Saturday, March 29, 2014

The 18 Cryptograms of Western University (Part 2)

I found some time to think about the cryptograms since my last post. Apparently, there has been another found since then, putting the number to 19. Granted, I don't want to have to constantly rename it, so i'll keep it at 18 cryptograms for now.
The purported 19th page

The key fact I decided to consider was the fact that there are really only 4 letters- The Leaf letter, The Gem letter, the Feather Glass, and the Feather Table.The Importance of the picture over the content

To prove my point:
Here are the endings of two Gem pages. Notice how the symbols
are exactly the same. The only difference is that there are significantly
fewer symbols on the page on the right. The letters I listed above are
the ones with the MOST symbols and otherwise identical content.

Every other letter is just a variation of those letters with less content. Which makes me wonder why they exist in the first place. Why would you release letters without the full content? If you were writing a message to someone and sent them multiple, why would you send some that didn't have the full message?

There seems to be two plausible explanations for that:

  1. The missing symbols are supposed to highlight something
  2. The final symbols are not as important as the picture choice

Why Explanation 1 is probably wrong

Now, for the first explanation, this would mean that there was intentional effort spent trying to make sure that certain symbols vanished from the back. This means, it was not simply because they were formatted out. 

Here's how I tested it. I went on google and searched for the name of the objects such as "Box", "Table", and "Glass". Most of the pictures that showed up were essentially identical to the ones that were seen on many of the letters.
The 9th image on the first page is quite familiar.
The very first image appears to be the same one we find on our letters

From there, I decided to copy the image and scale it without changing the dimensions of it (the ratio between width and height stayed the same). And I proceeded to superimpose it onto our letters with a bit less opacity.

I matched the sizes of the boxes together. The whiter segment
is the boundaries of the original image
I superimposed the table onto the table. The sizes match and the
super-white parts determine the original boundaries of the image

So what does this mean?

Well as you can see, the Box image has lines of 6 symbols long beside it. While the Table image has lines of 7 symbols next to it. Additionally, the start between the symbols and the boundaries are the same in both images. 

Supposing google is where they got the images, it would mean that the author did not change the dimensions after acquiring the image. They may have scaled it, but they kept the dimensions the same.


Given that all the images with feathers had 7 full lines. It appears that the author scaled the images so that the height would allow for 7 full lines. However, the author did not care to deal with the width of the images.

That might not sound like much of a big deal, but that could be deceptive. It suggests that the author did not try to tweak the image's boundaries to make it so that an exact number of symbols was deleted. So for the author, the last few symbols didn't really matter. 

Instead there were two things that could have mattered more:
  1. The first 7 lines for the feathers staying intact (Added note: this is not the case for gems, nor leaves: see below)
  2. Having an image there, and keeping its width dimensions (ratio wise)

I should also make a note of something. Compare these two images
Look at the bottom of the glass. Notice how the one on the right
is slightly rounder than the one of the left? Also notice how it is
also more skinny and widens toward the lip?
What you'll notice is that the two images aren't the same. Well, the second image is one of the first hits you find on google. It's actually NOT where the author got his image. Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate where the author found his image as of yet.

The third image on google is NOT the image used by the author

The Interesting Case of Gems

I performed the same process of superimposing the pictures I found on google over the images on the letters to see if the boundaries had changed. While it became quite clear that the author had tried to scale the pictures in the feather image so that they were the same height (allowing for 7 full lines), it was a bit different for gems.

The Box superimposition was as expected
However, this one was different
The Gem box told a different story. Given the boundaries of the picture, it is very plausible that the document decided that it couldn't finish the 7th line. However, given that, the author did not attempt to remedy it (despite being so close). Which suggests that the 7 line may not have mattered so much for the author at all.

I couldn't find the images for leaves to test yet.

What does Explanation 2 suggest?

We've essentially established that the author didn't really care to bother keeping the last few symbols in the letter. Given that, what can we learn from that?

If the symbols were simply pushed out by the pictures, then it suggests that having the picture with its original height to width ratio is more important than having the full content of the symbols.

This suggests that the complete content of the letter (symbol-wise) is not actually the most important part of letter(after all, the author has no qualms or cares about getting rid of the last few symbols), and that perhaps the picture is meant to convey much more. 
However, it should be noted that all the colored symbols still exist. So perhaps they have some significance, and perhaps there is still something to be learned from the text before the final colored symbol.
I'll ponder it a bit more.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The 18 Cryptograms of Western University (Part 1)

There has been an interesting mystery brewing in Western University of  London, Ontario. 18 pages filled with strange symbols have been found slipped in the middle of various textbooks in the political science and economics department library. Given a puzzle like this, I couldn't find it in myself to turn it down.
Page 14 of 18

A First Look

I suggest taking a look at the letters if you are interested in reading further.

You can find the album of the letters here.

Here are a few facts that are immediately noted:

  • The letters appeared to all be found in the poli-sci and economics library
  • Each letter is placed in an envelope and accompanied by an object
  • Each letter has an image on the bottom of the page
  • There is a web address leading to a url: ""- seems to be a blank page

A Deeper Look (Framing the Problem)

Here are a few facts that are realized after looking a little deeper
  • There are only 3 objects: Feather, Leaf, and Gem
  • There are only 6 pictures: Pillow, Vase, Glass, Frame, Box, and Table
  • Someone has pointed out that there are 40+ symbols, which suggests that it might not translate directly into English (with an alphabet of 26 with a numeric bonus of 10 symbols)
Given that I began to wonder if the objects and pictures denoted anything. So I began to compare the pages with the same object to one another. I quickly found that many of the pages were actually quite similar, and in fact, many of them were identical.

For instance, Pages 3 and 4 both had Feathers for their objects, with different pictures at the bottom:
  • Page 3 had an Orange Feather, and a Glass picture
  • Page 4 had a Green Feather, and a Table picture. 
I found that the two pages had the exact same content except for the last few symbols. I decided to perform the same task with the same object and the same picture:
  • Page 4 had an Orange Feather, and a Glass picture
  • Page 8 had a Pink Feather, and a Glass picture
To my pleasant surprise, the two pages appeared to be completely identical in content. The formatting was entirely the same. I felt like I was onto something, and tested it with a few others.
  • Page 11 has the same object and picture as 4 and 8, and is identical to them
  • Page 12 has the same object and picture as 3 and 7, and is identical to them
  • Page 16 has the same object and picture as 3, 7, and 12, and is identical to them
This leads me to the hypothesis:

The object identifies the content of the letter, while the picture within it determines a version of the letter with slight formatting differences. This is given the fact that all letters with the same object and picture were identical.

