22
$\begingroup$

I just wrote this poem. I hope you guys like it.

This thing can be so tiny,
That's when it has the most variety.

Standing up straight it is surrounded,
Otherwise it can make things bounded.

Within a box it lets you choose,
But if it points up you will lose.

It can be seen leaning,
That's when it reveals true meaning.

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once,
It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

But when wealth is what it shows,
The end is what you will know.

What is the poem referring to? Can you explain what each line means?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This question is on the SE front page now, so I'll have to post the answer later today so everyone can see it. $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 6:46
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Yep, it's featured. Brace yourselves... 1000 views incoming $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 12 '14 at 6:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why you have to post an answer? This is a great riddle, let us have fun :) $\endgroup$ – Narmer Nov 12 '14 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Some good answers so far! I will post my answer after today is over (UTC time). My answer is computer-related. $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 17:08

10 Answers 10

21
$\begingroup$

I think it's

Regular Expression Syntax

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

The . character is a wildcard which can match ANY single character.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

The | character is an "or" operator, so it's surrounded by two choices. Otherwise (if not standing up, but on its side) it sets the bounds of a range, e.g. [a-z]

Within a box it lets you choose,

The box is []. [bc]at returns bat or cat, in other words you choose between the characters within the box.

But if it points up you will lose.

[^bc]at will return ANYTHING OTHER than bat or cat. You lose these options.

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

\ combines with other characters to create something other than a literal character. For example, \t is a tab character

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once,

The "star" character * matches any string with zero or more of a given element.

It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

You might not be certain if you've written the regular expression without errors, which matches what you're looking for, but either way what's returned is coherent with what you wrote. Not too sure about this one...

But when wealth is what it shows, The end, you will know.

$ matches the end position of a string.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just curious, would you have gotten this without my "computer-related" hint? You pretty much nailed it. I'll make some more comments later. $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 18:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You mean the Spoiler Markup reference? Ha, actually I started going down the computer-related route in error! I initially thought the 'leaning'/'meaning' referred to //comments in C-related languages, and I solidified my own error by noting your name was pac-overflow and not pac-exchange! $\endgroup$ – Apd1 Nov 12 '14 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ I posted an answer with the differences between my thinking and your thinking. Once again, great job, very impressive! $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 13 '14 at 1:17
6
$\begingroup$

You are talking about

O

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

When it is used as a symbol (in written communication), an ellipse can have many meanings.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

Not sure about the first part. Perhaps for an egg to stand up straight, it needs external support. An ellipse can be used to encircle things.

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

In an exam, you can encircle a choice or a word (horizontal ellipse). If your score is zero (vertical ellipse), you "lose."

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

When writing measurements as numbers, an italicized zero (at the end) can indicate that it is a significant value.

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

O is a nickname of Oprah Winfrey, a famous celebrity. Zero represents nothing. A zero sometimes is the middle choice in a Likert scale, which indicates no preference.

But when wealth is what it shows, The end, you will know.

When your wealth is zero, you are bankrupt.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

A possible answer:

Book/Story

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

Short stories are plenty and varied.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

You stack books together all supporting each other. (Bounded?)

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

You can choose books from a box/shelf, but if the spine is facing the wrong way, you can't see the title/author (you lose).

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

You need to lean/hold a book (while open) to read it and see its contents.

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

A book's contents can be famous, but not the book itself. A book's content may be contentious but an interpretation is always possible.

But when wealth is what it shows, The end, you will know.

When the page numbers get high (wealth), you know you're near the end.

This is a great puzzle by the way. I'm pretty sure this isn't right, but it's a candidate.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1 This is a great answer! But you're right, it isn't what I'm looking for. :) $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 4:26
4
$\begingroup$

It's a:

coin

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

There is a wide variety of tiny coins.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

If it isn't standing up straight it has a certain side facing up. The different sides are used in coin flipping or tossing to make a decision which cannot be altered (i.e. bounded).

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

If you don't know the state of a coin (like Schrödinger's cat (thank you stackErr)) you can guess which side faces up. When it points up (i.e. standing on its edge) you probably guessed wrong and you lose.

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

When a coin starts to lean (this can take a while when the coin is spinning on a surface) you know which side will be facing up, announcing the winner of the toss (the coin's true meaning) before it ends.

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

A very well known person could be on the face of the coin while the monetary value could be practically worthless (i.e. nothing). Coin tosses are always uncertain and never incoherent.

But when wealth is what it shows, The end, you will know.

The person who called tails in the coin toss won.

I'd reckon I have a 50% chance of being right ;)

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

You are talking about:

quarks

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

quark is an elementary particle....smallest of the smallest things. It has 6 flavors: up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

figuring this one out

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

referring to Schrödinger's cat. Havent figured out second sentence

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

Decay of particles show that quarks lean away from the collision...I think thats how they were discovered. This is just last minute guessing :P

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

Again quarks are elementary particles, they make up every other particle. Havent figured out the coherence bit

But when wealth is what is shows, The end, you will know.

I think this is referring to A quark-nova/quark-star. Quark star/nova are stars made up of quarks. When they are at the end of their life cycle they would cause a super novae aka the end of you.

I am not an expert in this area... just a student doing Comp. Eng, this is what I have learned from my own reading and as you can see there are gaps in my knowledge. So I could be really really wrong but I see parallels here.

