee number 1. Ned Goldwasser, Wilson's deputy director, was 007. The latest Fermilab hire, as of last Monday, was number 15026.

According to Fermilab's records, Frank Shoemaker was employee number 102. In base 16, I am told, 102 = 66.

Will this be the clue that cracks the hieroglyphic middle section of the coded letter? Or persuades the code maker to come forward?

--Employee Number 10112

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