I wondered if there was a connection between just the pictures. So I double checked it by looking at letters with the different objects, but the same picture:
  • Page 13 has a Gem and a Box
  • Page 17 has a Feather and a Box
The two letters were entirely different. Which suggested that there was no immediately obvious connection between the letters with the same letter and different objects. 

Granted this, I decided to look at the list of letters with similar content (letters with the same objects) and looked at how they compared:
  • Gems
    • Glass pictures have 2 more symbols than Vase pictures and Frame pictures
    • Box pictures have 6 fewer symbols than Vase pictures
    • Table pictures have the same number as Glass pictures
  • Feathers
    • Glass pictures have 2 more symbols than Table pictures
    • Table and Glass pictures have different content (different endings after the last feather symbol)
    • Box pictures have 5 fewer symbols than Glass pictures
  • Leaves
    • Pillow pictures and Vase pictures are the same content wise, but have different formatting
This means the number of symbols :
  • Gems
    • Glass/Table> Vase/Frame>Box
  • Feathers
    • Glass>Table>Box
  • Leaf
    • Pillow=Vase
Given this, if we want to see the full content of the letters, we simply need to look at these (you don't have to look at ALL of them from the list):
  • Leaf Pillow or Vase- Pages 1, or 18
  • Gem Glass or Table- Pages 6 or 14
  • Feather Glass: Pages 3, 7, 12, or 16
  • Feather Table: Pages 4, 8, or 11

So Far

We have yet to try and apply any cryptography to it, but have noted a few things of interest such as the categorization system, and a few other qualities. It also brings out many questions that very well may bring us towards understanding what the writer (or writers as it may be) were attempting.

I'm a firm believer that solving a problem consists of finding the right questions to ask. So at this point in time, we can begin to take a look at some of the questions that have arisen from this scenario. 
  • Why so many of the same letters and so few of others? 
  • Why make so many variations of each letter (content wise), when they essentially share the same content?
  • Why make variations of each letter at all?
  • Is there extra meaning behind the objects and the pictures?
  • Is there meaning behind the location and place they were found?
  • Could any of them been copycats and fakes?
  • Are the colored symbols supposed to mean?
These questions may not be the typical cryptography approach, but may shed some light on the mystery as a whole. After all, in order to break a code, you have to have the information and know the secret. Given that, some of these questions may enlighten us on what it is we may need to know.

I'm going to brew on it a bit more before writing a second part
EDIT: Part 2 can be found here

If you want another source, I suggest going here. Its the blog of the professor who has first hand access to the knowlege
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Malaysia 370- Follow up analysis of possibilities

My previous article was an analysis of the Malaysia 370 situation. It wasn't meant to provide new information, but rather highlight the likelihood of certain scenarios and the key questions that should be answered. However, analysis isn't the full responsibility of a strategist- there comes a time where he must also decide on a plan of action.

Possible routes of the Plane
In this article, I ponder the methods I would employ in order to find out what happened to the aircraft/recover it and the people.

This will be written from the current situation and point of view.

Current Situation

Chinese satellite photo of "possible debris"
Currently the International community is essentially acting upon the assumption that the plane had crashed within an hour of the last ping. Thus, they are engaging in attempts to find the wreckage. Satellites used by China and Australia have caught sight of several large pieces of wreckage. There are constant flights back and forth, scanning the depths for evidence of a crashed plane.

I will admit, this does seem like the most likely scenario given what I know. Given the difficulty of the whole scenario, it seems difficult to deny it. The satellite pings from the plane were an indicator that the plane was still "aloft". So the lack of an eighth ping suggests that the plane is no longer in the air. Officials assumed that this meant that it had crashed. Which, I admit, is probably the most likely scenario.


But what if it hadn't? Is it possible for the satellite pings to stop happening and for the plane to either stay afloat or not have crashed?

Let's take a look at what this would entail (assuming everything said up till now was accurate).

Something had to have stopped the satellite pings, this could include signal jamming, a ping system failing, a failure to connect to the satellite, and the plane no longer being afloat (but not crashed).
  • Signal Jamming- This would require either powerful technology, or certain conditions.
    • I would do research in how the ping system works, and what could block it. I would then look at the difficulty and expense in creating a machine that would block those signals. Given that the ping system went on for so long, it would mean that the pilot didn't have the signal jammer or forgot to turn it on until then.
    • It would also be telling of who could have done such a task. If it the plane was trying to fly into a signal-jammer zone, then it means there are signs of cooperation. In order to build a signal jammer of that range and size might also require suitable wealth. Perhaps it would suggest the type of person or group we are looking for.
  • Ping System Failing- plausible. Though highly unlikely. The Boeing 777 is typically considered one of the safest and most well-made planes. For the Rolls-Royce designed engine to just fail like that is unlikely, but possible.
    • This would basically consist of researching the ping system inside the engine and looking at the possibility of a failure in normal conditions.
  • A Failure to Connect to the Satellite- Similar to signal jamming, this could have been caused by things like weather, going out of the satellite's range. From what I understand, the satellite's range was quite large, which leaves weather. I am sadly unfamiliar with how well the pinging system sits with weather.
    • Look at the current weather conditions, the satellite range, and possible satellite and ping system blockers.
  • Plane no longer being afloat (but not crashed)- This basically means the plane landed somewhere. If this happened, it would imply that there were helpers as well as a large strip for the plane to land (make that, an enormous strip). This basically means that it would have had to make contact with a tower that allowed space for landing a Boeing 777.
    • Well, I would look on the land to see possible places in which a plane of that size could land. Additionally, there would be a need in order to hide the plane, as well as guide it to a landing without it crashing. If you look on the map, you might notice some possible spots and locations- I would seek those out. The question here is: what would it take to land a Boeing 777.
    • Additionally there's the issue of the people. How do you keep them quiet? Do you round them up and hide them away? Or do you keep them quiet through more violent means? Perhaps you even dump them out mid flight, but that may be too risky.
    • Of course you might say "it could have landed on the water". Well... if it did, it would likely sink. So the search method would be the same as if I had assumed it had crashed. But if you assume that it landed on water on some sort of landing platform, well you'd be assuming a VERY large landing platform. I imagine it wouldn't be too easy to move that around unless it was pieced together in parts.
Basically in short, I feel as though those possibilities are not quite as likely. But they are possible. But if the plane stayed afloat and the ping system died, what then? The plane failed to show up on any other radars, so it would have literally vanished into thin air. We're talking about a Donnie Darko plane vanishing here.

