Of course, the Mail (and so many other vehicles) reports the story with a slightly different take:
“Crop circle hiding ‘beautiful’ maths formula appears in rape seed field
An extraordinary crop circle based on the ‘world’s most beautiful maths theorem’ has appeared in a field next to a windmill in Wiltshire. The complex disc, which measures 300ft across, appeared to the east of Wilton Windmill near Marlborough in a blazing yellow rape seed field. It appeared on Saturday [May 23] just 25miles from another circle that popped up a fortnight ago by the Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum.”
They quote Lucy Pringle, who says that “Working from the centre outwards, people are suggesting it has a connection to Leonhard Euler‘s theorem e^(i)pi+1=0 which is thought to be one of the most beautiful theorems in mathematics.”
What they didn’t quote was who first suggested this decoding, and as Greg Taylor remarked on UfoUpdates, it was Daily Grail editor Richard Andrews (“Grailseeker”). This is important not only for crediting where credit is due, but because Andrews explains how he decoded the formation.
It was simply a matter of decoding the radial lines: starting from the center, notice how each have 8 bars going either up or down. This can be interpreted as an 8-bit binary code, not unlike the kind of barcode used for mail in the US and other countries. And 8-bits can be always interpreted as encoding ASCII characters, especially when we have previous formations using ASCII. And that’s how you get the message “e^(hi)pi)1=0”.
Click the image below for a nice animation by Andrews explaining the decoding:
“One thing bothered me though, and that was the inclusion of the anomalous ‘h’ in the message/formula. Certainly, with the absent ‘+’, it made up the number of characters to twelve, which would make the crop circle easier to produce on the ground and more windmill-like, as well as referencing a highly symbolic number.
More significantly though, with the adjacent ‘i’, it reads ‘hi‘ – an embedded message from the maker perhaps? It was only when Jim Gilliland suggested in this Facebook thread that ‘h’ could be a reference to the Planck constant, taking us from the world of maths into the world of physics, that I realised what could be the full meaning of the embedded message.
Could the makers have left a ‘Planck’ in the design as a subtle joke on all the croppies who might pronounce this a ‘genuine’ crop circle as opposed to a circle made with a plank?!”
It would be an elegant Trojan Horse joke by the circlemakers. It would not be the first time, the 1991 Milk Hill script can also be decoded with a very humorous message (which you can read on ‘The Field Guide’). And perhaps even more elegant because it can also be interpreted as an error: there’s only one flipped bit between the ascii code for ‘h’=01101000 and the correct ‘(’=00101000. Flipping the bit happens in the best families.
Now, could this be a deliberate error? Notice how even if they didn’t flip the bit, the
formula equation would still be incorrect because it’s missing a ‘+’, as Andrews noticed. A mathematician would be quick to point out how this missing plus sign is perhaps one the most important parts of the equation, because that means that transcendental numbers and the imaginary unit can equal a number as comprehensible as a negative integer –1.
The correct equation “e^((i)pi)+1=0” takes 13 characters. Could it be encoded in 12? Yes, you could also write the equation as “e^(i*pi)+1=0”, for instance. Why would the circlemakers choose a deliberately wrong rendition of the “most beautiful theorem in mathematics”*? Another error?
Perhaps, but this could also be interpreted as part of the joke, a blatantly clear message that this is no perfect message. If for nothing else, it should be clear that intergalactic aliens would hardly use the ASCII code established in 1968, with a mathematical notation of parenthesis, Euler’s number, the imaginary unit and even how one would write the Greek letter ‘pi’ in roman characters, just the way one would enter such equation in Google.
A clear message that the only mystery here is that created by humans, for humans.
With a Plan(c)k, perhaps.
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*As Max Reinhold Jahnke points out, “this expression is known as Euler’s identity, Euler’s theorem is another thing (there are several of them, the most famous refers to algebra/number theory). It’s also not correct to call it a formula, since it only has constantes. =)”.
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