21
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alien_message_image_graphic







Text version:

           H                                                     
          I Y                                         B          
         J Y Z                   Q                   L P         
        K Y Z Z                 V U                 C I G        
       E F S G S               M I L               O N U L       
      V I W V K H             R U N X             A N Z U Q      
     N H A V Z K W           C O F H P           C X P J K F     
    V R P K K O V A         A B M S O A         Q L L D F E A    
   R D N B I B M I R       W D X O D K P       M D H D Z F Y B   
  Y S K C Y J R U N D     K L R F I U P Z     E H V L R H X A A  
 E T Y L Q H B P E I U   L Y M E A H M C W   L S O G E M U C X C 
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
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3
  • $\begingroup$ Why are the five characters obscured by the five cows in front not considered? If there are no characters behind those cows, how do we know that? After all, the cows are obscuring, correct? Are they super-secret letters? $\endgroup$
    – EllieK
    Nov 11, 2022 at 16:59
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @EllieK — That is a very good question! :-) I just put those five scattered cows in there for ambience, to suggest that the entire field is filled with cows. I didn't want it to look like the cows were purposefully lined up against the beams for some reason. I was originally going to fill the entire field with cows, but they looked too much like ants. My high school art teacher told us that you don't need to draw every brick in the wall, you just need to draw a few bricks here and there to suggest a brick wall. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Nov 11, 2022 at 17:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or maybe those cows are hiding the name of the quotation attribute: F-R-O-S-T $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Nov 11, 2022 at 17:08

2 Answers 2

13
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The letters

correspond to numbers mod 26, with A=1 ... Z=26=0.

The triangles

are upside-down Pascal antitriangles, meaning that each letter is the sum of the two below.

This means

that there is a bit of ambiguity about the last rows, but not so much that we can't tell that ...

The last rows

quote Robert Frost: "POETRY IS WHAT GETS LOST IN TRANSLATION". (Perhaps the cows have some Frost connection? The only Frost poem about cows I know doesn't seem relevant.)

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the cows simply got in the way. The message is from the aliens, not from the cows. $\endgroup$
    – msh210
    Nov 10, 2022 at 4:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think so too. But I did wonder whether SlowMagic's decision to make it be cows getting in the way (rather than, say, buildings or trees or sheep) was made for some thematic reason. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Nov 10, 2022 at 12:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I thought it was a play on the Pink Floyd album "Obscured by Clouds". $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2022 at 13:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The idea is that the aliens have profound truths to impart to us about the difficulty of true communication between civilizations, and yet they always seem to deliver their messages to remote fields, which doesn't help. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Nov 10, 2022 at 13:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As @msh210 wrote, the cows simply got in the way, as cows would. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Nov 10, 2022 at 13:39
14
+500
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The Aliens are saying:

poetry is what gets lost in translation

Convert the letters to numbers, and you'll see that the two numbers below add together to give the one above, except mod26. That doesn't give quite enough information to exactly determine the bottom row, but it does give enough to determine the intervals between them, and draw up a table like this:

  5   20  25  12  17  8   2   16  5   9   21   
1   4   16  9   3   14  20  8   8   23  12  9
2   3   17  8   4   13  21  7   9   22  13  8
3   2   18  7   5   12  22  6   10  21  14  7
4   1   19  6   6   11  23  5   11  20  15  6
5   26  20  5   7   10  24  4   12  19  16  5
6   25  21  4   8   9   25  3   13  18  17  4
7   24  22  3   9   8   26  2   14  17  18  3
8   23  23  2   10  7   1   1   15  16  19  2
9   22  24  1   11  6   2   26  16  15  20  1
10  21  25  26  12  5   3   25  17  14  21  26
11  20  26  25  13  4   4   24  18  13  22  25
12  19  1   24  14  3   5   23  19  12  23  24
13  18  2   23  15  2   6   22  20  11  24  23
14  17  3   22  16  1   7   21  21  10  25  22
15  16  4   21  17  26  8   20  22  9   26  21
16  15  5   20  18  25  9   19  23  8   1   20
17  14  6   19  19  24  10  18  24  7   2   19
18  13  7   18  20  23  11  17  25  6   3   18
19  12  8   17  21  22  12  16  26  5   4   17
20  11  9   16  22  21  13  15  1   4   5   16
21  10  10  15  23  20  14  14  2   3   6   15
22  9   11  14  24  19  15  13  3   2   7   14
23  8   12  13  25  18  16  12  4   1   8   13
24  7   13  12  26  17  17  11  5   26  9   12
25  6   14  11  1   16  18  10  6   25  10  11
26  5   15  10  2   15  19  9   7   24  11  10

Convert those numbers back to letters, and pick out the row that reads like real words.

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2
  • $\begingroup$ Beautiful solution! Thank you for demonstrating how you worked through all the possibilities. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Nov 10, 2022 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ It was a close race, but Gareth posted his solution 2 minutes and 35 seconds before you. $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    Nov 11, 2022 at 16:13

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