I'll be watching the news closely.
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Silver Blaze of Malasyia Airlines Flight 370

Edit: For clarity, this post is meant simply to provide a perspective and frame of view on the situation. I intended to point out critical points, and highlight likely possibilities. This isn't really meant to provide "new information", as I am not close enough to the actual scene to be able to provide that information. A follow up article about plans for action can be found here

I've made a mistake recently akin to Sherlock Holmes' mistake in Silver Blaze. I assumed that given the fame and well known circumstance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, that it couldn't stay missing for long. But it has been 15 days since, and the location of the plane is still missing.

However, given that I do not have the means to be scouting the possible scenes of the crime, all I can do is sit and logically parse the scene with a strategic mind.

The facts:

Here are some facts collected from a variety of sources. You could always check the Wikipedia page here, if you want to read them in compiled format.

  • Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport heading to Beijing Capital Airport on March 8th at 00:41 local time (MYT)
  • There were 12 crew members, and 227 passengers- the majority of which were Chinese.
  • The plane was a Boeing 777-200ER, registration 9M-MRO
  • At 41 minutes into the flight (1:22 MYT), the transponder and ADB-S turn off
  • At 49 minutes, another aircraft unsuccessfully tries to contact the plane (mumbling)
  • At 1hour and 30 minutes into the flight, the plane begins to make automated ACARS(Aircraft Communications and Reporting System) contact with satellite Inmarset 3F1. Its sort of like a fax machine.
  • At 1hour and 43 minutes (2:15 MYT), there was radar contact of the plane by the Malaysian Military. The plane is now 200 miles NW of Penang
  • Misses flight scheduled arrival time at (6:30 MYT)
  • At 7hours and 30 minutes into the flight, there is one last signal between the plane and the satellite
The projected route of the plane. As you can see, it strayed from the direct
course to Beijing and instead headed west.


Unfortunately, I cannot be on the scene or be aware of all the information going on. All I can really do is bring some possibilities to light given the actions and what has been said.
  1. Key factors- The key questions that should help illuminate the mystery
  2. The first issue is- Accident or Intentional?
  3. The second issue is- If it was intentional, what was the goal?
  4. The third issue is- Who did it?
  5. The fourth issue is- Where is the plane now? What about the people?

Key Factors

  • The Passengers- The passengers might very well have a desire to get home, so if they had the options to contact the outside world they probably would. The fact that we have not is both suggestive and worrisome.
  • The Route of the plane- The plane began to divert course at about 41 minutes in. The plane then starts heading west. This suggests that its trying to get somewhere, or away from something. If all was desired was a crashed plane, then there's no point in flying outwards.
  • The Tracking of the Plane- If a large Boeing 777 vanishes, you can bet that people will be looking for it. The pressure 239 missing people will probably make a plane visible if it passed by. Then again, if it didn't look like it and didn't give the signal of its registration, then perhaps it could be hiding in plane view (Silver Blaze reference), but then that also leaves the issue of shutting up 277 passengers. If it had flown into some well known location, we would likely hear about it.
  • The Vanishing signal- The plane was giving "handshakes" to a satellite telling its location every hour. You have to wonder why it stopped giving signals when it did- Was it because of time, location, or realization that the signals were being sent (unlikely, the engine is what sends the pings apparently)?
  • Access to Control the Plane- In order to "hijack a plane" you have to take control of it. How would they do that for this kind of plane- especially without any reaction from the people on the plane? Could one person do it alone? Was it done from inside or outside? Was it even hijacked at all?

Accident or Intentional

By all the data, it seems there was some very deliberate actions occurring with the control the plane. According to the accounts of US radar experts, the path of the plane after the transponder and ADB-S turned off suggested that it was still under the control of a trained pilot. Of course, it could be possible that the pilot's navigation system had malfunctioned in a grand way, and he thought he was headed the right way.

The checking of the ocean suggests that experts believe
the plane to have crashed.
However, there's also the coincidence that the transponder and ADB-S went offline. The ADB-S is essentially the GPS of the plane- the plane will pinpoint its own location, and broadcast where it is through radio signals. The transponder is used to help control towers identify them on radars (as opposed to UFOs).

The fact that these both went down at the same time seems to suggest that it was turned off deliberately. But
the plane continued to ping the satellite later, suggesting that the plane was still functioning. It would have to be quite a specific thing to turn off those two components at the same time. If I knew more about the hardware behind the 777, I might be able to give you a better picture.

Essentially it seems like quite the coincidence, and when it looks like a coincidence, it probably isn't.

If intentional, what was the goal?

I don't pretend to be a mind reader. But even then, there are ways to help you identify what you have in mind. First of all, if we assume that someone has taken over the plane, we can examine what he has gained: control of an aircraft- specifically a large industrial size Boeing-777, control over the lives of 239 people. 

So what can you do with a large plane? Well, for starters, a plane typically built to transport you. But given the size and difficulty of landing and taking off (not to mention the stigma of having stolen a commercial aircraft), its highly unlikely that the plane was stolen merely for transportation. After all, getting a smaller plane would be easier and more manageable- though you might not be able to get as far with it.

This is the plane that went missing. See those windows?
Each one represents a row of seats. This plane is enormous.
Next, it's important to note that its a Boeing 777. These planes are the world's largest twinjets and have a flight range of 5,235-9,370 nautical miles (9,695 to 17,372 km). To put that in perspective, the earth is 40,075km in circumference. A Boeing 777 can fly a quarter of the earth's circumference in one fell swoop. Given how large they are, they also require large runways for landing and taking off. So that begs the question, if you were going to steal one, where would you put it? The darker side of this was depicted by the USA's 9-11 incident, where the large bulk of the planes were utilized as fast, flying, speeding projectiles to ram landmarks (those planes were Boeing 767s and 757s).

