On the 15th of May, Symmetry Breaking put out this call for help. It seems that the PR department of Fermilab received a (handwritten) letter in code. A high resolution version can be found here. Since its been a few days, and mainly since Slashdot picked up on the story, there's been some breakthroughs. Of note is 'Geoff''s work found here (only linking to the most recent post). I heard about this earlier today, and found it rather interesting, both the code, and the assumptions people were making. I'm keeping my measly ideas regarding the actual code to myself for now, as most have been enumerated elsewhere, but I'd love to examine these assumptions.
(And for the record, I'm not assuming 'male', I'm using 'he' since its quicker to type than 'she', or 'he/she').
First, there seems to be a basic assumption of sanity for the writer. I think this is the worst assumption made so far, and the most likely to bite us in the butt. While there's a chance someone was simply sending a letter to Fermi to see what they thought, pranking their co-workers, or whatever the reason, I think its at least just as likely that this is a crackpot guy who saw that Fermi has a .gov address and decided to send in something relating to their abduction, a secret formula, or world peace.
Three bits of evidence for this. The first (that hurts my thought of mental illness) is that the address it was shipped to is not given on the main website's contact page. This seems to imply sanity and foreknowledge, or at least some stalking, to come up with a different address. If we use Archive.org, you can see that while the address was different a year ago, it was a formatting, not substantive change. In fact, the address the letter was sent to is given on the website in quite a few places, so it is conceivable still that the author came across it coming to their site from a link, and not the main page looking for the address.
The second bit of evidence is the symbols that are used. As some have pointed out, this looks a lot like a Rosetta Stone for another message. While some of the symbols look clearly human (Upper case Phi, no doubt about it), others simply can't be found in our alphabets, yet look close to what some hypothesize should be a galactic, math based language. Where am I going with this? Perhaps (and please take this with a grain of salt, I don't personally believe in it) someone who believes in abductions found this message, understood it, and is trying to teach the language to only those humans who are worthy of learning it. Hence my thought of 'crackpot'. Sure, it may come out in the next 24 hours that these symbols match up to something else, and the guy is sane. Just remember, if it does come out to be a conspiracy, you heard it here first.
Finally, Fermi sat on the letter for a year before dusting it off and passing it off to the public. I can think of three reasons for this. The first is they honestly didn't have the people to bother. That could be, but judging by the reaction of the Slashdot community and other scientists I know, them putting this up in a break room, or an internal email, would garner a lot of attention during down time. The second thought is that they just didn't care. This would lend credence to my mental illness thought, they wrote it off immediately upon receiving it, rather than even attempt to decode it. Or, perhaps they've been working on it for a year, and got no where. I'm sure they would have the top and bottom solved, but maybe the middle bit has eluded them as well, which again would lend credence to it not having any real meaning at all.
Second, a lot of people seemed confused on the time frame. Fermi started they received this over a year ago, but some were reading into stories of interstellar communication that they assumed were related. We can't assume anything about the time frame other than any information made available after March 5th, 2007 is *not* involved in this message. In fact, due to the elaborateness of this message, I'd guess at least a week before that, as well. So anything after the end of February 2007 cannot play a role in this message. Of course, if research was going on before then, and only released afterwards the author may still have obtained a copy, or even worked on the project, and could have that information.
Third, there's the assumption that the middle portion (the symbols/'hex' characters) is a straight key, meaning one character corresponds to its hex character. I think that's wrong. A simple frequency chart shows the following:
As you can see, the frequency still fits into our base 3 assumption. I think that's very important, as the author uses base three (we assume, and can come up with English-correct translations for) in the top and bottom portions. So, rather than say that the sideways triangle equals 'F', we should say that it equals 3.
Now, translating the message into the frequencies, then decoding as we did for the top and bottom portions yields something cute (assuming that 222 is a space, not 000). We get:
111_1_111 111_1_111 111_11_111 11_111_11
111_1_1 11_11_11 111_1_11 11_111_111
D D G G
E _ F S
There was speculation initially that the 'Basse' 'misspelling' in the message meant the middle bit should be a song. Well using this translation we have a song! It can be read left to right (half note D, half note G, quarter note E, quarter note rest, F sharp), or top down (quarter note D, quarter note E, quarter note D, quarter note rest, quarter note G quarter note F, G sharp). Of course, in many circles (especially Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Independence Day) music and lights are thought to be 'universal' languages to chat up aliens with. Hmm. Not saying that's the answer, but playing it is kind of catchy.
Going along with this assumption was the thought that 1 and A (and also 's') needed to be assigned values. I'd argue that they are assigned values as seen above. They're included in the chart 0 times, so they're all worth 0. And if you're as good with off by one errors as I am, that will get your hopes up for the 'initials' between the 'key' and the bottom.
Well, those are my thoughts on the assumptions that are being made so far. Hope it helps someone out there!