Archive for the ‘Puzzle’ Category

Many Worlds Puzzle #7

What do these 12 states, and only these states, have in common?








North Dakota


South Dakota



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Here’s another Oulipo poem for you.  Can you determine its unusual construction?

Come eat!

There is hay.

Net says, “red dice”;

Dude hesitate, kills mate.

He pagan, I paid.

Without sin, leer to read!

Image result for tower of babel


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This is a follow-up to the last post, in which I “composed” three poems in some nefarious way.

All of these poems were “written” with the help of Google Translate.  I simply took the source material in English, cut-and-pasted into Google Translate and then cycled through 3 others languages before returning to English.  The result is just the original poem in English again, but twisted linguistically.

To illustrate the process, let’s take a single sentence from Poe’s “Conqueror Worm”:

And the angels, all haggard and wan,

Uprising, unveiling, affirm

That the play is the tragedy “Man,”

Its hero the Conqueror Worm.


Let’s go to German:

Und die Engel, die alle hager und blass,

Aufstand, Enthüllung, bekräftigen

Dass das Spiel der Tragödie ist “Mensch”

Sein Held, der Eroberer Wurm.


And now to Turkish:

Ve melekler, tüm bitkin ve solgun,

Ayaklanma, meydana çıkarma, teyit

Oyun trajedi “Adam” olduğunu

Onun kahraman, Fatih Worm.

And then to Greek:

Και οι άγγελοι , όλοι εξαντληθεί και χλωμό ,

Εξέγερση , αποκαλυπτήρια , επιβεβαίωσε

Τραγωδία παιχνίδι ” Man” είναι

Ήρωά του , Πορθητή Worm.

Finally we get back to English:

And the angels, all exhausted and pale,

Uprising, unveiling confirmed

Tragedy “Man” game is

Hero, Conqueror Worm.

This particular stanza is not much worse for the wear.  The only editorial choices I made were what languages to phase into, along with a bit of cleaning-up of the punctuation.  The process is much like the “telephone game” (“Chinese whispers” in other countries) where a phrase gets distorted gradually, like a Philip Glass melody, until it no longer resembles the original in any way.

I’d be interested to see other people’s attempts at Google Translate poetry.

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Many Worlds Puzzle #4

Here are three poems.  How did I compose them?



Turn to the waters of the Atlantic,

falcon-resistant falconer;

Everything is broken; site control;

the chaos, released on the world.

Blood-gray in the political tide is loosed,

and everywhere at the innocent drowned;

a good general lack sin guilty full of deep flavors.



I am the oldest bank receives tourists.

He said, “two legs and trunk

they stop in the desert . . . There, on the sand,

half-frown, lying face broke down,

and lip curling and the face of cold command.

They say that they read their own passions and sculptor.

This is the seal of the living things to survive,

beating them and nourishes the soul.”


This is real life?  The right of this?

Caught in the slip (no escape from reality).

Open your eyes, looking at the sky and see,

I’m just a poor boy, I have no girlfriend,

because I do not come easy, go easy—

High and low, low, low—

But the wind blows: there is a lot of significance for me


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As promised, the solutions…

1.   681472 [Um, Didn’t we answer this one earlier?]

2.   3927.27272… seconds This represents the amount of time it takes the minute hand of a clock to lap the hour hand.  For example, the hands coincide at midnight; they next coincide 3927.27272 seconds later, or at about 1:05:27 AM.

3.   23.14069… This is just e^π.

4.   2.1656 x 10^185 This is how many cubic planck lengths fit in the observable universe…basically, if our universe were a 3D computer, this is how many pixels you’d need.

5.   1.03 light year/year^2 This is the acceleration due to gravity g, in non-standard units.  It has the following interpretation: if you ignored relativity and accelerated at a rate of 1 g (reasonable for a starship), after a year you’d have reached the speed of light.

6.   133956 This is the number of possible combinations of two birthdays, since 133956 = 366^2.  If everyone on Earth had a significant other, there would be over 26,000 couples with the exact same two birthdays as you and your other.

7.   About 19.5 million people The number of people on Earth who share your birthday.

8.   0.739085… This is called the “Dottie number”…an irrational number that solves the equation cos x = x.

9.   1.72048 m^2 The area of a pentagon with sides of 1 m.

10.   0.004295 % This is what percent of Earth’s history homo sapiens has been around.

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Many Worlds Puzzle #3, with HINTS

As promised, here are hints to puzzle #3…

1.   681472 [Um, I did this one as an example?  Do you really need a hint?]

2.   3927.27272… seconds [clocks]

3.   23.14069… [transcendentals]

4.   2.1656 x 10^185 [universe]

5.   1.03 light year/year^2 [Newton’s apple]

6.   133956 [birthdays]

7.   About 19.5 million people [birthdays]

8.   0.739085… [trigonometry]

9.   1.72048 m^2 [area]

10.   0.004295 % [humanity]

Detailed solutions to follow…

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Many Worlds Puzzle #3

Today there are really 10 puzzles. Can you figure out the significance of each number below? I’ve answered the first to get you started.

1.   681472

This number has a prime factorization of 2^9 x 11^3, which indicates that it equals 88^3. There are 88 keys on a piano…so one obvious interpretation is that the number 681472 is the number of possible three-note permutations that could start any piece on a piano (not counting rests, and ignoring duration). I wonder how many of the permutations have actually ever been played over the years?

2.   3927.27272… seconds

3.   23.14069…

4.   2.1656 x 10^185

5.   1.03 light year/year^2

6.   133956

7.   About 19.5 million people

8.   0.739085…

9.   1.72048 m^2

10.   0.004295 %

Because many of these problems are challenging, I will post hints in a week or so.

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HINT: The letters I gave were grouped in a particular way, using a particular criterion.  If I had used a different font…one with serifs, let’s say…the groupings would have been totally different…

Here are the groupings once again…








ANSWER: Notice that one of the keywords I gave was “topology”.  That’s it.  The letters are grouped based on topological similarity.

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Many Worlds Puzzle #2








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[Spoilers follow]


I herewith give the solution to last week’s puzzle: mystery diagram #1 represents “uranium”, and mystery diagram #2 represents “harpsichord”.

I suspect, however, that even with the solution in hand, it might take a few minutes to see what the question is…

[Visit here to hear the music…]

[Photo credit]

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