The fact of the matter is, if you were trying to take the plane, you would probably not have much of an opportunity to land it or hide it. Unless there is a secret runway or location that could be used for a safe (or unsafe) landing procedure that none of the world's satellite and governments are aware of, I find that "stealing a plane" is highly unlikely.

The only way I could see it sort of working out is for the pilot or someone else to crash the plane (hopefully without killing himself) in an area where it could be quickly salvaged for parts. Perhaps on somewhat shallow water (for a safer landing and camouflage). The pilot would be literally risking his life, and would have to be able to land the plane safely so the parts would not be damaged. It's uncertain what would happen to the people though. The parts would be sold on the black market. However, the question is: Who would want to buy parts of a plane? Specifically a plane everyone is looking for?

There's also the people. 227 passengers and 12 staff. If it was a ransom situation, there has been no indication of it. Additionally, if you wanted a particular person dead, you could probably get to them in better and more efficient ways- with less risk to yourself. Additionally, you probably wouldn't need to fly for hours after you turned off your transponder and ADB-S if you just wanted to crash the plane. It seemed that he was probably headed toward something (or possibly away from something).

Of course, if we're assuming he was acting in good faith, perhaps there was a giant flying monster/UFO who not only was chasing the plane to the west, but also either blocked radio signals, or forced the pilot to turn it off. Probably pretty unlikely, but it would be lazy of me to rule it out.

Who did it?

The "who" seems to be valued quite highly by people, and I'm not entirely sure why. I'm not seeing the face of the person who did it will make things much better- other than creating hatred towards people the man is associated with.

An average person would not know what to do with this.
But anyways, we can look at a few things that may help establish an identity. Assuming that the person controlling the plane was the same who turned off the transponder and ADB-S, then we can presume that he has understanding of how to fly the plane and operate the equipment. So, a trained pilot- of a Boeing 777. 

This person would also have to be able to access the cockpit, where the transponder and ADB-S are located, as well as the controls of the plane. I'm not sure about you, but I don't think the staff typically takes kindly to random citizens going into the cockpit to hang out with the pilot. Either the staff just decided to let a citizen in (even a disguise probably wouldn't fool them, their crew is only 12), or the pilot(s) is our best bet.

Of course there's always the "hacker" idea, where somehow a hacker is able to remotely access and control a plane. The task would not be simple, and the method the hacker used would have to be more accurate than the tracking and control equipment the control towers have over the plane. They would have to do all this, without being caught.

Additionally, it would be quite likely that it wasn't a single person. It's actually far more likely that there were at least a couple people in on the situation. First of all, there are normally a couple of pilots. If one of your pilots began to divert the plane drastically off-course, you'd probably notice. Additionally, if there was some sort of scuffle, you'd hope that someone (either staff or passengers) would hear it. Then again, planes are loud, and passengers tend to be very passive (especially in first class... at night). 

I understand that we often look for the "who" to establish the "why". But honestly it's really quite difficult to know why people do things, even when you know them very well. How many times have you asked someone you know, "why did you do that"? The reliability of going from "who" to "why" is very low, in my opinion.

Where is the plane now? What about the people?

This is the million dollar question, and the one everyone is aiming for. There are hopes that if the plane's black box is found, then everything will come into light. 

That's a LARGE area to search. I imagine you don't get
phone service over those oceans.
It wasn't mentioned how much fuel the plane had, but given that the 777 line of twinjets can fly a quarter of the world's circumference, it potentially could get pretty far. What was interesting was that there was a lack of satellite contact 7 hours and 30 minutes into the flight, when there had been regular ones starting from 1hour in. What stopped the pings?

There is an hour time frame between the two pings, something had to have happened within that window of time.

Its important to note that the people on this flight would probably want the world to know they are alive. there are 239 passengers, the likelihood of none of them wanting to let their families know they are alive is essentially nil. This suggests that they are not able to contact the outside world. Suggesting that they are either no longer of this world, or unable to access a phone, or phone service.

Working off this, if there are people who are alive and want to contact the outside world, either they don't have phones (possible), or don't have service (more likely). I wish that was more helpful, normally I would suggest a search in places where there is no phone service, but in Asia that is a very large space- especially over water. 

It should be noted that the passengers on the plane may not have been completely aware of what was going on. How often do you fly across the country and wonder "why are we flying north? Oh well..." It would probably take a bit of time before it sunk in and they began to realize that something was wrong. It probably occurred significantly before the plane was scheduled to arrive, and yet the plane seemed to keep going for hours afterwards. Either the people who realized, did nothing. Or they were not able to act for whatever reason.

Conclusion? (tl;dr)

Currently, the international community are spending all their search efforts on a large and vast possible volume of ocean. It is of their belief that the plane went down at that point.

Here's what seems likely to me.

While it's possible that the plane could be controlled from elsewhere, it seems far more likely that someone was able to take control of the plane from within at 41 minutes. This wasn't met with much resistance from the crew or passengers due to either it being a perfectly acceptable scenario (pilot, or someone who needed to take over for the pilot) or being held down (i.e. take over). It's likely that there was a group of people who cooperated (co-pilot didn't care?).

The plane began to fly to the west for a reason. It was headed for somewhere or away from something (perhaps away from highly visible areas, cell towers, giant monsters?). It was not just supposed to crash for no reason.

The plane flew for about 7.5 to less than 8.5 hours before it stopped pinging (was supposed to send a ping to a satellite at 8.5 hours). Given the difficulty/impossibility of disabling the pinging system from inside the plane during flight (especially given what doing the task would need). This suggests that something happened to the plane during that hour. Most experts seem to believe that it went down. Given the 500km/hr route, it's a very large area to search.

The question would be: What could cause the engine to stop pinging the satellite at that point? 

Clearly, the most common and accepted response by the international community is that the plane went down- perhaps exploded. Killing all the people on-board (explaining why there hasn't been contact). But then that begs the question: What could cause such a thing? Did the pilot cause it to crash? Why crash it where it did? Was it forced to crash by someone else? (passengers? other sources?)

