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This was inspired by the octospiders in the Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke. Reading the series is not a requirement for solving the puzzle and actually wouldn't help at all besides being able to say, "I recognize that."


Nicole des Jardins comes across a subspecies from the octospiders' home planet. Although it uses color bands to communicate just like the octospiders, the language is completely different. As she's puzzling over the creature and trying to understand, Dr. Blue approaches.

"Do you understand?" he asks.

"Not yet," replies Nicole, "but I'm not one to give up easily."

"If I may offer some guidance..." the doctor begins, waiting for Nicole to respond in the affirmative before continuing, "This is a species we engineered using communication systems recovered from the communication equipment humans left on Rama. Although it uses color bands so we can understand, it speaks in a language best understood by your own computers and bears no resemblance to our own language or grammar. With a little translation help of any of your computers, a human should have no trouble reading it."

"I thought about that but all I got was gibberish - mostly just parentheses, actually."

"How many legs does an octospider have, Nicole?"

"Oh, right. Hang on, then." Nicole makes a few alterations on her pocket computer's program. When the result is displayed, she looks up at Dr. Blue. "I see you've been watching ancient Earth movies again."


The series of color bands that the little creature was displaying are shown below in the order they appeared. Can you figure out what it was saying to Nicole?

Color Seak

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Thanks to Alconja for the suggestion.

caN yoU PaiNT wITH ALL ThE COlorS Of tHE wind

My first thought upon seeing this problem is, I wonder what the rgb and hsv values of those bands are.

The solution is to interpret each rgb value as a character in order. However you have to interpret them as octal values not decimal values.

The program I used gives r,g,b in the range 0-255

$$ \begin{array}{ a b c d } r & g & b \\ 103 & 141 & 116 \\ 40 & 171 & 117 \\ 125 & 40 & 120 \\ 141 & 151 & 116 \\ 124 & 40 & 167 \\ 111 & 124 & 110 \\ 40 & 101 & 114 \\ 114 & 40 & 124 \\ 150 & 105 & 40 \\ 103 & 117 & 154\\ 157 & 162 & 123 \\ 40 & 117 & 146 \\ 40 & 164 & 110 \\ 105 & 40 & 167 \\ 151 & 156 & 144 \\ \end{array} $$

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    $\begingroup$ If you pretend RGB the values are in octal then the ascii works. "Can you..." $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 5 '16 at 3:33

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