I've read a story once.

So, people have received a signal from space and it turned out that the signal was some kind of scheme or something, and when they built that thing, it captured the Earth and started sending the same signal to space. Looked like something like a self-replicating virus in space.

Does anyone remember who is the author of this novel? I'm not quite sure about details but the main idea was about virus replicating through information transimission.

It may be authored by Isaac Asimov, but I can't find such a story from him.

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    When did you read it? Any indication of how old it was? Language/nationality?
    – Moogle
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 23:06
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    Probably not what you're looking for, but since you mentioned Asimov: His short story Found! matches at least part of your description. Here's a blurb: "Two astronauts on a repair mission to a navigation satellite discover that it’s been infested by a strange, interstellar virus."
    – Ubik
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 23:25
  • I'm sorry, I can't remember exactly when I read it. I just remember this plot. Probably it was even not Isaac Asimov, since he usually tells the story from peoples' side of view. @Ubik, no, unfortunately, that's not it.
    – Curious
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 7:00
  • Try this SMBC strip: smbc-comics.com/?id=3287#comic
    – b_jonas
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 7:27
  • @b_jonas, no luck. Probably the most important part in the story was that virus began replicating itself in all directions to space, it didn't do anything else. So, it was kind of senseless and that's what made the story so tragic.
    – Curious
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 7:46

3 Answers 3


This is actually a pretty common trope in sci-fi.

There's a couple of the more obvious books that immediately spring to mind;

1) A for Andromeda by Fred Hoyle.

A new radio telescope picks up from the constellation of Andromeda a complex series of signals which prove to be a programme for a giant computer. After the computer is built it begins to relay information from Andromeda. Scientists find themselves possessing knowledge previously unknown to mankind, knowledge that could threaten the security of human life itself.

2) His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem;

Twenty-five hundred scientists have been herded into an isolated site in the Nevada desert. A neutrino message of extraterrestrial origin has been received and the scientists, under the surveillance of the Pentagon, labor on His Master's Voice, the secret program set up to decipher the transmission. Among them is Peter Hogarth. When he discovers that the TX Effect could lead to the construction of a fission bomb, Hogarth decides such knowledge must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the military.

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    Certainly not His Master's Voice.
    – Kreiri
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 23:31
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    Neither of those stories feature the specific type of plot mentioned in the OP, where the device the signal tells us to build is itself a transmitter for the same signal, making the signal into a sort of self-replicating meme.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 0:00
  • @Hypnosifl - Given the vague description I was assuming that either could be the answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 0:03
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    Not to mention the signal / plans sent in Contact by Sagan. The signal turned out to be instructions to contact the originators of the signal. It's more common than I realized. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 0:29
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    There is also the very short (1 page) short story: MAXO signals: A new and unfortunate solution to the Fermi paradox by Charles Stross which actually appears in Nature in the form of a letter (to the editor?). The MAXO turns out to be a civilization-destroying galactic advance-fee scan. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 7:49

Existence by David Brin matches what you're looking for. Civilizations build themselves into ruin after finding artifacts from space, and transmit more of the same artifacts that then infect other civilizations.


Duplicate question Short story where an alien signal containing a DNA sequence leads to the end of life on Earth

I was looking for the same short story, which I think is "Enrico Fermi and the Dead Cat". 1998 "Another solution to the Fermi Paradox (Where Are They All?). Let's be careful about following instructions from the stars." https://www-users.york.ac.uk/%7Ess44/books/pages/b/JohnBarnes.htm

Radiotelescopes receive a message, which codes for a virus which is built on a space station to prevent spread. It's identifiable by a tiny green dot in every cell of every infected organism, but appears otherwise harmless. It escapes confinement, and infects everybody in the space station. It's quarantined, but already escaped and is found on earth, and still appears harmless. High schoolers use it in science projects.

It spreads throughout the world, still apparently harmless, till the little green dot is found in every living thing.

Two years (?) after that, everything dissolves into green goo covering the earth, which sprouts a radio array, transmitting the code to create the virus. Is this the story you're looking for?

  • Did you copy the text you put in quotes from this page? If so, you should include a link in your question to acknowledge where the text was lifted from. Commented Mar 4 at 1:05

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