To 1, or To 0: Translating Binary in Fiction

Nat Russo How-To, Subject Matter Expertise 4 Comments

Binary in fiction is often laughable to an engineer like me. You’ve all seen the same scenes I have. A scientific research facility gets a signal from outer space. After several try/fail cycles, one of the junior scientists has a Eureka! moment. “Eureka! It’s binary!” the scientist says. [At least, I hope not. I really hope the writer does a better job than that. But, you get the idea.] Within hours (or even minutes), the engineer translates the entire message to perfection (with images and blueprints even!) and we understand the message being sent by the alien civilization. We can then march off and build our new teleportation device, space ship, poverty-fixing widget, or, perhaps, merely learn the meaning of …