Up until now, Eriksson would admit, none of the puzzles had really required any advanced skills, or suggested anything other than a single anonymous riddle-poser having some fun. Suddenly, the encryption techniques jumped up a gear. And the puzzles themselves mutated in several different directions: But as word spread across the web, thousands of amateur codebreakers joined the hunt for clues.
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Armies of users of 4chan , the anarchic internet forum where the first Cicada message is thought to have appeared, pooled their collective intelligence — and endless free time — to crack the puzzles. The new message, however, was another surprise: By this point, only a few days after the original image was posted, Eriksson had taken time off work to join the pursuit full time. There, a robotic voice told them to find the prime numbers in the original image.
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By multiplying them together, the solvers found a new prime and a new website: A countdown clock and a huge picture of a cicada confirmed they were on the right path. But the plot was about to thicken even more. Sat in Sweden, Eriksson waited as, around the globe, amateur solvers left their apartments to investigate. Speculation had been rife since the image first appeared.
Some thought Cicada might merely be a PR stunt; a particularly labyrinthine Alternate Reality Game ARG built by a corporation to ultimately — and disappointingly — promote a new movie or car. Designed to promote the Xbox game Halo 2 in , it used random payphones worldwide to broadcast a War of the Worlds-style radio drama that players would have to solve. But there were complicating factors to Cicada.
For one, the organisers were actively working against the participants. Other interference was more pointed. Both are careful with security, the recent Snowden case notwithstanding. And starting the puzzle on [the anarchic internet forum] 4chan might attract people with less respect for authority than they would want working inside.
The proliferation of wireless devices, mobile telephones, e-commerce websites like Amazon and chip-and-pin machines, means the demand for cryptologists has never been higher.
It could just as easily be a bank or software company [behind Cicada]. But to him the signs point to a recruitment drive by a hacker group like Anonymous. When the QR codes left on the lamp posts were decoded, a hidden message pointed the solvers towards a TOR address. After a designated number of solvers visited the address, the website shut down with a terse message: Eriksson, however, was not among them.
We have now found the individuals we sought.
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Thus our month-long journey ends. On January 4 this year, something new. A fresh image, with a new message in the same white text: Our search for intelligent individuals now continues. From there, the solvers downloaded a Mb file containing thousands of prime numbers. And also an MP3 file: I don't believe you'd cheat on me. But I'm afraid, and I'm sick in my heart that you might look at her, then at me.
Robb, Innocent in Death. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead?
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How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was. He'll hold up a flower and say "look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree.
Then he says "I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing," and I think that he's kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe.
Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees.
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I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color.
It adds a question: Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. I don't understand how it subtracts. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.
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Salvatore, Streams of Silver. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional.
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On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here.
I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. He bowed at the waist, those wings vanishing entirely, and had begun to fade into the nearest shadow when he went rigid.
His eyes locked on mine wide and wild, and his nostrils flared.