When was this marvelous thing first invented?
The answer to this puzzle will be a year.


5 Answers 5


The image doesn't seem to be much at first glance. However:

there is something hidden in an off-white color. Here, I've turned it red:
enter image description here

In The Sphinx's Lair, we spent ages trying to figure out what this might be, with no success. However, athin pointed out that:

they are actually Wakandan letters, from the recent movie Black Panther. (This is additionally hinted at by "marvelous thing", since Marvel Studios produced the movie.)

The letters spell "SOUND ABSORBING METAL". This is a reference to Vibranium, a fictional metal from the Marvel universe. In the comics, this was a naturally-occurring metal, so we must look out of universe for the answer: it was invented by Stan Lee, the author of the Daredevil comic in which it first appeared, in 1966.

  • $\begingroup$ Gah, I knew it looked familiar. $\endgroup$
    – Quintec
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ Don't you just love how the Wakandans get full-on English, complete with quirky spelling, and the only change is a complete new set of letters to write it with? :) heh $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Stilez the Wakandand actually speak isiXhosa, a south african language $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 15:31

The answer is



The image has runes hidden by a slightly off-white color, helpfully highlighted red by Deusovi,runes
which spell “SOUND ABSORBING METAL” in Wakandan (MARVEL-ous)

dis alphabet
This metal is Vibranium, which was first invented for Fantastic 4 #52 in July of 1966

  • $\begingroup$ source for the runic alphabet pls $\endgroup$
    – somebody
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ @somebody there $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ See also this (there be spoilers here!) $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Rubio yup, they work the same though $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ Where are the runes hidden? $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 6:03

The PNG image file format was first invented in 1996.

(It was subsequently refined in 1998, 1999, 2003, and 2004)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think it's not just the PNG file format. There's more hidden in the image. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 22:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or are we talking about the ligatures, then? That was invented at the same time as moveable type, around 1450. The very concept of a question mark? That's less certain, but is believed to be sometime in the 13th century. Modern English? That's generally said to have originated when the printing press made its way to England; 1476. Language itself? Depends on what you count as 'language', but scholars seem to be suggesting anything from approximately 600,000 years ago to 1,800,000 years ago. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 22:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ ...No, I'm talking about the runes hidden in an off-white color (here changed to red) that seem to be a clue on what "this marvelous thing" is actually supposed to be. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 22:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Get wrecked guys. When Deusovi says something that nobody gets until he finally posts it and everybody realizes that they are a hundred steps behind XD Good job @Deusovi, I hate you so much hahaha $\endgroup$
    – NL628
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 23:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Were those red symbols, the one which appeared on the Black Panther? $\endgroup$
    – athin
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 2:41

While it is certainly not the intended answer, one can take the printed words as referring to themselves in which case the thing is

movable type as evidenced by the perfect reproduction of various letters ('e', 'i', 'n', 't', and so on) that appear more than once in the text

and 1440 AD is a reasonable answer.

  • $\begingroup$ If you ignore everything about a puzzle except what suits your answer, any answer can be made to look reasonable. :) $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 20:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ::shrugs:: I tell my students that if they answer a question other than the one I meant I will grade their response on it's own merits if the reading is "reasonable" in light of the text. In that vein the question is "Is this reading one that another same human would use, and if so is the answer both correct and unique enough that it has to be taken seriously". Which is of course, up to everyone who comes here to vote. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 21:03

In the 790s by Alcuin of York. Of course I'm assuming that you're referring to that marvelously useful squiggle that you kindly displayed for us immediately following your question.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you provide more explanation? The person you mention developed a writing style at about the time you mention, but it was based upon a latin alphabet. What we're seeing in the image looks more like runes, to me (albeit not a specific set of runes that I recognise; I'm no expert in this field!). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @TrevorPowell - My answer only refers to the question mark itself (reading it as: When was this marvelous thing invented: ? ). I began responding to this long before the runes were revealed but I ended up on a long meandering Sunday walk through the Forests of Wikipedia after I went looking for a date on Alcuin. I have since noticed that you had mentioned the question mark in your comments too. Frankly, I'm satisfied with this as answer and I would like to offer you the credit for the first mention of it. I'll leave the runes to someone else - unless they happen to spell "question mark" :-) $\endgroup$
    – jwolf
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, gotcha! I misinterpreted what you meant by "useful squiggle". $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ There is more to this puzzle than meets the eye. This answer is, alas, not correct. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 2:29

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