# L+R

hope i don’t seem to be playing the role of an administrator here, but i think this one’s quite flummoxing:

if you spoke to an alien over the phone who had never met a human, how would you explain which was left and which was right?

Posting new topics is not the Adminstrator’s role! You are encouraged to post topics of your own (it makes me a very happy man!).

An interesting question. I first thought “oh that’d be easy just tell them to look either side and the left side is the left and…oh bollocks.” For us humans, left and right are just relative positions which are drilled into us when we’re children but it seems impossible to explain to an alien without actually being there and pointing to them saying “THIS IS YOUR RIGHT HAND!”

Oh that would be terribly easy!!! I would be able to explain to the Alien which is left, right and CENTER!!!

You see, since you are talking on the phone, the phone has digits written on it like so:

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9

• 0 Hash

I would tell the Alien to look at those numbers like a box…a square. The side where you have the digits 1,4,7 and * are the left side. The side where you have 3,6,9 and Hash is your right side! And in the CENTER you have the digits 2,5,8,0!

Now you may say that we must not assume the Alien is talking on a phone similar to ours. Well, if that’s the case, how are we supposed to assume that you can speak to the Alien!!!

The alien doesn’t know what left and right are, so why should they know how to look at the digits on the phone like a “square - box”?? Surely they wouldnt know shapes either, would they??

Also, what if the alien was calling from an old phone where the digits have to be turned clockwise instead of buttons that needed to be pressed?? Then how would you define left and right??

Amy Amy Amy! You should learn to read other people’s posts before going off on your own crusade

Mohammed’s post says: “Now you may say that we must not assume the Alien is talking on a phone similar to ours. Well, if that’s the case, how are we supposed to assume that you can speak to the Alien!!!”

my brother said you should tell them to work out which side their heart was on, but what’s to say that it has to be on the left? i have no idea. biologists, anyone?

your brother is assuming that aliens definitely have hearts. which implies he is either in contact with aliens, or he didn’t think his theory through thoroughly. i feel the latter is probable.

I don’t think you can do such a thing. Aliens must surely be advanced enough to have their own version of left and right, take A and B for example. The only way such a puzzle could be solved really is in interaction, unless you’re talking about speaking over a camera. Tada!!

look, btang … the original message used the words ‘‘over the phone’’ … theres no computer involved. lets not veer away from the subject. and who said anything about dialling? because then we could go back to the 147 = left, 369 = right theory. lets be fair, we don’t know how our little alien friend got hold of a phone, but if he doesn’t know left from right, the chances are he can’t navigate a dialling pad.

yep, sorry about that … they weren’t coming up as sent the first … three times.

assuming the alien has a magnet?

“In preschool we were taught to identify our left and right from the shape of our hands. (assuming it has hands like ours. if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be dialing.) The left hand forms a L between the pointer finger and the thumb.”

so Gin, you’re assuming this alien knows the alphabet?

NICOLA,

YOU HAVE NOW BECOME ONE OF MY FAV’S IN THIS FORUM. I’M NEW TO ALL OF THIS, BOTH IN REASONING AND TRYING TO CONVEY THOUGHTS. SO LET ME TRY THIS OUT FOR SIZE.

I WAS THINKING ABOUT WRITING OUT NUMBERS IN A PEICE OF PAPER, BUT THAT IS ASSUMING THAT THEY WOULD WRITE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT. THIS HERE SOUNDS MORE LIKE A RIDDLE THAN ANYTHING.

WHAT DO WE KNOW? WE KNOW THAT THE ALIEN COMMUNICATES WITH US WITH WORDS THAT WE CAN UNDERSTAND. WE KNOW THAT THE ALIEN HAS A PHONE, WHETHER OR NOT IT IS UNDER THE SAME FORMAT AS OURS, IT IS A PHONE. SO TALK ABOUT ASSUMING IF THE ALIEN HAS A PHONE, OR THAT ONE CAN EVEN SPEAK TO ONE IS OUT OF THE QUESTION. WE HAVE TO TAKE THE SETTING AS TRUE AND TRY TO SOLVE IT.

I HAVE SPENT THE BETTER HALF OF MY DAY TODAY WORKING OUT SCENERIOS THAT WOULD WORK. THAT MAGNET THEORY THAT TAMBLIUS STATED IS AWESOME. BUT IF HE COULD EXPLAIN TO ME WHY IT WOULD MOVE TOWARDS THE PERSON’S LEFT, I WOULD APPRECIATE IT.

THERE ARE INFINITE ASSUMPTIONS IN THIS RIDDLE. BUT I HAVE TO ASSUME THAT THE ALIEN IS IN OUR GALAXY. AND NOT ONLY THAT, THE ALIEN HAS TO BE IN A SAFE DISTANCE AS TO COMMUNICATE WITH ME, AND NOT HAVE THE SPEED OF LIGHT TAKE MILLIONS OF YEARS TO TRANSFER COMMUNICATIONS. IT TAKES 8 MINUTES OR SO FOR LIGHT TO GO FROM THE SUN TO THE EARTH (THAT DISTANCE IS CALLED AN A.U. OR AN ASTRONOMICAL UNIT). SO THE ALIEN MUST BE WITHIN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM IF WE CAN COMMUNICATE IN ONE SITTING. SO IF THAT IS SO, AND WE INFER THAT THE ALIEN DOES KNOW A LANGUAGE IN WHICH WE CAN COMMUNICATE WITH IT, THEN WE COULD DETERMINE THE ALIENS LOCATION RELATIVE TOWARDS OUR SUN. ONCE WE CAN DETERMINE THAT WE CAN BOTH TRIANGULATE BOTH OF OUR POSITIONS.

