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In ID4 (Independence Day), there are 3 helicopters sent up to greet the alien craft. One of the copters is fitted with a set of light panels that flash the lights in a specific pattern/sequence. What is the significance of this? Is this something made up for the movie or is the light pattern/sequence meaningful in real life?

I'm looking for an answer on why would they choose to do such a thing and not expect to be received as hostile.

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Two different questions here. "What is the significance of this" It's an attempt to communicate with the aliens, and a homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. "Is the light pattern/sequence meaningful in real life?" - good question! Some googling done, but nothing I can quote yet, but looks like made up for movie. –  AidanO May 23 '13 at 7:12
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I believe that it was a reference to the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In that film (the scene is on YouTube) humans use a board with flashing lights (similar to the lights on the helicopters) and music to communicate with Aliens.

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I never imagined it to be a Close Encounters reference. I always imagined it was supposed to be the very same unknown government agency in charge of greeting aliens as depicted in Close Encounters. –  wallyk May 23 '13 at 3:41
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