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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Mr. E. Hunt by Yan Z. '12

In which I return to blogging only to learn that I forgot how to blog, with tragic results.

Truth be told, I have no idea how to use the MIT admissions web interface anymore after taking an unintentional sabbatical from the esteemed blogging position for 1/38th of my life. Therefore, this post will be in 100% plain text and you should just stop reading now and visit Reddit.

Truth be told honestly this time, I’ve actually forgotten how to write sentences without the crutches of LaTeX syntax and an average math density of 1 equation per 3 words of English during my previous semester as a Physics major and.

But on the bright side of the other hand, I spent 42 hours this weekend surviving on three food items which were (1) peanut butter and jelly on bread, (2) water, and (3) the best roast lamb, tomato chutney, and goat cheese sandwiches that I have ever had from the irreproachable Flour Bakery+Cafe by MIT. 36 of 42 hours were spent either staring at puzzles, running around campus looking for a man dressed as a mutant mushroom, staring at puzzles, or staring at puzzles.

Mystery Hunt 2011 was on.

As per usual, I hunted with the Random Hall team and had one of the best weekends imaginable in the most mentally taxing and physically tortuous sense of “best” and “imaginable.” To show what I mean by example, here’s a puzzle that ate up 12 hours of Saturday for breakfast with spare time to watch cartoons:

That’s it. One line of text and 5 seconds of noise. I will make and deliver* a sandwich to the first person(s) to solve it from scratch**.

*The method of delivery will be guaranteed to preserve edibility, somehow.

**The answers may be online somewhere, but I’ll ask to see your work. Offer not valid to participants of this year’s hunt.

Hint: Signal processing is invaluable. The answer is one word.

PS: Need to change my page header. I’m Course 8 and 18 (Physics and Math), not 3 and 8!

37 responses to “Mr. E. Hunt”

  1. Hunt was so much fun!!! :D

    Though it is really confusing to see and hear my name EVERYWHERE O.O

  2. Ryan says:

    This competition sounds so awesome!!!! And yes, I meant to put 4 factorial signs after the awesome ^.^
    Also, yay Yan is back!

  3. Greg says:

    In order to fill the void created by your blogging hiatus, and to keep myself amused, I read every one of your blogs.

    All of them.

    Each one.


  4. Gaurav says:

    Well! Your page header has not yet changed… :D

  5. Yan says:

    Good to be back, guys. I’ll try to keep updating semiquasiregularly.

  6. Michael says:

    Psh, you still write well.
    How did Physics go last Fall?
    Good to hear you’re back!

    (By the way, thanks for the info you gave me a while ago when I asked why you’d switched from 2 to 8. I’ve since then decided to do a Physics major and am about to transfer–not to MIT, but to another great school–to finish up my degree! Just wondering though: do you still enjoy physics? If so, what are its best aspects?)

  7. Morteza says:

    Great post!
    It’s very hard. Do you use special software to analyze frequencies and amplitude together? Maybe you should start with easier one.

  8. Anonymous says:


    you’re back… It’s been a long time.

  9. Vivek says:

    How can you be so sure that you’ve estimated your lifespan correctly? WHAT IF a dimensional rift in Random Hall sucks you through! (Hopefully with some of “the best roast lamb, tomato chutney, and goat cheese sandwiches” wink )

    As for the clue – it sounds loopy! Sorry, but I don’t have the time to look into it (got mid-terms coming up).

  10. Anonymous says:

    YAN! :DDDD

    that’s all I have to say, because I do not understand the puzzle you linked at all

  11. Hopeful says:

    Hi, I’m Reed Barnes. I really want to go to MIT for college. I know it’s a little strange to be thinking about college in 7th grade, but hey, what can I say, I REALLY want to go to MIT. I wanted to know how I could talk to an MIT faculty member, by email or something similar(P.O. Box? Hologram? Magic spell?). If someone could give me an email, P.O box, etc. and send it to [email protected], I’d be incredibly grateful. As I said, I REALLY want to go here. MIT seems like an incredibly cool place, and it’s been my dream since I heard about. It’s why I go to school.(That, and my parents make me. And my friends. The point is, please give me a method of contact!)

    Oh, and, er, sorry for not commenting on the actual blog entry, it was just the most recent, and I thought that that way, more people would see my comment, and I’d have a better chance of getting a response. I know people aren’t SUPER likely to respond to a post from a 7th grader.

  12. Steph says:

    Woohoo welcome back! You’re one of my most favorite MIT bloggers.

    Wow I did not realize Snively and Celena became alums.

  13. Gaurav says:

    Is it the answer you are looking for? After long tiring sessions with MATLAB (approx. 15 hours), I suppose, I can’t handle this anymore. If this is not the answer, then definitely MMMMMMIIIIIIITTTTTT is the right answer….☺ I have my examination tomorrow, so I don’t think that I’ll be able to carry on with this!
    But during all this confusion, I found that my passion to go to MIT has became more tempting than ever, ever before!!!

    P.S.:- I don’t have any lust for preserved sandwiches.. I QUIT!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Yan says:

    @ Guarav:

    Okay, please email me a copy of your .m file.

