How did Cooper find the location of NASA from the patterns in the dust in Interstellar?

Later from the movie we come to know that Cooper himself was sending those coordinates of NASA.

But what I don't get from the movie is how did Cooper make to it to be the coordinates since that data could be anything.

Granted that his future self knowing himself could have had an idea on how he thinks but it's still one thing to know himself another thing to figure it out completely. This part seems a little bit unconvincing to me.

  • It's that hard to think back to yourself a year ago and figure out some method to communicate?
    – Nick T
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 19:58

3 Answers 3


Latitude and Longitude are often used to represent locations. A lot of GPS devices also use this. Since Cooper was a pilot, he was most definitely familiar with this.

Binary is one way to represent numbers, just like HEX and Decimal. Since Cooper was an engineer, he was most definitely aware of this.

So, doesn't seem too far-fetched to me (unlike the ending of the film).

  • 1
    Binary is one way to represent any kind of information. I seems far-fecteched to believe the Cooper just gave the right semantics to that stream of zeroes and ones.
    – bruno
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 14:22

If I deciphered two numbers from binary (in BCD or ascii) that looked like: 38.835556 and 104.6975

then I would not have to be a former astronaut (just someone who likes cartography) to figure out that they mean: 38°50′08″N 104°41′51″W

Quibble: The only problem was that the bar codes in the dust didn't seem to have enough 'data' to yield 38.835556 and 104.6975 encoded in BCD, IEEE 754, or ASCII.... At least from the camera perspective, it looked like a 1 dimension (no jokes about 'gravity') barcode such as Code128 and not a 2D one such as Aztec. I only counted about 16 bars on the floor, so only 2 bytes worth of data (not assuming checksums and start/end bars)....

  • There are many ways to interpret a stream of bits as a floating-point number, not just BCD.
    – bruno
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 14:27
  • I note that in the third paragraph.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 17:26
  • 1
    Well, in the scene where older Murphy is looking at her notebook again, younger Murphy or coop. Wrote down the binary. Way not enough for lat/long
    – cde
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 8:55

Binary and Co-ordinates are pretty basic concepts that tech people understand and can easily recognise - especially a NASA trained pilot.

Anecdotally I had a birthday once where I was given a location in a hidden message, it was a bit unusual but I managed to reverse engineer the format and get the answer. Turns out in this case it was morse numbers - even though I was unfamiliar with morse I could quickly decipher them.


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