Solution to Song of Birds

by Jacob Schwartz with assistance from John Danaher

The first step of this puzzle is to identify that the pictures are watercolor engravings from John James Audubon's book Birds of America. (A good website for viewing the watercolors in detail, including the plate numbers, is this one at the University of Pittsburgh.)

In fact, the birds are from the first 26 plates of the first volume. The birds are:

   Purple Grackle or Common Crow - Plate 7
   Bewick's Wren                 - Plate 18
   Bonaparte's Flycatcher        - Plate 5
   Bonaparte's Flycatcher        - Plate 5
   Prairie Warbler               - Plate 14
   White Throated Sparrow        - Plate 8
   Song Sparrow                  - Plate 25
   Baltimore Oriole              - Plate 12
   Selby's Flycatcher            - Plate 9
   Wild Turkey                   - Plate 1

Converting the plate numbers into letters, they spell GREENHYLIA. Solvers should realize that they are on the right track, since Green Hylia is a songbird and Hylia is the large lake in many of the Legend of Zelda games.

The next step of the puzzle is to discover that there is a Twitter account by the name GreenHylia. This is clued by the flavor text. Viewing the twitter feed for this account, solvers 15 tweets.

Seven tweets have Twitter "mentions" (@username in the body of the tweet). And, perhaps less obviously, fourteen tweets have location information (as indicated by the little map pushpin, on the Twitter webpage and in many Twitter application). All of those 14 tweets have MIT as the Twitter Place label, but if you click to view the map, and zoom in, you will see that the tweets are tagged with locations in different MIT buildings.

From these tweets, three answers can be extracted.

The text of the 15 tweets each clue an MIT department. Departments are numbered, from 1 to 23. Converting numbers to letters produces the answer KEPLER'S THIRD LAW, as follows:

  1. Urban Studies and Planning (Course 11): HCED, or "Housing, Community and Economic Development" is one of the specializations of this department.
  2. Chemistry (Course 5): The undergrad chemistry club, ClubChem, has been known to organize magic shows for local elementary schools, Parents' Weekend, etc.
  3. Aeronautics and Astronautics (Course 16): This is the department from which Buzz Aldrin received his Sc.D. Students in this department take Unified Engeering, a double-lecture every day for a year.
  4. Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (Course 12): The tallest building on campus, the Green Building, houses this department and has a roof that is particularly attractive (but off-limits).
  5. Chemistry (Course 5): This is the department from which Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman admitted to MIT, got her degree, in 1873. She later became an assistant instructor.
  6. Mathematics (Course 18): This tweet refers to the probability course 18.313, which was taught by a particularly well-loved (and eccentric) professor, Gian-Carlo Rota, until he passed away in 1999. Before Rota, the course was taught by Norbert Wiener, also a famous mathematician.
  7. Course 19: There is currently no Course 19, although it is often used to jokingly refer to hacking. Course 19 was once the department of Meterology.
  8. Biological Engineering (Course 20): Undergrads in this course's recently-founded undergraduate program printed t-shirts with cute cartoon animals making sounds of other animals. The most popular of the t-shirts is of a whale, saying "Moo!".
  9. Physics (Course 8): Professor Walter Lewin is a wildly popular lecturer whos lectures have been recorded and are the top download on iTunes U. He is Dutch and is known for wearing unusual bracelets/wristbands in his videos/lectures.
  10. Brain and Cognitive Sciences (Course 9): This department often advertises for volunteers to participate in research studies; undergrads can make a few bucks for an hour of their time, often staring at words on a computer screen.
  11. Mathematics (Course 18): Faculty webpages in this department also include the professor's Erdős number.
  12. Architecture (Course 4): The Rotch library not only contains books on architecture and planning, it is also an architectually interesting building. The challenges of renovation in the 1980s were solved by suspending the floors of the building (and all of the books) from roof girders!
  13. Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences (Course 12): FPOP (or Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs) are now offered by many departments. But most are housed on campus; EAPS offers programs to Yellowstone park or other locations in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, etc.
  14. Civil and Environment Engineering (Course 1): Undergrads who major in this department can choose between Civil (1C), Environmental (1E), or both (1A).
  15. Course 23: This was the linguistics department until 1976, when the it became part of course 21.

The @username mentions clue a famous MIT alum, staff, or current professor. Taking the first letter of the last names, we get the answer BAR ROOM.

  1. Vannevar Bush (@MrTenOneOhFive): Room 10-105 is named after this former MIT vice-president and dean, famous for his paper on the Memex machine (which inspired hypertext and the personal computer), and who later became science advisor to the President of the United States, where his recommendations led to the creation of the NSF.
  2. Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz, his real twitter name!): He received a Sc.D. from MIT.
  3. Ellen Swallow Richards (@ClassOf1873): The first woman admitted to MIT; she graduated in 1873.
  4. Gian-Carlo Rota (@NoCokeNoClass): A well-loved and eccentric professor of Math and Philosophy who insisted that he wouldn't begin lecture until a student brought him a can of Coke.
  5. Alexander van Oudenaarden (@AlexVan): Another Dutch professor of physics.
  6. John Ochsendorf (@MasonryAtMIT): Head of the Masonry At MIT group in the Architecture department.
  7. Margaret (Scotty) MacVicar (@DeanScotty): She was Dead of Undergraduate Education from 1985 to 1990 and is credited with founded the UROP program in 1969, when she joined the Physics department.

The final answer can be extracted from the 14 locations. The tweets are tagged with locations in buildings, which are numbered 1 to 23 (ignoring any directional suffix, like N or W). Converting numbers to letters, these spell out ST EDWARD'S CHAIR.