Thursday, January 20, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Abracadabra and M-theory

Over at, the Lenny Conundrum #100 has already been judged. About 2,000 kids of all ages between 2 years and 90 years divided 10 millions neodollars, so each of us can buy some McDonald's neohamburgers for our cute virtual neopets - or perhaps some neostocks on the virtual stock neomarket or whatever exactly the kids are doing there. :-)

Of course, the answer was "Abracadabra" and everyone who followed my hints could have easily found the answer. This conundrum was much like M-theory. Once you see the logic behind it, you're sure that the answer is absolutely unique. But there are always cynics who never believe the uniqueness. One of them wrote:

  • The problem with fill-in-the-blank problems of these kind is there isn't likely to be a unique solution, if you know what I mean. These kinds of problem involve reading the mind of the problem creator as much as anything else.

When I repeated that the solution is unique and it has as many keystrokes as the number of spacetime dimensions of M-theory, another critic of the uniqueness of the solution - namely Wolfgang Beirl - said:

  • Luboš, but the experimental evidence might still be against your unique solution: An 11-digit number to collect avatars on a webpage for kids? As unique as M-theory??? So it might as well be a random number 8-) There is some evidence on the Net that accepted indeed any number for this one ...

I answered his sentence "If it's like M-theory, it might be a random number" by saying that it was doubly wrong: not only it was not random at all, but it was not even a number! :-) You can see how laughable all these abracadabra-skeptics were, and it may be just a matter of time when the experiments show the same about the skeptics concerning string/M-theory! :-)

Incidentally, it was fun to look for the solution. I could not stop. No mathematics or language tricks worked and no web pages gave any useful information. Eventually I went to the other Lenny Conundrums to see how the previous problems looked like - what kind of reasoning can one expect from "Lenny". The problems #1...#8 seemed easier. Suddenly the answer to the problem #9 was 2616. At that moment I exploded because it was clear that it was just a matter of minutes to complete the "theory of everything". ;-)

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snail feedback (16) :

reader TripleIntegral said...

How many man hours have been wasted on this idiocy? Surely we can come up with a more interesting problem to work on than the internal symmetries of the Lenny conundrum?

reader Luboš Motl said...

About 4 hours if summed together. It was partly a weekend relaxation. If you define your particular projects for us more accurately, it could be more interesting.

reader PlatoHagel said...

Not that it matters, but is Lenny Jewish?:)

The Abracadabra formula that has come down to us could be a corruption of:




abacabad abacaba,

abacabad abacabar abacabad abacaba, et cetera.

These formulas, it turns out, are descripive of the most efficient paths [Hamiltonian paths] through cubes of various dimensions, each dimension being labeled with a letter -- a, b, c, d, r. In the original form they would have been Hebrew from : aleph, beth, gimmel, daleth, resh, shin, thov. That would be seven dimensions, labeled by the first four and the last three letters of the Hebrew alphabet. If one didn't want to get lost in hyperspace, it would be handy to have some sort of algorithm to thread the maze of hyperspace. Maybe abacabadabacabarabacabadabacaba would do it [for 5 dimensions].

reader Anonymous said...

String theory is certainly correct, and they are distributing neoNobel neoPrizes on to the stringy neophysicists.

reader Luboš Motl said...

The last comment is pretty funny! :-) And eventually, in 50 years or so, children on the 2055 version of can really get neoprizes for solving real string theory problems.

reader Anonymous said...


just to set the record straight. You used initially the
wrong number #99 instead of #100.
The confusing results I retrieved with google using your
input were in part responsible for my 'random number' comment.

Indeed we submitted the correct answer, once my daughter
Diana opened her neopets account. In my opinion, a neopets
account was the main ingredient to answer #100, just
like experimental evidence for supersymmetry will be the
main ingredient to answer the quantum gravity conundrum
(one way or another) ...

Thank you again for drawing my intention to this and special
thanks from Diana for the neopoints.

You are the greatest,
Wolfgang Beirl

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Wolfgang,

thanks for your comment. But: when I was asked the question, I neither had a account, nor I knew that this website existed.

It may be funny if you blame Google for your wrong deductions, but Google is just a tool - and the Google Corporation was not foolish to say that M-theory or Abracadabra was ambiguous. It was you who made the laughable conclusions - so don't blame our friends at Google. ;-)

And greetings for Diana.

All the best

reader Anonymous said...


I did not blame anybody, except mentioned that you
had your numbers wrong initially ...

By the way you may have asked the question without
a neopets account but it was certainly helpful for
the answer.
As far as I recall, I was the first to post that
Lenny was from neopets (and yes I did use google
to find this.)
And again, the whole episode just shows
1) that you need 'experimental evidence' for this kind
of sophisticated (!) problem.
2) that the paths to the answer can be filled with
misleading numbers, hints and mis-understandings.

By the way, congratulations to the neo-Nobel !


PS: I will not follow up more, since I really need to
work today 8-)

reader Anonymous said...

you may well enjoy:

reader Anonymous said...

What? Abracadabra isn't even a number!

reader Anonymous said...

2616, 3, 11, 10850, abracadabra, 25, 2038

I'm still scratching my head.

reader Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote:
2616, 3, 11, 10850, abracadabra, 25, 2038

I'm still scratching my head.

Anonymous replies:

Lenny Conundrum is a weekly puzzle that appears on
The answers to the 9th, 16th, 25th, 36th, 49th, 64th, 81st and 100th
Lenny's puzzles are 2616, 3, 11, 10850, abracadabra, 25, 2038
and abracadabra respectively. The 100th puzzle was fill in the missing
value in the sequence
2616, 3, 11, 10850, ______, 25, 2038.

reader Anonymous said...

That only confirms my point about reading the puzzle creator's mind!

reader Anonymous said...

If string theory is really anything like this "conundrum", I can only say the Creator's mind is perverse. :)

reader Anonymous said...

Well, it's like those SAT and other exams like qualifying exams which test for among other things whether or not a student has studied previous exams, isn't it?

reader Anonymous said...

By the way, the new conundrum #101 is about good, old gravity
and not some M-theoretic abracadabra 8-)
If you need help you may find the link below helpful


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