Stephen Hawking, the world-famous physicist who died earlier this year, has left behind ten puzzles. One of these has now been published. It looks like a cryptogram.

Although this is not a physics blog, my readers are certainly familiar with Stephen Hawking (1942-2018). Though Hawking never won the Noble Prize, he was the most famous physicist of his time. He also was a successful author of popular scientifc books, in which he discussed his own theories and physics in general. His book A Brief History of Time was a world-wide bestseller.


As far as I know, Stephen Hawking never occupied himself with cryptology. Anyway, he was recently mentioned by Mark Romo in the Cryptograms & Classical Ciphers FaceBook group.

Apparently, before his death, Hawking finished another popular-scientific book. It is named Brief Answers to The Big Questions.


Brief Answers to The Big Questions is scheduled for release in mid-October. As a part of his book project, Hawking created ten puzzles for his readers to solve. The first puzzle from this series has now been published in advance. Here it is:


The puzzle is headlined “Is there a God?”. I’m afraid, the solution will not really answer this question. Anyway, it might be interesting to find it. To solve the puzzle, one needs to find a nine-letter word. I don’t know, if this word is encrypted or if it is included in the diagram in some other way. At least, the left column looks like an encrypted text. Can a reader solve this puzzle?

Edited to add: The puzzles were not created by Hawking himself but by Josh Kirklin.

Further reading: Alster bottle post mystery: Another bottle post found


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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 J.
    23. September 2018

    If you add some vocals to the letters on the left they could stand for Ancient Gods. And the crossed circle is the symbol for “Earth”, So it would be:


    This could be a reference to planets in our solar system.

  2. #2 cimddwc
    23. September 2018

    The left column appears to be Greek deities without their vowels: Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Zeus, Cronos, Uranus, Poseidon, with the symbol for Earth in between.

    Taking their n-th letter according to the numbers directly doesn’t lead to a proper word, though – only consonants. Must be some other way. And does that horizontal line mean something?

  3. #3 Thomas
    23. September 2018

    SPIRITUAN (sic):
    Taking the n-th letter of the names of the planets.

  4. #4 J.
    23. September 2018

    If you take the names of the planets in our solar system you get: Hermes = Mercury, Aphrodite = Venus, Earth, Aries = Mars, Zeus = Jupiter, Cronos = Saturn, Uranus, Poseidon = Neptune.
    Now you can take the given letter of every planet in the given order.
    saturn 1 = s, neptune 3 = p, jupiter 4 = i, mercury 6 = r, …
    Then you will get from all nine letters the solution:

  5. #5 Dario
    24. September 2018

    Uranus was a Greek name. To solve this easy puzzle you have to use their Latin equivalents, so Uranus=Caelus and the solution is SPIRITUAL.

  6. #6 Dario
    24. September 2018

    Let me be clearer: take the n-th letter of the Latin name of the Greek god (is there one?) written without vowels on the left column. If there is a symbol, use the English name.


  7. #7 Thomas
    24. September 2018

    Good idea! The mythological roots…

  8. #8 Klaus Schmeh
    25. September 2018

    Thanks to all! This should be the correct solution.