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Potpourri II

First of all, we'd like to congratulate Jeffrey Thompson for being the first to solve all questions correctly. (Technically he solved only eleven; it was decided that question #7 was unfair for several reasons).

Jeffrey Thompson is a programmer turned attorney, working for IBM. He has a BS and MS in Computer Science and has been a long time puzzle buff. He has a tendency to use the "brute-force" strategy on puzzles. For Potpourri II, he received help from his wife, an astronomy and oceanography teacher. Congratulations Jeff!

And now, the solutions:

  1. Joseph Heller. The connection we wanted people to think of was Rembrandt's paintingAristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer. Literary buffs will recall Joseph Heller's "Picture This," a book about that painting. So the complete series was an author writing about a painter, painting a philosopher, contemplating a poet. This was a tough one, we admit.
  2. This problem, more commonly known as the Von Neumann problem, wasn't a problem for most. The answer was 100 miles. No calculus was necessary; you simply needed to realize that the bird would have been flying five hours when the trains met.
  3. In 1752 England changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian, to be in synch with the rest of Europe. In order to do so, eleven days were dropped.
  4. There are multiple defenses; the one submitted by Jeff was three Jacks (one suit being the same as the 10 of the first player) and the 9 and 10 of the remaining suit. Try it out! A lot of people were stumped by this, because the initial value of the defense hand is so low, therefore non-intuitive.
  5. What Monty forgot was that while factoring large composites is hard, finding the GCD (greatest common divisor) of two numbers is not. Incidentally, we did not intend to make this mistake when we created the puzzle; the problem was pointed out to us afterward (Thanks Nicolas Fortescue!) and we decided it would make an excellent Potpourri challenge. If two of the doors have a GCD greater than one, choose the third door.
  6. The text is the Voynich Manuscript. Apparently the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale has been getting a few calls lately on the subject...
  7. The answer we were looking for was "Graph Isomorphism"; all the others have been proven to be NP-Complete. But it was decided that the question was a) unfair (because sub-graph isomorphism is NP-complete) and b) had other valid answers. So we axed it.
  8. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto, Neptune. Many people are unaware that Pluto's orbit crosses Neptune's and is closer to the sun. (Note: Pluto returned to being the furthest planet from the Sun in February of 1999)
  9. Most people knew, or were able to find out, the ages are caused by the precession of the Earth. The Earth rotates around its axis very nearly once every 24 hours. But the axis itself slowly rotates as well, changing its orientation relative to the stars. This takes approximately 26,000 years. What most people didn't know was how to spellprecession (although we weren't penalizing people for spelling).
  10. A nibble (or nybble) is half a byte. There are 1024 bytes in a kilobyte, and 1024 kilobytes in an MB. So there are 2097152 in a megabyte of RAM. Why did we specify RAM? Because harddrive manufacturers use the more pedestrian meaning of "mega" at exactly one million. Presumably because it allows them to say that their harddrives are larger.
  11. The message was sent from the Arecibo radio telescope; hopefully to intelligent life in outer-space. Specifically, it was sent to the residents of the M13 star cluster, with a subject heading of "Make Money Fast". Just kidding! It was a binary string which could be decoded into a (VERY rough) pictographic representation of our numbering system, our solar system, DNA, etc.
  12. Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, conceived of the first programming language for Babbage's analytical engine. The US Department of Defenses programming language "Ada" was named after her.
We had a great time with Potpourri II and are sure to do it again. Until next time!
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