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Theory Thinkers: Research Log

This is the third puzzle in the Theory Thinkers series! You can also solve puzzle 1 and puzzle 2.

Below is an example of what some would call an “ah-ha” puzzle. The puzzle doesn’t come with an explicit set of instructions, but all of the instructions that you need for solving are hidden in some way within the presented material. The goal is to determine how this ordinary seeming material is hiding the puzzle (this discovery is called an “Ah-ha Moment”). Try to solve the puzzle as it is! But if you get stuck, some hints are provided at the bottom of the page.


Research Log



Research Log

Day: Monday

I’m still waiting on the results from the most recent set of experiments. Unfortunately I can’t make any progress on the model until that data comes through. Maybe I should just call it a day and go home.


Research Log

Day: Tuesday

Still no data. The lab is really taking it’s time on this one. While I wait I’ve assigned a classification number to each sample.


Research Log

Day: Wednesday

Still no data! I wish I could put a hex on the lab techs or at least have a few colorful words with them! To top it all off there’s this annoying click sound coming from the radiator in my office! I should have switched to Bio. I bet they never have these kinds of problems.


Research Log

Day: Thursday

Ok maybe I got a little more upset yesterday than I needed to be. Things are looking up today! I came in to find that the data has been collected and I can get to analyzing. Already patterns are starting to emerge. Like how each sample had six emission lines of various lengths and widths. I’m including a copy of the data below:

UPDATE (4/19/20)! This puzzle has developed an error since the initial publishing. For the F sample please use the following data (F1 = 11,8 ; F2 = 3,3 ; F3 = 4,2 ; F4 = G ; F5 = 1,1 ; F6 = 5,1)


Research Log

Day: Friday

I’ve just learned from my adviser that I need to write an entire sentence for every line of each sample. That’s going to take forever. Maybe it will go faster if I find the one character that each piece of data is trying to show me. I’ll organize the results in the table below:


Can you find the final answer to this puzzle? If you do and you have the answers from the other two puzzles, you are ready for the meta puzzle!

C = _ _ _ _

If you've solved the first two puzzles, you are ready for the META PUZZLE!


Hints for this puzzle. These hints are optional additional nudges to help you along if you get stuck while solving this puzzle. Each hint is written in white font below. Highlight the section of the hint that you want to read to make it visible.

Hint 1 (What is the log from Monday trying to get me to do?)

On Monday the researcher wants to "go home". Do you see a link near the top of the page that may allow you to "go home"?

Hint 2 (What are Tuesday's "Classification Numbers" trying to tell me?)

The first two bold words in Wednesday's entry may help you to decode those numbers.

Hint 3 (I'm still stuck on those "Classification Numbers")

These are colors represented in hexadecimal. There are many sites that will allow you to see what these colors look like. One such site is Do these colors match anything that you see when following Monday's instructions?

Hint 4 (What else is Wednesday trying to tell me?)

Once you have followed Monday's instructions and identified what the "Classification Numbers" are leading you to, you should be able to "click" on that and see something resembling a "bio"

Hint 5 (I need a nudge on what the chart on Thursday is showing me)

The axes of this chart are a little weird. Do the initial letters spell anything?

Hint 6 (I need a nudge on how to get the characters in the table for Friday)

At this point, you should know that each sample letter corresponds with a certain bio (see hints 1-4). Friday tells us that the line number is referring to a specific sentence. Then hint 5 leads us to a word and a letter.

Hint 7 (I need a bigger nudge for Friday)

This puzzle is an example of a common cipher known as a book cipher (or Arnold cipher or Beale cipher). The sample letter tells us what text we will drawing letters from (see hints 1-4). The line numbers tell us which sentence to count in to. Then the position of that sample/line pair in the Thursday grid tells us what word to count in to and then what letter to count in to (see hint 5).

Hint 8 (Can I have a specific example of that process described in hint 7?)

Sample A's hex number is #D29602. Looking up this hex number, we find the color matches Shruti's background on the home page of this website. Clicking the image opens Shruti's bio. For sample A1, we are interested in the first sentence of the bio. A1 appears in column 5, so we count in to the fifth word (PHYSICS). A1 is in row 6 so we count in to the sixth letter (C). This C is what goes in the character column for Sample A Line 1. As a few more examples, A2 = O, A3 = L


Author: Anthony Hoover


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