Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The 7 Longest Messages Sent into Space

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

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 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.

8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3

[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.


The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”


If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”


The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).


The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.


Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”


The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.


We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.


Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

20 Random Facts About Shopping

Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.


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