But I wonder if there's a possible and plausible explanation for all the facts and situations that doesn't entail the plane exploding. The question would lie in "what would cause the engine to stop pinging"- perhaps landing the plane? As well as "what would be done to shut up all the passengers".

I'm keenly keeping my eyes on the news.
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Monday, March 17, 2014

Strategic Analysis Outcome: League of Legends IEM- IG v. Fnatic

This is the second part of this article, and the test to see if my analysis was accurate. You may have issues following this if you aren't especially familiar with League of Legends or its meta.

The Laning Phase (less roaming, more CSing)

The game begins with IG deciding to swap their top lane with their bottom lane. They were aware that the standard lanes would give the advantage to Fnatic, and a swapped lane would be much more successful. Additionally, given that they had 2 people (Vayne and Thresh) against 1 person (Lulu), Wukong took the opportunity to steal the red buff. IG is recognizing that Fnatic needs to get a foothold early, and is playing to try and hold them down. 

Kassadin dying so early was very bad for Fnatic's strategy
The advantage is pressed further when Lulu is sent back at 3:33, and Kassadin dies to Yasuo at 3:50. This is critical because Kassadin is such a core to Fnatic's strength in the midgame. If he falls behind, they may not have the strong mid game they need to really control the match. Lulu dies to a dive at top at 4:00, which is further putting Fnatic behind.

However, Fnatic's botlane is able to take the first turret at 5:30, and the bot lane goes about trying to support the other lanes. They take the dragon at 8:35. It puts them up a bit, but they aren't as strong as they need to be going into midgame. This point in the game becomes troublesome for Fnatic, since IG starts to group as 4 and takes Fnatic's mid turret. They then begin to pressure the jungle (which is actually what Fnatic was hoping to do at this point in the game- but Fnatic fell too far behind early).

Fnatic tries to do their midgame strategy, and ganks bot with Nocturne and Kassadin, but due to a mix of being weaker and overchasing, they end up losing more than they gain. IG responds by invading the jungle as 4. They steal blue at 15 minutes, then red 3 minutes later.

tl;dr- IG lane swaps and aggressively  hold down Fnatic- denying Fnatic's midgame strength.

Midgame (dragons and outer/inner turrets)

At this point, Fnatic is in a lot of trouble. They aren't really able to fight a 5 man battle against IG, are extremely behind their lane equivalents, and are desperately losing map control (which makes it nigh impossible to splitpush). However, they do have something their opponents do not- siege defense and wave clear. Fnatic has the potential to turtle and play safe in order to get back into the game. 

However, when Fnatic notices IG's failure to pressure and take turrets (instead IG just tries to hold map control, and doesn't contest turrets- possibly due to Fnatic's siege defense) and the fact that IG began to split up- Fnatic took the opportunity to fight back. They kill Wukong, and take dragon at ~20 minutes. However, they lose members to an angry IG.

IG finds the fight they wanted.
IG groups and sits around the Baron pit at 23:05. When Fnatic comes to check (they need 5 men to contest baron), IG engages on them over the wall and gets the fight they want. They then proceed to take Baron, and kill the members of Fnatic who try to stop them. IG with Baron is incredibly strong.

IG actually splitpushes and takes out mid, top and bottom turrets in quick succession. Normally I would have thought Fnatic would have tried to engage when IG was split, but a baron buffed Shyvanna would be too hard to kill. 

tl;dr- Fnatic is really far behind. IG is winning the midgame due to their early game advantages.

Late game (Barons, Inhibs, Nexus)

Fnatic is really behind right now. IG has full control of the map, along with their stronger teamfight. However, if Fnatic is able to win a fight around this point, they have the potential of taking back the game. 

At 31minutes, IG tries to start baron, and Fnatic chooses to engage at that time. This is actually a very interesting fight since it isn't a standard 5v5 which IG would win at. Instead, it is 2 skirmishes. When Nocturne tries to steal Baron, IG's team becomes split up- part of the team peels off for a fight, the other part stays to try and take Baron. This confusion is what Fnatic needs and wants. 

Its more of a misplay of IG, but if Fnatic engineered this skirmish,
thene they are geniuses
  • Lucian's ult onto baron confuses IG. Half of the team peel away from it and engage, while the other half decides to stay and try to take the buff. The main cause is due to Thresh catching onto Kassadin.
  • When IG's Wukong, Thresh and Yasuo attack, they are knocked up by Lulu's ultimate, and then stunned by Annie's tibbers. 
  • Meanwhile, Nocturne flashing in and trying to steal the Baron makes Shyvanna and Vayne turn their attention away from the engage.
  • In essence, it becomes
    • Nocturne vs. Vayne and Shyvanna
    • Yasuo, Thresh, and Wukong (all chain stunned) vs. the rest of Fnatic
  • Wukong panics when he notices that Nocturne had gone to steal Baron, and flashes into the pit trying to secure it. He does, but it leaves the fight as Yasuo and Thresh against 4 members of Fnatic.
    • As expected, Yasuo and Thresh both fall, while Nocturne falls in the back
  • The rest of IG decides to engage with their new baron buff. But at this point the fight is essentially even, and Fnatic survives with more members and take an objective. 
The fight is more of a mistake on the part of IG than anything. If they had chosen to all disengage and attack Fnatic, the fight would have probably turned out differently. But since they split, they weren't able to take advantage of their teamcomp. If they weren't already incredibly ahead, that fight would have been very in favor of Fnatic.

IG groups as 5 champions and tries to pressure mid. But the waves in bot and top are beginning to push in favor of Fnatic. They decide to split apart and shove top and bot. However this ends up being a mistake. Fnatic responds immediately by picking off Thresh with 5 champions, and takes a turret. Normally, you wouldn't expect this.

At 38:31, IG gets a bit desperate and tries to engage onto Annie in the jungle- just trying to start a fight. However, this isn't the best situation as he is melted before his team can respond. However, Fnatic sees the advantage of a 4v5 and walks right into the outstretched arms of 4 members of IG. The fight ends poorly for Fnatic due to the clever tactic and strength of IG. They proceed to take the mid turret and inhibitor.

