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The 7 Longest Messages Sent into Space

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We might be alone in the universe. But just in case we’re not, we’ve collectively decided that every once in a while, we need to take the time to shout, “Hello? Is anybody there?” Of course, we’re always spitting out random garbage into space—radio and TV signals, mostly. But the signals on this list are intended specifically to attract aliens.

7. The Entirety of The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Hey, you know what aliens probably love? Movies that show what xenophobic jerks we are! Apparently, 20th Century Fox didn’t really consider the content of the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still before beaming it to Alpha Centauri, a star system only four light years away.

The Day the Earth Stood Still was sent out in December 2008, so any aliens near Alpha Centauri who were actually interested in watching it (judging by Earth numbers, that’s a decent few) should have seen it by now. The movie itself is a bit shy of two hours long, and according to the script, it’s contains almost 6500 words of dialogue. Is that enough on which to judge our civilization? We may find out in about three years, if anybody replies.

6. The Voyager Golden Records

In 1977, we launched the twin Voyager unmanned spacecrafts to collect data on gas giants (these days, one craft is in interstellar space; the other will eventually join it). Onboard the spacecraft, scientists included golden records and handy phonographs on which to play them, just in case any aliens happen to scoop them up. The records were designed by a committee led by über-awesome astronomer Carl Sagan. The records contain about five minutes’ worth of “earth sounds” (think of those relaxation tapes, like ocean waves and whale songs), 90 minutes of music from all over the world, greetings in 55 different languages, and 60 minutes of Carl Sagan’s girlfriend’s brain waves, for some reason, making the whole thing about two hours overall. There are also about 100 images, personalized messages from Earth dignitaries, and some pictographs drawn on the record covers.

5. A Doritos Commercial

It turns out there’s something way worse to send into space than a cheesy and potentially off-putting blockbuster movie, and that’s the same Doritos commercial, over and over, for six hours. The ad was broadcast 720 times in 2008 and sent 42 light years away to a star system called 47 Ursae Majoris, which is part of the Big Dipper. It will be several decades before this madness reaches its destination. 

Since the ad doesn’t feature any words (it’s simply an animation portraying some Doritos sacrificing another to a jar of Doritos salsa), it’s theoretically palatable to aliens; we’ve calculated that the few (printed) words that do appear in the commercial add up to about 11,520 words through the repetitions. Unfortunately, all of those words have to do with either Doritos or the retail transactions that would allow one to procure Doritos. That means that aliens’ first experiences with human language may be solely related to the exchange of currency for junk food.

4. 501 Social Media Messages

Apparently, 2008 was a banner year for shouting into the cosmos. In addition to Fox and Doritos, social network Bebo decided to try its hand at contacting aliens with their “A Message From Earth” program.

Although hundreds of thousands of messages were submitted, the final selections were made by user votes (which were probably for whatever was popular in 2008) and staff picks. In the end, 501 messages, including some by celebrities and politicians, were beamed out toward Gliese 581 c, an extrasolar planet 119 trillion miles (a little over 20 light years) away.

The transmission took approximately 4.5 hours. Users were also allowed to submit drawings and pictures instead of text, so there’s no way of knowing exactly how many words we spat out into the heavens—but if we go with an average of 50 per message (a totally random number), then it’s about 25,000 words.

3. 5000 Messages From Across the Internet

For Penguin UK’s 2010 release of The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe? they solicited dozens of space-oriented websites to ask their users to come up with 5000 messages to send into space, calling the promotion “Break the Eerie Silence.” The messages, which were chock full of corny “please pick me up” and MySpace-style jokes, were sent out toward the Orion Nebula, about 1350 light years away.

Since the texts were limited to 40 characters, we can easily determine that around 40,000 words were sent; we’ll be long dead before any aliens read them.

2. 25,800 Texts from Australians

Inspired by Bebo’s “A Message from Earth” campaign, COSMOS magazine and the Australian government partnered up in 2009 to create the cleverly titled “Hello From Earth,” a repository of text messages that would be transmitted by NASA to Gliese 581 d (Gliese 581 c’s big brother). Almost everything that was sent to HelloFromEarth.net was packaged up and beamed out. (Not everything made the cut, though; moderators made sure no one submitted stuff like “haha poop,” or whatever.) A total of 25,878 messages went out.

Since the messages were SMS length (160 characters) and we know there were 25,878 of them, we can average that out to five characters per word (which is the standard for casual writing) and arrive at about 828,000 words. Unfortunately, it’s probably a whole mess of gobbledygook that aliens won’t understand a lick of. We’ll find out in forty years—Gliese 581 c and d are both approximately 20 light years away.

1. 100,000 Craigslist Ads

In 2005, one of the most important messages in human history was beamed into space. “Free kittens to a good home.” Aliens probably love kittens, don’t you think? That’s what Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster was betting on, anyway, when the company started a campaign to send posts into outer space. All that was required of users was to check a box during posting and their ad for an old stinky couch, rusted lawnmower, or sexual proposition (they still had that board back then) was copied and beamed out to the stars.

The ads, over 100,000 in all, were sent out by a commercial enterprise called Deep Space Communications Network. We figure an average of 100 words per post, which means that over 10,000,000 words were sent to the cosmos. The ads weren’t sent to any place in particular, but an empty section of space about three light years away, which means we’d have already heard something by now if aliens were there to receive the messages. Or maybe, just maybe, we caught the ear of some hobo alien who’s out of a job and he’s slowly on his way here to see if that “secret shopper” job is still available.

For more fun word facts (like the biggest score you could ever make in Scrabble), check out The Book of Word Records, available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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