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Math Teacher Solves Adobe Semaphore Puzzle (mercurynews.com) 52

linuxwrangler writes: For over 4 years, lights atop Adobe's office building in San Jose have flashed out a secret message. This week, the puzzle was solved by Tennessee math teacher Jimmy Waters. As part of the winnings, Adobe is donating software and 3D printers to Waters' school in his name. "The semaphore had been transmitting the audio broadcast of Neil Armstrong's historic moon landing in 1969," reports The Mercury News. "That's right, not the text but the actual audio." The report provides some backstory: "Waters discovered the project, San Jose Semaphore, last summer while he was looking up something about Thomas Pynchon's 1966 novel, 'The Crying of Lot 49.' The text of that work was the code originally programmed by New York-based artist Ben Rubin in 2006. Seeing there was a new message, Waters began trying to decipher it while watching and writing down the sequences online from Tennessee. He discovered a pattern that led him to believe it could represent a space -- or a silence -- in an audio file, and when he graphed the results it looked like an audio wave. He dismissed that as being too difficult but came back to it and eventually ran his results into a program that would convert his numbers to audio. The first results came back sounding like chipmunks squeaking. So he tweaked things and found himself listening to the historic broadcast, which ends with Armstrong's famous line, 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'" You can listen to the semaphore message here.
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Math Teacher Solves Adobe Semaphore Puzzle

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2017 @08:21PM (#54054927)

    He said "one small step for a man". The transmission was messy.

    • by Jaborandy ( 96182 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @08:33PM (#54055017)

      He said "one small step for a man". The transmission was messy.

      Man, I'm glad I'm not the only one who wanted to post this correction.

      I've spoken to Neil. He insists he said that "a." It's certainly obvious that he meant to.


      • Oh, I always thought he just misspoke. It made me imagine how great it would have been if he had misstepped and fallen on his face right then. Well, as long as they would have had sufficient sense of humor which is not likely.

  • Congratulations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:18PM (#54055183) Homepage

    Great job by Mr. Waters.

    I'm sure the printers donated by Adobe are secondary to the satisfaction of figuring out the message.

  • They were waving flags?

    • Sort of - yes. Not physical flags. But rotating disks "waving" out a message. Check out the article and the corresponding website that contains a live feed - it's pretty cool.

      It meets this definition of a semaphore: "system of conveying information by means of visual signals, using towers with pivoting shutters, also known as blades or paddles"

  • Software as a reward? Seriously :-( Oh wait, almost forgot how over expensive Adobesoft is.
  • Short video (Score:5, Informative)

    by RuffMasterD ( 3398975 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @04:56AM (#54056757)

    Here is a short video of the cipher in action, including decent audio: https://vimeo.com/1763615 [vimeo.com]

    Adobe runs the full cipher on their site [adobe.com] too, in case anyone wants to take a crack at it from home. To hear the audio you need a Flash plug-in, of course.

  • I hadn't heard of this "contest" prior to the publication of the article on Ars. But it is a really cool art installation. I also read the paper by the previous winners.

    This seems like my kind of puzzle. I don't have the skills to work for the NSA -- This artist wanted to create a puzzle that was hard while still allowing anyone a chance to crack it. Observing, building frequency tables, pattern matching, and lots and lots of figuring things out. Even though the current one has been solved I might giv

  • "One small step for A MAN."

  • Not only do they not have an announcement on the Adobe semaphore site, it looks like it hasn't been updated in at least 2 years. The site proudly announces the "new" code, i.e. the one from 2012 that just got solved. The news page is even worse. It's all news from the original solving in 2007.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal