Noesis 76 - December 1992


by Chris Cole

[address redacted]

This month we empty our mailbox. Below are several long letters from Robert Hannon and Chris Langan. But before plunging into these, let's discuss a couple of issues that have been floating around on the Internet recently. These issues are especially relevant to this Society, since they involve the Mega Test.

The Mega Test has been getting a lot of publicity lately on the Internet, most of it in the form of complaints. In particular, a gentleman named Chris Long has been complaining that he was erroneously marked incorrect on problems 25 and 26 (the "which pattern does not belong" problems). He is sufficiently livid about this that he has posted both problems to the Net (which is tough to do using only ASCII characters) and has solicited solutions. He was clear that he did not want anyone to post solutions -- he only wanted the solutions emailed to him. In a remarkable show of civility, the Net complied, sending Mr. Long over 100 replies - not one of which was posted. As will come as no surprise to you all, the answers Mr. Long received were indeed bipolar. In the process of proving his case, Mr. Long stimulated enough interest in the test that he then posted four other questions from the test.

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." Hopefully, all of this publicity will shake the tree and a few good apples will drop out.

By the way, I called Ron and asked him about Mr. Long's complaints. Ron reports that Mr. Long is so dedicated to getting into the Society that he asked Ron for permission to submit an answer sheet with five answers left blank. The reason Mr. Long cited was that he wished to get into the Prometheus Society, which I believe only requires 36 correct answers. Ron naturally gave his permission. Ron was a little shocked when Mr. Long scored 39 right out of 43. Now Ron must decide if he will allow Mr. Long to qualify for Mega by submitting answers to the remaining five. We can only hope that Ron can summon up some Solomonic wisdom on this one.

The dark side of all this publicity is that it accelerates the leakage of answers to the Mega Test. The dread problem 36 (the three interpenetrating cubes) has in fact fallen. A gentleman named Dave Hudson from Kendall Square Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts was so unkind as to actually work out the answer and post it before anyone could wave him off. This is not to criticize Dave, who may someday qualify for membership, since he had no idea that the problem came from the Mega Test. Similar things happen every few months. A long-time Net reader who is dedicated to Mega membership could probably get ten or so answers to the harder problems for free by now.

Eventually, this process will invalidate the Mega Test and we will have to retire it Fortunately, we have the very excellent Titan Test ready in the wings. And Ron is hard at work on the Ultra Test, which should be out in final form sometime this year. Then there is our own Short Form Test, of course. The current problem with the Titan Test is that it is not nearly as well known as the Mega Test, and consequently, it has not been normed as accurately. So I guess we should look on this process as similar to the evolution of computer programs. There is an old adage in the computer software business: a program that is bug-tree is obsolete.

Ron, who can chart the ebb and flow of the tides of Mega Test score sheets, is uniquely situated to make the judgment call as to when it is time to jump ship. It is probably not too early to figure out HOW to make the switch: should we start answering queries about membership with the Titan Test? What if someone submits a score sheet that represents countless hours of work on the Mega Test? Are we heartless enough to turn them away, adding insult to injury by requesting that they throw more good time after bad by taking the Titan Test? Since this sounds distasteful, is there a reasonable way to publicize the switch? Anyone with good ideas, please let us know.

Publisher's Note

There were some production problems with issues 73 and 74. According to my records, the following people need new copies. Before I run these off, please call me at the above number if you want your name added to the list:

Chris Harding -- 74

Richard May -- 73

The Mega Society

Copyright 1992 by the Mega Society. All rights reserved. Copyright for each individual contribution is retained by the author unless otherwise indicated.