The last fight actually comes from a surprising siege on bot turret by IG. Shyvanna no longer fears the turret and is willing to engage into a teamfight if Fnatic step up. Fnatic tries to burst down Shyvanna, but fails to take her down. The turret falls, and IG immediately engages in a fight.

tl;dr- Fnatic shows their veteran mental control in the late game. IG makes several mistakes and seem unsure of how to end the game, and Fnatic takes advantage of this confusion. However, IG was just too far ahead in terms of levels and strength that they were able to just brute strength win.


This game was interesting because the two teams had such differing strengths, which really meant that they way they controlled the flow of the game would determine the winner. IG played the early game very well with the lane swaps and counterganks. They were also able to group relatively quickly at 11 minutes and start taking advantage of their teamcomp.

The main factor that let them do this is due to Kassadin's unexpected first blood at midlane, which put Fnatic incredibly behind. I recently heard it was partially due to Yasuo getting lucky with 2 crits, allowing him to get a kill that no one expected him to.

Ultimately IG's teamcomp was very good at teamfighting- the wombo combo style, but not especially strong at sieging. There came points where IG was uncertain what to do, and wandered around in confusion- Fnatic took advanage of this and picked them off. Fnatic also showed their steel mental fortitude and ability to make plays when things looked grim.

As far as how accurate my analysis was, well, parts of it were right, other parts were way off. Both teams did some things that I wasn't expecting. But it really came down to IG taking map control early and preventing Fnatic's strengths from taking over the game with map control, roaming, and splitpushing.

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Strategic Analysis: League of Legends IEM- IG v. Fnatic

League of Legends is a very popular online video game that has deep strategic roots and an insane learning curve. I've been interested in the strategic underpinnings of it for a while, and finally feel somewhat comfortable enough to try and analyze the strategy behind it.

I decided to start by analyzing the team compositions of a recent match. You can find the match here.

I started by watching the Picks and Bans, and then proceeded to analyze each team composition's strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Then I tried to imagine how it might play out and how they might clash. I should note that everything I wrote here was from before I watched the actual match.

IG's team:

Top: Shyvanna
Jungle: Wukong
Mid: Yasuo
ADC: Vayne
Support: Thresh

Teamfights- IG's team composition is essentially a wombo-combo team. There are 4 people who can engage a teamfight that would be followed up with stacked CC. If Yasuo or Wukong manage to knock up 5 champions at once, Fnatic is almost guaranteed to lose a few members before they can even move again. This is definitely a strong suit for them, so 5v5 engages around Dragon, Baron, and Turrets favor them.

Skirmish/Catch ability- IG's team can use their ults to catch out champions in the jungle. However, using their ultimates will make them weaker in teamfights since it will take away a stacked CC. But Thresh has incredible catch potential.

Sieging- IG's team is not really a siege composition. They only have 1 real ranged champion who can pick at the turret. They are much more dependent on engaging once the enemy is hidden behind turret.

Turret Defence- IG sort of lacks safe waveclear, so they will have trouble keeping the enemy from picking at their tower every wave. However they have a chance to engage in those scenarios.

Pushing- IG has decent non-safe waveclear with Shyvanna and Wukong, and potentially Yasuo and Vayne if they get a static shiv. Its unlikely that they will try to engage in a splitpush though, given their teamfight strength, and weaker escapes.

In summary
IG is a very powerful teamfight composition. They will want to group up as 5 men and try to force engages at dragon and baron once they have their ultimates. They are not so strong at sieging, so their objective control comes after winning a teamfight or getting a kill. However, their strength lies in their coordination, if they get skirmished and waste their ults on 1 or 2 members, they are in trouble.

Fnatic's Team:

Top: Lulu
Jungle: Nocturne
Mid: Kassadin
ADC: Lucian
Support: Annie

Teamfight- Fnatic's teamfight consists of engages by Annie or Nocturne and a follow up by a Lulu ultimate. The team isn't very tanky and lacks hard CC though. They aren't so much a wombo combo team as they are a motley set of champions who all do different things.

Skirmish/Catch potential- The Kassadin and Nocturne make a very powerful gank and kill squad given their mobility and CC. The two of them have the potential to really catch an enemy by surprise, and delete them from the battlefield very quickly. Additionally, Annie adds for some solid back up CC.

Sieging- Fnatic's team is a good siege composition. Lulu and Lucian can poke down towers hard while keeping enemies at bay through powerful harass. The annie stun is a potential disengage, and the mobility of the rest of the team makes them capable of escaping if needed.

Siege Defence- A Lucian Q and a Lulu Q can essentially destroy a wave from a safe distance. Basically this teamcomp is very strong against sieges. The enemy team will have to choose to either fight under tower or splitpush against them.

Pushing- Fnatic's splitpushing is quite strong. Given the strength of the escapes from Kassadin and Lucian, they potentially have the ability to splitpush hard.

In Summary:
Fnatic is a very strong pick composition, as well as siege and siege defence composition. They will want Kassadin and Nocturne to make plays and control the game through catching people out. To do this, they will need to gain control of the map through wards- both pink and green. They might also need to get Kassadin ahead, and probably take midlane. This team thrives in a scenario where the enemy team is uncertain or confused. It punishes mistakes quickly and powerfully.

It's also has members who make great splitpushers given their ability to escape.

The Clash

This is all about how the team compositions will clash. Specifically, we will talk about what each team will try to make happen. IG will want to group and fight as 5- they are too strong not to. Fnatic does have an advantage on most lane match-ups:

  • Lulu can harass Shyvanna very hard 
  • Lucian and Annie can abuse Vayne's weak early game 
  • I'm not fully familiar with the Yasuo v. Kassadin match-up but Kassadin is notoriously weak early game.
  • Nocturne and Wukong are probably equal duelists early on, with Wukong having a bit less sustain. However in a fight, it comes down to who outplays the other- rather even

Fnatic will want to get Kassadin a few kills, and gain control of the map through warding. They can do this by taking advantage of their potential early game harass advantage- hopefully they will be able to harass their lane opponents back to base in order to take map pressure with towers and dragons. Fnatic's midgame with a roaming Kassadin and Nocturne is extremely strong, and they want to take as much of an advantage during the time that IG is not grouped as possible.

