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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Alien Hunter (2003)

The hero (Julian Rome) is giving a lecture. In the background we see a blackboard with maths.

JULIAN: Look at this.
SAM (his assistant, or colleague): What have you got?
JULIAN: Look at that. (pointing at a signal on a screen)
SAM: Nonrandom?
JULIAN: Definitely. Fixed length pulse groups, discriminate text consisting of prime numbers, repeated over and over.9:08
DR JOHN BECKMAN (his boss): You said it was non-random?
JULIAN: Yes, with a fixed pulse device.
DR JOHN BECKMAN: You mean some sort of new search signal?
JULIAN: It’s possible. But search text is always diverse samples with mathematical data. This has no parallel plain text.30:30
KATE BRECHER: What are you going to do?
JULIAN: Try and find out what’s buried in the harmonic(s?).
KATE: How?
JULIAN: Mathematics.
Screens full of 1s and 0s.

JULIAN: It’s a black box. At first I thought it was a location bounce for celestial navigation, but it’s a little bit simplistic. Then Grisham mentioned it seemed like a beacon, and that’s when it hit me. This came here by mistake, and the signal’s meant for whoever lost it…. There is something else. The primary signal itself is a cryptographic key that unlocks the message buried in the harmonics. So I compared the cipher texts against itself and the coincidences between the character strings. A deviation arises from strings of intervals divisible by five bit repeats at shifts of 70 and 125.
Some more computer screens (nothing interesting)

NYLA: Could there be more to the message that’s not being deciphered?
JULIAN: Sure, there could be more than one crypyographic key, shift intervals can change, strings vary. The possibilities are endless.

JULIAN: Since time and space is a constant any intelligence within that environment will define it the same.
NYLA: But with a different language?
JULIAN: Yeah. I mean mathematics is the basic expression of any language. So you just have to find a way to solve the equations. That’s what it’s doing, with the help of the cryptographic key from the signal.
NYLA: It’s kind of like Mind Maze
JULIAN: Like what?
NYLA : It’s a computer game where you have to figure out the math puzzles. Each time you do, you get a key that unlocks the door to another world.

SHELLY: It still could be hidden in the protein.
KATE: You know how unlikely that is.
JULIAN: How unlikely? What are the odds?
SHELLY: 99.999 to the infinite.
JULIAN: But not a 100.