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The story behind the hidden binary message on Boelter Hall tiles

Similar to the quotes engraved on the top of North Campus’ Humanities building, South Campus has its own nod to the power of knowledge. It’s just that South Campus’s public quote is in, well, let’s just say… a different language. The language of mathematics.

While unnoticeable to the common eye, the message is more easily detected by Boelter Hall’s common inhabitants – those students fluent in the language of zeros and ones.

At the southeast entrance to the second floor of Boelter Hall, there is a row of alternating black and brown tiles that represent binary, a computer code made up of zeros and ones.

Viet Nguyen, a first-year computer science graduate student with a specialization in artificial intelligence, made the connection between the tiles and the code a few days ago, and he posted his discovery on the UCLA Subreddit.

To help understand the significance of these tiles, and how they convey a message, we enlisted the help of Ben Lin, a third-year computer science student. He explained that the black and brown tiles represent zeros and ones, respectively. Still confused? Watch the video below.

Starting from the entrance and reading each row from left to right, we were able to decode the message as:


While all this just seems like the “Binary Solo” from Flight of the Conchords, by assigning letters from this ASCII table to each line, these tiles clearly translated to “Lo and behold!” (Exclamation mark included!)

While “Lo and behold!” pretty much describes our reaction to finding out that there was a message behind these magical tiles (We’re putting on our red shoes and skipping along them to the Emerald City), it is most likely a reference to the first message transmitted across the Internet from UCLA to Stanford.

The Internet, which celebrated its 43rd birthday last October, was invented in the late 1960s in Boelter Hall by computer science professor Leonard Kleinrock and his team.

According to Kleinrock, the message was supposed to be “login” but after sending the first two letters, “lo,” the system crashed.

And that, kids, is the story of how the first message sent across the Internet was “lo,” as in “Lo and behold!”

Have you noticed any other “easter eggs” hidden on campus? Let us know by tweeting us @dbmojo or commenting below.

*The quotes on top of the entrances at the Humanities building are “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,” from Psalms 119: 18 and “Nothing is too wonderful to be true,” said by Michael Faraday.

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