Additionally, against a 5 man group, Fnatic will be able to splitpush in order to dampen the ability for IG to take advantages. Fnatic should try to pressure multiple lanes at once, and basically beat IG at rotating between lanes given their stronger splitpush and sieging.

IG will want to avoid allowing Fnatic to get far ahead early game, and by mid game will want to group as five and contest Dragon- trying to force Fnatic in a 5v5 teamfight. They want to find a perfect engage, and should probably build tanky if they want to engage under turret. Unfortunately they don't have much in terms of siege potential -given their lack of poke and waveclear- so unless they choose to dive the turret, they won't be able to take turrets without a teamfight in advance.

In general their damage is pretty spread out- Shyvanna and Wukong deal a surprising amount of damage for being so tanky, and Yasuo and Vayne have incredibly high damage outputs. Its not a huge deal if they lose one champion against Fnatic, since they should still be able to find some in the rest of the team. That said, they are pretty dependant on getting their CC combo down- so their ults are important. They will want to use their ults at a precise time while Fnatic is grouped.

Fights in the jungle are good for them, and fights at Baron and Dragon are also good for them. If they build tanky enough, they could also potentially fight under tower.


After typing this up, I proceeded to watch the game and see how my analysis actually played out. Here's the follow-up article, and descriptions of how the game played out.

I wrote up a short follow-up article about how the game played out compared to how I expected it to. You can find the article here
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Practice Lateral Thinking with Riddle #3: Black and White Hat Demon


Riddle of the Black and White Hat Demon
(Difficulty: Hard)

Yet another riddle that I've done a poor job renaming. This is a riddle I heard while I was in Game Theory class several years ago, I take no credit for it other than butchering the actual details.
It goes a little something like this:
Somewhere in the world there is a small village of people who live on a tiny island. They have a population of only 100 people, but every single citizen has perfect logic, perfect memory, perfect hearing, and perfect vision. Life is good on the island.
However, one day a powerful and cruel demon appears and declares that he will kill the inhabitants. But unfortunately for him there are rules that he must follow. He has to let the citizens play for their lives. He must line up all the citizens single-file so they all face the same direction. He must then go about putting black hats and white hats on their heads (he does it randomly, so there is no set number of white or black hats). The citizens are not able to move, but they are able to see every person in front of them, as well as every hat they wear. The citizens are not allowed to gesture or speak until the demon gets to them, and they cannot see behind them. However, they can hear what the others say.
The demon then starts at the back of the line and asks "what color of hat are you wearing?". To which the citizen is allowed to say only "black" or "white", and nothing else. If they are correct, they live. If they are incorrect, they die.
The demon gives them a night to congregate and talk out their plan. The ritual starts in the morning.
What should the citizens do?
Whew, what long riddle. No doubt you're a bit unsure of where to start.
Here are some things to consider:
  • The citizens are essentially unable to act until it comes to their turn. When it arrives at their turn, the only thing they are able to do is say "black" or "white". So whatever you do, the response of "black" or "white" has to be telling.
  • The citizens are basically super-human. So if you think of an answer that wouldn't work for normal humans, you might actually be okay.
COMMON STRATEGIES (possible answers you may have come up with)
Given that, here are some ideas that I've heard which are good, but not the best response:
  • Strategy 1: Say the color of the hat of the person directly in front of you. While everyone things this plan is brilliant at first, unfortunately it doesn't save as many people as you might think. 

    Lets say these are the hat colors of the first 6 people:
    B= black hat
    W= white hatHere is how it would play out:1. first person(B) says "white" since the next citizen is wearing a white hat- dies
    2. The second person(W) says "white" because he knows his hat color is white- lives
    3. The third person(W) says "black" because the next person is wearing black- dies
    4. The fourth person (B) says "black" because he knows he is wearing black- lives
    5. The fifth person (W) says "black" because the next person is wearing black- dies
    6. The sixth person (B) says "black" because he knows his hat is black- livesAs we can see, every other person will live, and if the person in between is lucky, he gets to live too. With this method you will save somewhere above 50% of all citizens. The method is not terrible, but given the circumstances there are better methods.
  • Strategy 2: Another interesting response I've heard is, "The first person whose turn it is, will pick the color that has the majority".So the first person will look at the number of black and white hats, and see which color is more popular. He would then say "white" if white is the dominant hat color. The rest of the people in line would also say that color. So it would basically be responding with all white, or all black. This is an interesting strategy since it guarantees that at least the majority will survive (51% and upwards). Depending on the demographic of black hat wearers and white hat wearers, this could do better than the previous answer. But is not the best.
  • Strategy 3: In this strategy, every person will look at the line ahead of him and say the most common color of hat. This is essentially a mix of the two strategies above. The thought behind it is that in case there is a block of black hats in a majority of white hats such as WWWWWBBB, nearing the end you will be able to account for those black hats with perfect accuracy; which is something strategy 2 had issues with.However great this strategy seems at first, it is ultimately flawed. I'll demonstrate it with an example:If you have this pattern: BWBWBWBWBWBWWith an equal number of black and white hats, you will end up saving no one:
    The first person will see a majority of white hats and say W (and die), the second person will see a majority of black hats and say B (and die), this process continues until everyone dies.
Go ahead, give it a shot.
I'll provide a walkthrough with the answer at this link here (coming soon).
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Musings of Strange: I hate the word "Obvious"

Originally I had planned to release a video along with my next article. It would have been a departure from everything that I had made so far, and I had hoped it would bring some excitement. Unfortunately, the data was lost, and now i'm forced to hold it back for a while (I may still release the article though).

In the meantime, I've decided to create an "informal" section of my blog dedicated to general thoughts and musings. This would involve less "how to" and provide more lively commentary. This section is known as "Musings of Strange". 

Today's musing is about the word "obvious" and how I hate it.
Look at that smug face....

The word "obvious" is a trap.

One of the things I hate most, is when someone comes to me after I explain something, and they say "Well that's just obvious!". I have to quickly compose myself and explain that it really isn't, and that its only through set up and clarity that the idea seems to be "obvious." By declaring something as "obvious" we end up discounting several other possibilities, and stick to one way to view the world.