  15. Michael says:

    Does the puzzle you posted require specific knowledge of MIT, for instance course numbers or room numbers, or is it more generic? Am I mistaken to think that this is some sort of clue to finding the coin on-campus for the Mystery Hunt?

  16. Morteza says:


    I don’t have softwares you mentioned (Maybe I should go and buy them). I done this using an oscilloscope and a oscilloscope like software with extra options. I also found out this for two of frequencies:

    the wave pattern for channel 1 (right) if read from last to first (i.e in inverse direction) is exactly the same as channel 2 (left) in normal direction and vice versa. And it means that if speakers (or ears of listener) are in x line, these two letters must be symmetrical according to y line. These are 1100 Hz (second letter) and 660 Hz (fourth letter).

  17. JayMay says:

    Do we have to a have a graph? I’ve gotten to a point where I think I have identified a physical phenomenon, but I have no idea how to graph it without tons of effort or learning a mathematical package. Can a justification along with all my sound files and accompanying images be sufficient for work shown?

  18. Morteza says:

    Sorry, only for second letter. fourth is a little different.

  19. Morteza says:

    I have found a way to detect and decompose six main frequencies there but writing an equation for amplitude as a function of time seems impossible. Doppler shift is also very small, less than 3 Hz at its most.

  20. Yan says:

    @ Morteza:

    Impressive! Out of curiosity, I’d actually like to see your oscilloscope traces if you can take a picture or a screenshot or something.

    Please, please don’t buy Matlab. (It’s expensive and you will probably get it for free sometime later in life.) Octave is free to download however:

    And it looks like this will get you most of the way to the answer:

    Have fun!

  21. JayMay says:

    Drat. I didn’t want to see the answer here. I was looking forward to deducing it myself. I got as far as to isolate the 6 220 hz multiple frequencies, but I didn’t have a way to plot the Doppler shifts translated as coordinates. Does this mean the 2011 bid for a delicious Sandwich is concluded? Otherwise I’ll go forward with my plan to calculate insect movement with a combination of destructive interference and some derivation.

  22. Yan says:

    @ JayMay:

    I haven’t yet received a full solution by email, so the hunt is still on!

    Also, these captchas are really, really difficult. I’m kind of stressed out by them.

  23. Morteza says:

    I have sent images of it to your E-mail.

  24. Anonymous says:

    YANNNNNNNNN!!! It’s been soo long!

    PS: You should win an award for best informal writing (ie blogging skills) – you’re writing is awesome

  25. Yan says:

    @ Michael:

    No problem! I like physics more than ever. Best MIT-specific aspects are probably a really supportive department here, lots of interesting people (students and faculty both), and generally the best undergrad classes that I’ve ever taken (esp. Junior Lab). As a major, physics is great for making you learn how to solve problems and learn other stuff faster.

    @ Michael:

    Nope, needs no knowledge about MIT. You’re right about the final goal of finding a coin, but very few puzzles if any reference the location directly (or obliquely).

    @ JayMay:

    Unfortunately, 95% of the work requires graphing. I realized after posting that you’ll need to use MATLAB/Octave/some other computational program with the ability to import .wav files. Feel free to team up with someone if you need to.

    @ Morteza:

    Nice work. You won’t need an analytical form for the amplitude. The best way to go from there is to numerically solve for whatever information you need from the amplitude, which is straightforward in Matlab/Mathematica/Octave/etc. See hint above about making plots.

  26. JayMay says:

    This GNU Octave is excellent. I’ve already won for finding a free mathematical package. =)

  27. HighOnPuns says:

    Recently had a convo about (1) what compels people to participate in Mystery Hunt and (2) what types are particularly susceptible. Very meta.

  28. Anastassia says:

    Can you try not to leave for 9.311×10^-5 of a carbon half-life again??
    Because we all Ms. Ed you immensely!

  29. Nadia says:

    Okay, I just got to comment because the captcha said ‘accepted’, and OH MY GOD, IS IT A SIGN? Meh, probably not. Btw, Mr. E. Hunt sounds awesome, and I admit I laughed hard after I read the title.

  30. shirley says:

    hi! well i’m shirley prado and i’m from Peru. I’ve already finished school and i want to go to MIT. Here in my contry almost nobody knows about admissions in universities of USA.I’d like to talk to people who have passed for this expierence. Please contact me, my e.mail is [email protected]

  31. JayMay says:

    I have reached the breaking point on the problem. I cannot figure out a way to separate the frequencies I have identified from the overall sound file while still maintaining the information I think I need. So if someone solves this and wins that delicious sandwich, I would really like to know how to filter out those frequencies!

  32. Yan says:

    A couple of you seem to be really close, but the contest is still going.

    @ JayMay:

    If you haven’t learned about Fourier transforms yet, now is a great time.

  33. JayMay says:

    I’ve come across that term before, but never really had reason to explore it. Or a reference frame under which to incorporate it. So I’ll look into it. Maybe the sandwich is still attainable!

  34. Anonymous says:

    it actually says 3 OR 8 _-_

  35. Justin says:

    oh yan you don’t know how much we’ve missed you. :D

  36. Hey Yan!
    Would be possible for one to apply to MIT during their junior year and if he/she gets rejected, reapply to MIT in their senior year?

    Just wondering if it was possible.

    Thanks in advance.