Latest blog post: An unforseen hiatus. (2023-01-02)
The army can only know what the other shuttle crew members knew/know. They weren't privy to, for example, Gharr's conversations with Zane, or a number of other crew who are still aboard the fleet. Heck, Gharr could simply ask for the name/number/coordinates/shortscent/... of the exact room page 8 took place in.
No, they could authenticate using Gharr. He and the Trio Upstairs are old friends, which means they likely have all kinds of old in-jokes, media references and anecdotes they could call on. If Gharr asks for a selection of those, the military would have no way of knowing the answers, even in a worst-case scenario where they had fully interrogated multiple prisoners and cracked the shuttle's computer.
The army wouldn’t have to divine an answer. They’d just have to determine if the message is referring to Gharr (which it is) and determine its point of origin (which probably wouldn’t be too hard to do). They would then see that it was coming from a location not too far away from the crash site. Mind you, this wouldn’t tell them Gharr was actually there, but it would likely attract their interest and warrant a closer look.
What are the odds that an ALIEN RACE with NO prior knowledge of humankind would be able to identify the Internet, discern the purpose of the Internet, discern the purpose of a chatroom, learn to use it, and flawlessly communicate on it using the ONE language (out of THOUSANDS) that he happens to understand? This kid is either giving them WAY too much credit, or is just plain gullible.
What are the odds that a spacefaring race would not already know all about Internet and chatrooms, by virtue of having those things themselves? As for language, Quantum has already reported creating "adequate" translation modules, this post's language was selected simply by being the language of the forum, and Internet chatrooms are designed to be simple and user-friendly.
Once you eliminate transferable knowledge from their own culture, and stuff that's of general utility for examining humanity, there's really not much to do for this specific effort; just finding fringe/paranormal/alienist websites, writing the post itself, and monitoring for replies. And that's stuff you could write a bot for, only jumping in yourself when one of the bots pings you with news that someone has replied to it.
At least as far as the language barrier is concerned, you might want to remember that there's one of them aliens on the other floor who mastered the local language (might not be English) to almost the same level on his lonesome within what, hours? Couple days?, right in front of Dan's ears. (And, seen from our perspective, the fleet has been working on connecting to our nets since before he even set out planetward.)
Gharr isn't nearly that fluent, and it took him two weeks to get that far, but your point stands. Unlike the fleet, Gharr is actually having to learn the language with his meat brain, rather than crunching it on giant supercomputers, building an auto-translate program, and then just running their comments through that.
Yeah, but he’s had the advantage of being among us, and he still can’t speak the language very well at all. Although it is true that the fleet was connecting to our communications, there’s no reason for them to be using them in this way, and no way for them to know what the right language to use would be, and there’s no way they’d be able to speak it any better than Gharr would at this point. Everything about this message is a red flag.
While I agree with your last sentence (but for entirely different reasons!), the ability to read this board should readily answer a) what language is used on it, b) what it is about, and c) how to peruse it (since we tend to provide direct links to instructions for our own kin on those).
(And don't let Nea hear your statement about "advantage of being among us", lest she removes parts you didn't know you have. :-S )
You're right that the Trio Upstairs aren't likely to speak Protagonese even as well as Gharr, let alone better, but they are not in fact speaking it. They're using translation software, created using a starship-grade computer grid and an all-you-can-eat stream of sample text in every language spoken online. Gharr is skilled, highly motivated, and working exclusively on Dan's language of choice, but there's just no substitute for having enough bandwidth* and computing power to download and analyze entire libraries' worth of data in hours.
*No, I have no idea what the bandwidth of Quantum's leech-sat is, but my own personal Internet connection has a bit rate over a million times higher than speech, and theirs is surely orders of magnitude faster.
I still think his best course of action is turning Gharr and himself in at the nearest military checkpoint.
Away from the math folks are doing to figure out what's what in terms of hard science practicalities (right on fellas), there is still the general uncertainty of what's really going on. Which actors are involved, and doing what. What does each know. Though certainly, one who can reference one entity by name is suggestive of who one might be....
AI alien doing the interfacing with human internet, and likely faster than light travel... that also gives way more flexibility if required. A tiny probe could be located closer than the main fleet with enough of AI to do the conversation, and/or act as a relay to main fleet in some sort of faster than light communication. (If you can travel faster than light you might be able to communicate faster too).
[Its a lot easier to interface with human internet from much closer to earth than jupiter... with something similar to a human microsatellite, being so tiny it could be as hard for humans to spot as the main fleet at jupiter]
They don't have FTL comms, they're using laser links. Quantum attached a parasite probe to one of our biggest telecommunication satellites, and has been working through that. I imagine that it's a pretty powerful computer in its own right, and semi-autonomously exploring the Internet using a variety of software bots. For communicating with the fleet, it's probably sending back both the results of specific jobs Quantum gives it, and a stream of "big data" for things like language-crunching and trend analysis. Quantum in turn would be sending back updated translation modules so the bots can actually read what they see, and orders to check out specific things, as well as new customized bots.