At first glance, "obvious" seems to be a simple descriptive word that we use to say that something is "apparent to everyone" or "can't be missed". However, it is a trap for a few reasons.

The first reason is because the idea of "obvious" is a lie. There is really no such thing as something that is apparent to everyone. The only reason two people can agree that something is "obvious", is because they have the same thoughts and background knowledge in common. So when you say "that's obvious", all you are really saying is "If you think the way I do, have the same knowledge as I do, and view the world in the same way I do, then it's clear and apparent". 

That hardly seems to be counting "everyone".

I should make it clear. I'm not necessarily talking about "obvious" in terms of the senses like sight and hearing. If you and a friend both experience seeing a Tyrannosaurus Rex walking through downtown, then it would be "obvious" to both of you, because you both shared the same sensation and experience to say "there was a T-Rex downtown." Anyone who saw it, would have the ability to say that.

But when we talk about things like "It's obvious, he was the murderer", what are we basing that off of? Why are we discounting the possibility of other people being murderers? It's one thing to declare someone as the most likely culprit, it's another to say that he's the "obvious" choice.

The second reason the word "obvious" is a trap, is because we will stop thinking once we have declared something to be "obvious". If we consider something to be the "most apparent", we will also believe that it is most likely to be true. What happens then is that we inflict ourselves with confirmation bias, and will choose the evidence that best illustrates the point we believe to be true. We fail to see how other possibilities are viable, all because the thing is "obvious".

The common method in which we do this is by responding to alternate possibilities like so: "I can see that as possible, but this one is the case, it's just obvious". Which is really just a polite way of blowing someone off.

Anyways, that's enough of a rant for now.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Riddle #2 Walkthrough: The Salesman and the 3 Daughters (Spoilers)

This post is meant to walk you through the thinking you would have to do in order to solve the "Salesman and the 3 Daughters" riddle. If you have not read the riddle question yet, you should click here.

Walkthrough *Warning: Possible Spoilers*
Well, what would the answer look like?
There are 3 daughters, and they are an age. So the answer will be 3 numbers that are larger than 0.
Next, we know that the numbers all multiply to equal 36 right? Here, I'll even do the work for you:
  • 36 x 1 x 1
  • 18 x 2 x 1
  • 12 x 3 x 1
  • 9 x 2 x 2
  • 3 x 3 x 4
  • 6 x 6 x 1
  • 6 x 3 x 2

Those are all the number sets that multiply out into 36. So we know the three numbers are one of those sets of three.
But which one?
Here's where it gets interesting. 
So let's think about it for a moment. What is the difference between the Insurance Salesman and us in this scenario. It's pretty much just that he knows the number of the house next door, while we do not.
So, let's pretend that you knew the number. Or that the number of the house next door was given to you. Lets say for sake of example the number was 72.
How would you figure it out from there?
Well, once we know the number of the house next door, it becomes rather simple word problem from mathematics class.
Since you know that the the ages of the daughters added together is equal to the number on the house next door, we would go ahead and add each of the sets together. Since we know the number of the house next door is 72, we would look for the set of numbers that add up to 72, right?
So if the insurance salesman has all that information, why does he need a third clue?
*Warning* Likely spoilers follow
You would only ask for a third clue if you couldn't solve the problem with two clues, right? So why wouldn't the insurance salesman be able to figure out the three numbers from the two clues?
Well, it's pretty difficult to understand without somewhat experiencing what he saw, so let's look at the sets and how they add up:
  • 36 + 1 + 1 =38
  • 18 + 2 + 1 = 21
  • 12 + 3 + 1 = 16
  • 9 + 2 + 2 = 13
  • 3 + 3 + 4 = 10
  • 6 + 6 + 1 = 13
  • 6 + 3 + 2 = 11
Basically we are assuming these are the only possible numbers the house next door could have. If the house next door was "38" we would know the number set was 36,1,1. But there is one number which doesn't give us a clear answer. Do you see it?
Well, the number that would cause us trouble is the number 13. The reason is that there are two number sets that add up to 13. So unlike any of the other numbers, if the house next door is number 13, we still aren't certain of the ages of her daughters.
The last part is the third clue: "My eldest daughter plays piano".
The Answer *SPOILERS*
If you are reading this because you gave up, I suggest you take a look through the walkthrough. The way you solve this riddle is through a bit of clever thinking, and hopefully I provide enough hints to guide you to figuring it out for yourself. But if you really want the answer: The ages of the woman's children are: 9, 2, 2. The reason is because the number of the house next door was 13, and since there was an eldest daughter, the answer could not be 6,6,2.
This is one of my favorite riddles because it doesn't require a lot of knowledge as compared to some riddles. It just requires a bit of clever thinking and resourcefulness.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Practice Lateral Thinking with Riddle #2: The Salesman and the 3 Daughters

This a fantastic little riddle I heard from Day9, a popular Starcraft commentator. I'm obviously going to somewhat butcher it by telling it from memory.
There was once an insurance salesman who went door to door trying to sell insurance.
He happened to knock upon a door in a particular cul de sac, and a nice woman opened the door. The insurance salesman then proceeded to talk about how great his insurance is.
The woman stopped him and said, "Hold on. I have a challenge for you. I like my insurance agents to be clever, and if you can answer my question, I will buy your insurance."
The insurance salesman thought about it for a moment and decided to play.
She said, "I have three daughters, and I want you to guess their ages".
"okay", said the agent
"Your first hint is: Their ages multiplied together is 36".
"Okay", said the agent, while trying to think of the possibilities
"Your second hint is: Their ages added together is equal to the number of the house next door"
The insurance saleman excused himself for a moment and went next door. He saw the number of the house, and returned.
"I need one more hint" he said.
She smiled and said, "Your final hint is that my eldest daughter plays piano".
How old are the daughters?
Your immediate response is probably the same response as most people who hear this riddle, "wait, you aren't going to tell me the number of the house next door?"
Nope, you don't need it. You can figure it out without it.
So where do you start?
Here's a suggestion, start with the first hint, and think about it for a moment.
If you're truly stumped and need someone to walk you through the thinking. Maybe start reading the walkthrough a short step at a time. It can be found here.
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