Anyways, whatever it is. It is a good poem :)

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not claiming to be an expert in that subject... but I can't possibly see how half of the lines apply! I guess this will be a learning experience. $\endgroup$ – TheRubberDuck Nov 12 '14 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ I don't want to discourage you from finishing your answer, I'd be very interested in reading the full answer! It can definitely be a learning experience. But for everyone else, keep thinking, because this is not what I'm looking for. $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ Awww :(. I will write up a full answer later. Am busy right now and dont have time to research the few remaining bits $\endgroup$ – stackErr Nov 12 '14 at 2:46
  • $\begingroup$ @stackErr +1 for a good try! $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 4:25
2
$\begingroup$

The solution is:

Television

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

Variety shows were a staple of English language television from its early days (late 1940's) into the 1980s, when televisions were tiny.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

If the TV is on and in a straight position, everyone surrounds it to see it. If it isn't (aka is off) you can talk with others and bound with them.

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

The box is quite obviuos and you can chose a channel with the remote, but if the remote points up you lose this ability.

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

When you see television you lean back on the sofà. That's the true meaning of having a TV, right? :P

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

First sentence: Justin Bieber. You can see Uncertainty but not incoherence (I have some doubts about it :P)

But when wealth is what is shows, The end, you will know.

"and they lived happily ever after." (and wealthy, I suppose)

Just as @d'alar'cop answer, I'm pretty sure this isn't right, but it's a candidate.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

The answer is:

a dry erase marker.

The riddle's explanation:

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

You can buy packs of smaller markers with a huge number of colors. Big markers are typically sold as just a few colors.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

Sold in the store it is standing up straight, surrounded by other markers and packaging. When you're writing with it, you can draw lines and borders.

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

Drawing on a whiteboard (box shape) you can choose what to draw. But careful! If you keep the marker pointing up, the end will go dry and you will lose, as it will stop writing.

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

That's the ticket -- just hold the marker at an a "leaning" angle, and it will write better and the end won't go dry.

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

I personally get excited sometimes about writing with dry erase markers (celebrity), but if I'm not using them, they're ignored. Not totally sure about the uncertainty/incoherence.

But when wealth is what it shows, The end, you will know.

They're used in business and sales meetings to write down final numbers, I guess. (A bit of a stretch here.) Maybe the end is the numbers getting erased.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1 I think this may adapt to a fountain pen or possibly any pen. I had tried to make it fit - but I think this is correct. $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 12 '14 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop How can a pen be a celebrity and nothing at once? Also uncertainty/incoherence part is not clear... $\endgroup$ – Narmer Nov 12 '14 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Narmer Yes, that's where I was caught up. There may be some creative way to resolve it - although maybe it's true that it's not the answer $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 12 '14 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop this riddle is driving me crazy. A diamond almost fits in as an answer, but the uncertainty/incoherence part scrambles everything :( $\endgroup$ – Narmer Nov 12 '14 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Narmer I've been thinking about it all day too. I feel your pain :( A "pin" was my other favourite - but uncertainty?? $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 12 '14 at 15:36
2
$\begingroup$

Congratulations to Apd1! His answer is what I was looking for - the poem is referring to a regular expression.

I will only mention the differences between my thinking and his thinking:

Otherwise it can make things bounded.

Otherwise if it's not a |, then it can be something else such as \b which sets a boundary on the match. What Apd1 wrote works too.

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

My thinking here is the opposite of what Apd1 wrote. Special characters need to be escaped with \. If you just have * in your regular expression then you are matching 0 or more occurrences of the previous item. But if you have \* in your regular expression, then you are matching the asterisk - the true meaning of the character.

It can show uncertainty

This is just referring to the fact that one of the metacharacters is ?.

but never incoherence.

Regular expressions follow rules, so they are always perfectly logical. This is what Apd1 wrote in different words (he said he wasn't sure about that one).

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

OK, can't get this out of my head, so posting a second idea.

The answer to the riddle is:

a lottery or raffle ticket

Explanation:

This thing can be so tiny, That's when it has the most variety.

Lotteries with lots of small winnings can have more variety.

Standing up straight, it is surrounded, Otherwise it can make things bounded.

When still in the convenience store, a dangling string of lottery tickets is surrounded by other tickets. Otherwise the tickets are still wrapped around the roll, i.e. bounding it.

Within a box it lets you choose, But if it points up you will lose.

Sometimes you have the tickets in a box and somebody picks one. Not sure about the pointing up, but losing definitely is something that goes with lotteries!

It can be seen leaning, That's when it reveals true meaning.

Some tickets have a lenticular or hologram that make you look at an angle to see what you've got.

It can be a celebrity and nothing at once, It can show uncertainty but never incoherence.

This part fits well -- a lottery ticket may be highly valued by its owner ("celebrity") even though it is not going to win and is therefore worthless. It may be as of yet "uncertain" whether I'm going to win, but it will never be "incoherent" - there will always be a way to definitively tell whether you won or not.

But when wealth is what it shows, The end, you will know.

At some point every ticket either shows wealth, or lack thereof. Either way, it's the end of this ticket. By the way, I despise lotteries and do not participate in them, this was just an idea that came to mind. :)

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

You're referring to a line.

It can be stood up, leaning, sideways, etc. (|, /, \, -, _) It's also in a money sign $ so it seems to fit.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ That is not what I'm looking for, and I don't see how that could explain many parts of the poem. $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 12 '14 at 2:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.