Way back in what feels like ancient history (but is actually just 2007), I released the first Psycliq album, an EP entitled The Mathemagician’s Riddle. Those handy with the Google can likely discern that the title itself comes from a fantastic web-based puzzle game I played some years prior called Planetarium. Specifically, one of the first puzzles in this charming game really struck my imagination well.
But what most people don’t know is that the album originally didn’t have a pronounceable or easily transcribable title at all. Instead, the odd symbol on the front of the album artwork, the schwa symbol (the upside down e) in the middle of the square-root sign, was going to be the title. The intent here was for it to be a mathematical computation on a nonmathematical symbol, sure to confuse mathematicians and linguists alike. And that was exactly the point – it was a riddle, see? I was apparently feeling rather avante-garde, or something like that. Ultimately, like many of my ideas, this was far too clever for its own good and somehow I had the good sense to have a real title for the album.
But, as you can see, I did keep the original artwork with its odd symbol, all the while thinking that my cleverness was fully intact. I laughed at my little inside joke, but that was until the other day at work when a colleague of mine, a mathematician himself, commented on the cover art, stating that it actually did have a value of about 17.52. Here’s how that works.
The schwa sign, it turns out, is based on the old Hebrew vowel symbol shva. This in turn can be spelled with the three Hebrew letters shin vav aleph. Hebrew letters apparently all have numerical values, a fact that I had learned from the movie Pi but forgot, which means that the schwa sign can be assigned a numeric value of 300 + 6 + 1, or 307. Take the square root of 307, and you get about 17.52, thus a perfectly reasonable answer to The Mathemagician’s Riddle.