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Can you read this?

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Antagony

Yes I did deliberately use all long words, as I wanted to demonstrate that the phenomenon isn't quite as effective as the message claims. As for the scrambling: well you're half right. I used an old anagram helper program I have to randomize them, but with a few of the words I scrambled them more than once to ensure they were adequately mixed up.

I'm not at all convinced that the letters in the message's long words are truly random. 'Cmabrigde', 'Uinervtisy', 'ipmorantt', 'aoccdrnig' and 'phaonmneal'—which doesn't contain all the right letters by the way (two 'a's instead of two 'e's)—are all a tad too ordered, as though they've just taken small groups of two or three letters and jumbled THEM. I could accept that being a random effect if it was evident on one or two of the longer words, but not the majority.

Oh and finally, a couple more annoying things about the message, as posted here: the original version didn't include anything about having to be special to be able to read it; nor the usual chain-mail instruction to pass it on?which always gets my hackles up wherever I see it. ;^)

The original message can be read here:

http://www.snopes.com/language/apocryph/cambridge.asp

pdevredis

Now I agree completely about your analysis--those scrambled words in the puzzle were easier to read in context, mixed with shorter words. But I think they were what they were supposed to be--randomly scrambled. I think your own sentence was an attempt to make it as scrambled as possible, whereas random scrambling will always result in some letters being in the correct order. There is a (real!) analysis of coin flipping, for example, where random coin flips of 100 or more always have at least one instance where seven or more heads or tails appear in a row. In fact, there was a professor who used that as a test in a statistics class discussion to weed out which students did their homework and which just faked it. He told them to do the coin flipping and record the results, and he was always able to tell who really did it and who just made up the results, because the latter would never have more than 3 or 4 of the same (heads or tails) in a row, and that isn't the way reality works! So I think your words were a little TOO scrambled to be random, and the words in the test paragraph were about right. And of course context is the most important clue we have, and again your own sentence used nothing but long words, making it harder to use one to decipher another--the short words do provide that, and most real sentences have lots of small connecting words.

I think our brains are amazing enough without anyone having to claim a fake study to prove it--I agree!

Antagony

Yes I did misread what you wrote, pdevredis. Sorry about that. That'll teach me not to stay up way past my bedtime arguing with strangers on the internet! :^)

I think another thing that helps to make the above message easily readable is that the very easy short words provide significant clues as to what the longer words are likely to be. Seen in isolation, I don't think the words you highlighted WERE particularly easy to read... and neither do I think they were really as well mixed up as they could have been. The thing that I find annoying about the message is that it cites an apparently non-existent study and claims the ONLY important factor is having the first and last letters unchanged — both of which are clearly wrong. (Sorry about the rant...)

That said, it IS remarkable that our brains can quickly interpret a message that at first glance is gibberish — regardless of whether it's been contrived to appear more phenomenal than it really is.

pdevredis

And I'm sorry that you misread what I wrote, Antagony, even though I didn't switch any of the letters.... I said "for more than just small words, though not every word". That is clearly not saying that "it always worked", is it?! "Comprehending scientific principles necessitates examining voluminous encyclopaedias" is the rest, I believe...

Antagony

@pdevredis, please tell me what this sentence says:

Cdorhnpmineeg sefiiintcc plriecnpis nateitecsess enxinaimg vuoilnomus eolcadnicpayes.

Before scrambling the internal letters randomly, it was a set of English words that formed a perfectly normal sentence. No way could anyone read it easily — eventually yes, they're just anagrams after all, but not easily. I'm sorry, but if the NYT article you read said it always worked, it was just plain wrong!

Zombie_Queen

I can actually read this FASTER than I can read properly spelled writing. What does that mean?

TrudyTai

Yep, I can read it and I would imagine most people can, too.

pdevredis

I read about this in the Science section of the NY Times, and they concluded that it works, whether or not there was ever a Cambridge study, and for more than just small words, though not every word. The main thing is just what it says here--the first and last letters must be in the right place. I think "pboerlm" and "tghuhot" and "ipmorantt" and "uesdnatnrd" are mixed up fairly well...

Antagony

I remember discussions about this chain-email on a forum I used regularly, years ago. It transpired that no such Cambridge study could be found and the phenomenon cited in the message only works if the words are relatively short and the letters are swapped in a very limited fashion, not truly randomised. For example, consider the word Cambridge from the message: they have clearly only swapped two pairs of letters (am & dg) to get Cmabrigde. Now look at it with the internal letters properly scrambled: Cgbiadrme ? it is plain to see that is not easily recognisable as Cambridge.

Sorry to rain on your parade... I am fun at parties really! :^D

Things need to be spelled "correctly". Grammar is important too!

Except that spelling IS important - even more now that we have so much data on the internet and not just in print - things need to be spelled right !

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