By Louise Mayor
Infographic showing the number of correct answers submitted to the online answer-checking tool for each of Physics World’s five anniversary puzzles.
(Warning: spoilers below for those who haven’t yet tried the Physics World at 25 puzzles.)
October 2013 was Physics World’s 25th birthday. It was also the month in which, unusually for me, I compulsively checked the comments being posted on this blog. That’s because we published a series of five physics-themed puzzles as part of the celebrations, which left me both (a) excited to see if people would enjoy them, and (b) nervous that some loose cannon might reveal an answer and spoil the fun! (It didn’t calm my worries that the very first comment made on the very first puzzle – now deleted – was indeed the answer to the puzzle.)
With more than 1000 comments posted in total, the response to the puzzles was staggering. Commenters posted where they’d come in the rankings (“Hallelujah! #121. That was a tough slog.”), encouraged others to persevere (“Ted, I think you’re nearly there. You’re right about the first word”) and recipients of help were very grateful (“Thanks uszkanni! I’ve been going a bit mental on that one.”)
The infographic above-right shows the number of correct answers submitted to the online answer-checking tool for each of the puzzles, as of early December. We were very impressed with those numbers: not everyone at Physics World HQ was so successful.
Some commenters also debated whether there were mistakes in the puzzles or even more than one possible answer. “Please do better next time Louise,” someone warned me.
Unfortunately, as I couldn’t debate this without giving the game away, my lips were sealed! Today, however, we can announce not only the single-word answers to the puzzles, but also how you can arrive at these answers. Thanks again to Colin, Nick and Pete at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who composed all the puzzles as well as the solutions below.
If you haven’t tried the puzzles yet, and would like to have a go before seeing the solutions, here are the links to each: