Back in 2006, in a piece published in Modern Physics Letters, two physicists proposed that if a "Creator" of the universe exists, and they were the kind of creator that felt like leaving a message for intelligent beings to eventually discover, then the cosmic microwave background would be a "stupendous" place to place it. Now, an astrophysicist has gone looking for that message, attempting to decipher what he found.
Stephen Hsu and Anthony Zee were in no way suggesting there actually is a Creator or that intelligent design is real in their paper, but merely looking at possible places where a message might be found were the "ultimate designer" to leave a god-y equivalent of a voicemail. They looked at many proposals, such as it may be hidden within the human genome or (according to certain religious convictions in the US) carved out in the Grand Canyon.
"In our opinion, such suggestions are clearly not universal enough, and they seem to require direct intervention by the Creator during the evolution of the universe," Hsu and Zee wrote in their paper. Besides, it would be odd to hide a message for the whole universe in a rocky canyon far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy on a planet orbiting a small unregarded yellow sun.
"These possibilities are not acceptable to most physicists," they wrote.
By contrast, they suggest that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the leftover radiation from the Big Bang that is faintly detectable and permeates all of the known universe – is basically a "giant billboard in the sky, visible to all technologically advanced civilizations."
Information, they suggest, could be encoded within differences of temperatures within the CMB itself, as well as a mathematical explanation that would establish the pattern of encoding.
In a new pre-print study (not yet peer-reviewed) published on arXiv, astronomer Michael Hippke of Sonneberg Observatory in Germany attempted to look for a message from the "Creator" within the CMB. Hippke took temperature measurements from the Planck and Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite, and translated it into binary, assigning 1 to positive deviations and 0 to negative (a choice which he said was arbitrary, and could be switched). Where there were discrepancies between the two satellite messages, he highlighted them in red and used the data gained from Planck.
This is what that the first 500 values of the translated temperature measurements look like. I hope you know your binary.
As you can probably infer from the fact our title isn't "MESSAGE FROM GOD FOUND, WE REPEAT, MESSAGE FROM GOD FOUND," and that this story isn't everywhere on your news feeds, Hippke found nothing of value in there.
"We may conclude that there is no obvious message on the CMB sky," he wrote in his paper. "Yet it remains unclear whether there is (was) a Creator, whether we live in a simulation, or whether the message is printed correctly in the previous section, but we fail to understand it."
It would have been so much cooler if it had spelled out: "We apologize for the inconvenience".