## An alien in need

A forum for good logic/math puzzles.

Moderators: jestingrabbit, Moderators General, Prelates

### An alien in need

Picture the scene - you are the captain of interstellar spacecraft, having left your family and friends (who, due to some of the more unfortunate effects of time dilation at high speeds, you will almost certainly never see again) to seek out new life and new civilisations with your intrepid crew. While inside one interesting-looking solar system, you notice what appears to be a spaceship in the distance. Deciding to investigate further, you see that the spaceship has been heavily damaged, perhaps by a collision with another object. Once you reach the ship, you discover an argon - oxygen atmosphere inside, maintained at 1.3 atm pressure, temperature 290 K (~20°C). Inside, there is a single life form, in obvious distress. It appears to be searching the ship for something.

You take this life form aboard your ship (since the conditions there are relatively similar to those of the other ship). Once aboard, the life form grabs a pen and some scrap paper which is lying around, and begins to write, using an ingenious arrangement of its mandibles to use a pen not originally designed for alien use. The alien appears to be growing weaker by the second, however, and it clearly needs something soon, or it will die. This is what it writes:

The alien is now frantically pointing at the dotted rectangle above. What it the alien trying to say?

I've also updated my blog with the same puzzle - if you're reading this but don't have an account, you can also comment on it there (be warned, I can't promise people won't post spoilers there)

Eternal Questionner

Posts: 43
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:29 pm UTC
Location: Cambridge, UK

### Re: An alien in need

This alien writes from left to right, top to bottom, using symbols that translate directly into English? How le droll.

Edit—and this alien uses the same artificial set-theoretic constructions as humans? Improbable, my dear Watson.

Edit 2—and infix notation? Really?

Edit 3—does page 2, line 4, really say what it looks like? Does this alien realize it?

Edit 4—hmm, regardless of the puzzle’s narrative, would one reasonably suppose the alien is looking for that, or the alien is allergic to it? I suppose that’s easily testable.

Spoiler:
Witch of the West style.
Small Government Liberal

Qaanol

Posts: 2393
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

### Re: An alien in need

Left to right's 50:50 anyway, and if the was the other way everyone would notice because the alien would start on the RHS of the page. Because of this, it adds nothing to the problem to go right to left.

I would hardly say English, it works fine in any language, and anyway it is conceivable that they have similar maths to us (universiality and the like).

You can figure out 4 by yourself (why would a test be needed?)

Eternal Questionner

Posts: 43
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:29 pm UTC
Location: Cambridge, UK

### Re: An alien in need

I know I'm close, but I'm just blehhh...

Spoiler:
I'm pretty sure it's water, but I'm not sure how to get that. I've gotten most of the math notation so far but the circly thingy in the 3rd page is confusing.

Intriguing puzzle, I must say.

Chaoszerom

Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:28 am UTC

### Re: An alien in need

Eternal Questionner wrote:Left to right's 50:50 anyway

Not quite - you are overlooking Boustrophedon writing.
balr

Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:29 pm UTC

### Re: An alien in need

Chaoszerom wrote:I know I'm close, but I'm just blehhh...

Spoiler:
I'm pretty sure it's water, but I'm not sure how to get that. I've gotten most of the math notation so far but the circly thingy in the 3rd page is confusing.

Intriguing puzzle, I must say.

i agree, this is it.
Spoiler:
the circle on p3 is like the first 2 lines of our periodic table just wrapped around back on itself. not sure exactly how you got to H20 without working that out! the numbers are pretty easy to work out, although i am confused how 1+1 and 1+2 both equal 3?

AvatarIII

Posts: 2101
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:28 pm UTC
Location: W.Sussex, UK

### Re: An alien in need

AvatarIII wrote:
Chaoszerom wrote:I know I'm close, but I'm just blehhh...

Spoiler:
I'm pretty sure it's water, but I'm not sure how to get that. I've gotten most of the math notation so far but the circly thingy in the 3rd page is confusing.

Intriguing puzzle, I must say.

i agree, this is it.
Spoiler:
the circle on p3 is like the first 2 lines of our periodic table just wrapped around back on itself. not sure exactly how you got to H20 without working that out! the numbers are pretty easy to work out, although i am confused how 1+1 and 1+2 both equal 3?

Spoiler:
I actually got water from nothing but the right half of the dotted box and some basic logic.
First, being an alien civilization, one of the starting points for communication would be based off of matter: Something that is fairly universal. So, I knew it would involve the elements and such.
Next, water is likely to be required by all life due to it's unique abilities as "The Universal Solvent".
Finally: That image of 2 smaller circles attached at an angle to 1 large circle just matches with water too perfectly.

Sure, if they end up needing anything besides water the rest would be needed, but water is very identifiable on its own.

zemerick

Posts: 21
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 6:01 am UTC