GIVING INTO ACCOUNT THAT THE ALIEN MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO RESEARCH ASTROLOGY, WE KNOW WE CAN THROUGH THE INTERNET. EVEN IF THE ALIEN IS ON A PLANET, OR SPACE SHIP. WHAT WE DO IS THAT WE LOOK FOR ‘LANDMARKS’ IN THE SKY. WE FIND COMMON NEBULAS AND PULSARS, AND WE FIGURE OUT IN WHICH DIRECTION THE ALIEN IS LOOKING AT THEM. THIS ALSO TAKES THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE ALIEN HAS THE SAME VISION CAPABILITIES WE HAVE. THE ALIEN MIGHT NOT HAVE A TELESCOPE, SO WE INFER WHAT WE CAN FROM THE ALIEN’S DESCRIPTIONS. WE KNOW THE ALIEN CAN DESCRIBE, BECAUSE THE ALIEN CAN SPEAK TO US. NEVER SEEING A HUMAN, THE ALIEN DOESN’T HAVE A FRAME OF REFERENCE TO WHICH LEFT AND RIGHT IS. BUT WE CAN USE THE MILKY WAY AS OUR FOUNDATION. ONCE WE DO THAT WE COULD MAKE IMAGINARY LINES FROM ONE CELESTIAL BODY TO THE NEXT. ALSO WE KNOW THE ALIEN MUST KNOW UP FROM DOWN. BECAUSE GRAVITY IS A CONSTANT AND NOT A VARIABLE. UNLESS THE ALIEN DERIVES FROM A PLANET WHERE NO GRAVITY EXISTS, WHICH ISN’T POSSIBLE BECAUSE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DICTATES ALL MATTER HAS GRAVITY.

WE MAKE A REFERENCE TO THE LINE AS THE LIFE OF A NORMAL BEING. CALLING THE STARTING POINT LIFE, AND THE ENDING POINT DEATH. LET’S SAY WE ARE POINTING FROM THE LEFT TOWARDS THE RIGHT, THEN WE HAVE STARS GO FROM ONE STAGE INTO THE NEXT. WE SAY THAT THE SECOND STAR IS ON THE LEFT OF THE THIRD. AND THE THIRD IS ON THE RIGHT OF THE SECOND.

I’M NOT SURE IF THIS MADE ANY SENSE. BUT LET ME KNOW ANY FLAWS (WHICH I KNOW THERE ARE AT LEAST 5 INHERENT FLAWS) IN THIS PROCESS.

IF THIS ISN’T CORRECT THEN WE MUST ALL AGREE THAT IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION.

BUT MY GIRLFRIEND JUST POINTED OUT THAT WE DON’T EVEN KNOW IF THE ALIEN HAS A PHONE. NICOLA JUST SAID THAT WE ARE SPEAKING TO IT OVER THE PHONE. NO MENTION WAS MADE OF THE ALIEN HAVING A PHONE. BUT THEN, FOR ALL WE KNOW WE WERE JUST TALKING TO A GHOST, OR SOME LITTLE KIDS PULLING A PRANK. BUT WE NEED TO HAVE GROUND RULES TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION.

Smooth remarked:

Not from a space caft. In space U+D L+R are variables. Using the sun as an origin, you have eight quadrants. Time itself is a factor, since every planet is on its own eliptical and rotational pattern. First you must know the aliens location. He/she/it must describe that to you, the catch is, he/she/it can not use L+R.

Alot of assumption is taken in your theory. If you were to asume ALL of that, then it would be safe to assume that he was using a phonebooth !

Well assumption is the only thing we have in this life. “I think, therefore how the f#ck do I know anything else is true?” Rene “The Thug” Descarte. I really am beginning to think that this is just like explaining color to a blind man. But it seems so solveable.

It may be solveable. Lets try to develop some more tools to work with. Starting with what we know are facts.

If you spoke to an alien over the phone who had never met a human, how would you explain which was left and which was right?

First of all, it never was stated that the alien had to understand your explanation.

So the true test is to explain L+R without using human exclusive words. That is still difficult since language is a human tool.

When I think of more, I will post it…

So what was wrong with the explaination I previous gave, besides the fact that I didn’t include an explaination about an alien on a spaceship.

I’m going back in time to this thread real quick. I really enjoyed it and I want to look at it with a whole new mindset.

Obsure_reality said:

Of course it is stated that the alien will understand my explanation. The question plainly says how will I explain which was left and which was right. If the alien can’t understand any explaination given then the answer is simple.