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Contest: An Alien Message

The nature of binary representations of floating-point is that nice bit-patterns make for round numbers and vice-versa, so I'm not sure that we can conclude a lot from that. The fact that the floating-point interpretation of the data results in numbers that cluster around certain values is telling, but could still be a red-herring. Part of my reluctance to endorse that theory is narrative: we were told that this is a simulated alien message, and what are the odds that aliens have independently invented double-precision floating point?

In any case, I'm reading those threads attentively, but in the meantime I'm going to pursue some hunches of my own.

Contest: An Alien Message

Okay, here's something interesting. Showing binary representation, in blocks of 8 bytes:

00000000: 11001101 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11110100 00111111  .......?
00000008: 11001101 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 00000000 01000000  .......@
00000010: 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 11100000 10111111  ........
00000018: 11001101 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11100100 00111111  .......?
00000020: 11001101 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11001100 11110000 00111111  .......?
00000028: 10011010 10011001 10011001 10011001 10011001 10011001 11100101 00111111  .......?
00000030: 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 11110010 10111111  ffffff..
00000038: 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 11110010 00111111  ffffff.?
00000040: 11011000 10100011 01110000 00111101 00001010 01010111 11111011 00111111  ..p=.W.?
00000048: 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 11011000 00111111  .......?
00000050: 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 11011000 10111111  ........
00000058: 10100000 01110000 00111101 00001010 11010111 10100011 11010100 10111111  .p=.....
00000060: 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 00000010 11000000  ffffff..
00000068: 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 01100110 00000010 01000000  ffffff.@

The obvious pattern now is that every 8 bytes there is a repeated sequence of 6 bits which are all the same. Despite my initial protestations that the latter part of the file is less regular, this pattern holds throughout the entire file. The majority of the time the pattern is 111111, but there are a decent number of ones which are 000000 as well.

Contest: An Alien Message

Actually, the opener is quite a bit more structured than that, even: it's three 4-byte sequences where the bytes are all identical or differ in only one bit, followed by a different 4-byte sequence. There is probably something really obvious going on here, but I need to stare at it a bit before it jumps out at me.

ETA: Switching to binary since there's no reason to assume that the hexadecimal representation is particularly useful here.

Contest: An Alien Message

Hex dump of the first chunk of the file:

00000000: cdcc cccc cccc f43f cdcc cccc cccc 0040  .......?.......@
00000010: 0000 0000 0000 e0bf cdcc cccc cccc e43f  ...............?
00000020: cdcc cccc cccc f03f 9a99 9999 9999 e53f  .......?.......?
00000030: 6666 6666 6666 f2bf 6666 6666 6666 f23f  ffffff..ffffff.?
00000040: d8a3 703d 0a57 fb3f 0000 0000 0000 d83f  ..p=.W.?.......?
00000050: 0000 0000 0000 d8bf a070 3d0a d7a3 d4bf  .........p=.....
00000060: 6666 6666 6666 02c0 6666 6666 6666 0240  ffffff..ffffff.@
00000070: 713d 0ad7 a340 fa3f d8a3 703d 0a57 f53f  q=...@.?..p=.W.?
00000080: d8a3 703d 0a57 f5bf 8fc2 f528 5cef f13f  ..p=.W.....(\..?
00000090: 007b 14ae 47e1 aabf 007b 14ae 47e1 aa3f  .{..G....{..G..?
000000a0: 6666 6666 6666 f2bf 6666 6666 6666 f23f  ffffff..ffffff.?

I just picked out enough lines to make some obvious observations. There are multiple sequences of ffffff, which I assume to be some kind of record separator. The beginning of the file is highly structured; the latter part of the file much less so. The obvious conclusion is that the first part of the file is some kind of metadata or header, while the main body begins further down.

Parliaments without the Parties

I read the first paragraph of this post, and before reading the rest I said to myself, "I sure hope this person has a good model for why parties exist in the first place so they can ensure that their replacement actually works." Unfortunately, the rest of the post didn't pan out.

I'm very sympathetic to your goals here, but without a better model for the behavior of political coalitions, I strongly suspect that these proposed solution will either fail or make things worse. In particular we need to consider both the intra-parliamentary function of parties (allowing representatives to coordinate with each other), but also the public, communicative function of parties to allow voters to choose a candidate and have a good model for his behavior without having to invest tons of time.

Formula for Dying Babies

tariff:

Medieval Latin tarifa "list of prices, book of rates," from Arabic ta'rif "information, notification, a making known; inventory of fees to be paid,"

So yes, tarifae delendae sunt, but fascinating that it originally comes from Arabic!

A reason behind bad systems, and moral implications of seeing this reason

I find this reply confusing. It seems to me that you're mixing up a descriptive and a prescriptive discussion of values.

"Your life isn't long enough" <-- prescriptive, a value that I largely agree with though we might argue about some specifics.

"No one has ever died wishing" <-- descriptive, but as a description of what people in fact want it's inaccurate.

A reason behind bad systems, and moral implications of seeing this reason

No one in history has ever died wishing they had paid more dues to hierarchies, bureaucrats, and society’s systems.

False, and indicates a significant failure to appreciate people with values and desires different from your own.

There are lots of people who approach their death wishing they had acquired more social status, which is what "paying dues to society's systems" means. And it's literally a cliche that people approach death and start thinking about religion, which I suspect falls into your "hierarchies". And people do these things because they actually find that their own values align with those of the system, a possibility which you don't even seem to consider.

Long COVID risk: How to maintain an up to date risk assessment so we can go back to normal life?

How much more mitigation do you think you're going to buy by stalling for time? We already have vaccines and Paxlovid, each of which reduces the likelihood of severe COVID effects by at least 90%, and that's coming down from a baseline of less than 1% for people who are young and healthy.

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