Thought I post this to the best community of programmers I know.

David Johnston, the new Governor General, has the digital world confused.

Just what is the meaning of that 33 character-long string of ones and zeros that is emblazoned across the bottom of his fresh new Coat of Arms?

According to the GG's website, "The wavy band inscribed with zeros and ones represents a flow of information, digital communication and modern media."

The binry is this:


It's not ASCII, is it just random?

Original article: http://www.cbc.ca/politics/insidepolitics/2010/10/the-new-ggs-binary-banner-whats-it-mean.html

I'll accept the correct (if it can be solved) answer or failing that, the highest voted answer.

  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is tour deciphering a binary.
    – gnat
    Apr 25, 2014 at 9:11

3 Answers 3


I'm pretty sure this doesn't mean anything and was only done for graphical effect.

33 characters in Binary doesn't leave much room for encoding data in the first place, and it's an odd length (not divisible by 4.)

Add in the fact that it's palindromic, and the odds of there being something encoded in there falls to near zero.

If you cut it into 3 even pieces, you can see the pattern emerge.:


It really is just for looks.

Edit: The decimal conversion is also a prime number, so it's a prime number that has a palindromic binary representation.. pretty interesting without being an encryption puzzle.

  • This is exactly what I was thinking except I was too lazy to post a proper answer. Oct 4, 2010 at 12:42
  • 5
    The decimal conversion is also a prime number the primality does not depend on the number's representation ;)
    – phant0m
    Nov 3, 2012 at 14:09

In decimal, the number is 6830770643, which happens to be a prime number. And in binary, it is a palindrome.

That combination of facts seems unusual enough that I have a difficult time believing that a call wasn't made to someone over in the Faculty of Mathematics building to suggest an interesting number.

Johnston does, after all, have unique access to a whole building devoted to mathematicians. Specifically, the Faculty of Mathematics, at University of Waterloo In particular, the Pure Mathematics department is all about discovering beautiful mathematical patterns. They don't purely spend their days "doing this," but it sure is the kind of thing I would expect of them.

Prime numbers are certainly interesting, as they have been applied to such diverse purposes as cryptography (see RSA), hashing, generation of random numbers, and are used at the root of Godel's proof of incompleteness. To a pure mathematician, if a number is prime, that's interesting.

It's not impossible that there is some additional Cool Meaning to be found if one reassembles the bits in some other form. (It would be neat if, in ASCII, it represented the date when some department or faculty at University of Waterloo opened.) But "palindromic prime" is pretty sufficient to make it interesting, and Johnston has an easy walk over to a place where he can find a group of mathematicians capable of pulling that out of their hats.


There is a discussion about this on slashdot:


where they say it's a palindromic prime.

  • 1
    Seems like they might be over analyzing it. Oct 4, 2010 at 13:04
  • It's hard to decide on a moment to say "this data does not have any meaning except looks" - when have you analyzed it enough? Of course, we're well beyond the geek-border here, agreed on that :P
    – deltreme
    Oct 4, 2010 at 13:15
  • Well I've never been too big on puzzles but this really seems like some artists interpretation of "make it look like I support technology but keep it simple". Oct 4, 2010 at 13:38
  • @ChaosPandion - we will probably never know what the person who wrote down these digits was thinking, however if it is a prime number, it might be his intention to choose this number. Fosco's answer currently has one more vote, so the community leans towards your interpretation, I just supplied another possibility.
    – deltreme
    Oct 4, 2010 at 14:32

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