A spokeswoman for the office of the Queen's new representative in Canada has bad news for amateur code breakers puzzling over David Johnston's coat of arms.
Don't bother trying to find a hidden message in the string of zeros and ones that adorn the Governor-General's heraldic design. There is none.
"It is not as deep as people thought it might be," said Annabelle Cloutier, an official at Rideau Hall, the viceroy's residence and office. "It was really just a symbol."
Apparently, sometimes a row of digits is just a row of digits.
This will surely disappoint would-be cryptographers who have filled pages of Internet websites with speculation and jokes about the ultimate meaning of 33 gold-coloured characters at the bottom of Mr. Johnston's coat of arms.
Ms. Cloutier said Rideau Hall has been following the debate over the string of binary characters and is surprised more people haven't called to verify whether there is a secret embedded in the heraldic imagery.
"Nobody really came to us," she said. "There is no code behind the code. It refers to the digital era in which we live."
The numbers in question are: 110010111001001010100100111010011.
The Governor-General's office was never silent on this question. From the day the coat of arms debuted on Oct. 1, it offered a brief explanation for the digits:. "The wavy band inscribed with zeros and ones represents a flow of information, digital communication and modern media," Rideau Hall said in a release when Mr. Johnston was installed as Canada's 28th Governor-General.
This meaning certainly reflects Mr. Johnston's background as president of the University of Waterloo, located in a technology-sector-heavy part of Ontario. The region is also home to Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry smart phone.
But Rideau Hall's original explanation didn't satisfy sleuths, who started running the digits through calculators, trying to convert them into some comprehensible order.
Ms. Cloutier said Canada's Heraldic Authority, which designed Mr. Johnston's coat of arms, is thrilled by all the attention. The low-profile organization, populated by people with degrees in history and medieval studies, is delighted its work is being so widely discussed.
"Efforts to decode the meaning of the number using ASCII, Morse, grouping by 3/11 and other theories [have]so far come up empty," a user named Lev13than wrote on Slashdot.com.
"Right now it's a toss up between random, the phone number 683-077-0643 and Morse code for "send help - trapped in a coat of arms factory". Is 110010111001001010100100111010011 the combination to his luggage, or just a random stream of digits?"
A CBC reader suggested the design was a nod to Freemasonry. "Is David Johnson a mason? If he is this could mean that he has achieved the rank of a 33 degree mason," Ajax88 wrote on Cbc.ca
Others at CBC suggested the string of digits was a reference to the global population. One, Gotchalookin, said: "It is possible that the number represents an estimate of the number of people on the planet at 6.83 billion-ish - give or take 600 million."
March2010, another Cbc.ca user, opined that this was a dead end. "I looked this up earlier, we hit that number on July 29 2008. Nothing seems significant however for that date."
Some guessed right away that the string of numbers was merely a cosmetic gesture to high tech.
"I think it's safe to assume that it's an aesthetically pleasing bit of random binary to symbolically carry the message that he's in with technology," one user on Slashdot.com named Sockatume wrote of David Johnston. "[It's]much the same way one might tattoo some bitching runes onto one's arm to convey how one is incredibly down with the druids."
Others joked the coat of arms contained a hidden gift from one of Canada's iconic corporations.
"It's for a bar code," Poubelle on Reddit.com said. "If you print it out and take it in to Tim Horton's you get a free medium double-double. (Offer valid for the duration of Johnston's term in office. Offer not valid in Quebec.)"
Rideau Hall's Ms. Cloutier said Canadians may not know the Canadian Heraldic Authority will design coats of arms for anyone.
The authority charges a minimum of about $2,500 to perform the service, a fee level she says is cheaper than purchasing, say, a business logo from a graphics designer.