A puzzle for the UK

Sadly, my current Thing Explainer book tour doesn’t stop in the UK (although you can come see me at London’s Royal Institution via live videolink on December 7th—tickets here).

However, in lieu of an in-person visit, my publisher and I have put together a special puzzle for UK readers to solve.

The puzzle has two steps. Step one is to find out where step two is.

For step one, you can pick any one of five cities. Here’s a helpful map, followed by some interesting facts about each city.


Bristol: 2.72km
A major port, built on seven very steep hills, Bristol has long been home to explorers and inventors – and the UK’s oldest dinosaur. In 1497 John Cabot sailed out of Bristol to try to find a better route to Asia and discovered Newfoundland instead. Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed this tall road in 1830. It took another 34 years to finish, and he lived only to see the towers built (one in the suburb the road is named after).

London: 0.44km
A city famous (in song) for its bridges falling down and (in stories) for its streets not being paved with gold.  A fifth of all the pieces everything is made of were discovered in London, including hydrogen (originally called ‘inflammable air’) in Clapham, and ten by Humphrey Davy here. There’s even a red world space car in the Science Museum.

Oxford: 0.51km
Inaccurately described by writers as ‘a city of dreaming spires’, Oxford is obsessed with thing explaining. Oxford professors CS Lewis, Tolkien and Lewis Carroll turned Christianity, Anglo Saxon and mathematics into successful works of fiction. This college lays claim to William of Ockham who came up with the principle of Ockham’s razor, that the most straightforward answer is usually the right one. They would all agree that the writing stick is mightier than the sword.

Edinburgh: 1.85km
Built on an extinct volcano, this city is famous for its body snatchers, for Peter Higgs (big tiny thing hitter) and for Dolly the sheep. Alexander Graham Bell was educated here, and missed it so much when he moved across the Atlantic that he invented the telephone, precursor to the hand computer.

Cambridge: 0.05km
The university was founded in 1209 by students on the run from the Oxford police. Home to Isaac Newton, famous for working out colours of light and for understanding how dangerous sitting under an apple tree could be; a descendant of that tree remains near his room.  Also home to Stephen Hawking and 89 Nobel prizewinners (31 more than Oxford), and the Mathematical bridge.

Good luck!

Prizes will include signed copies of Thing Explainer and limited-edition posters and mobiles. There will also be one very special first prize.

Those who’ve solved the clue but are unable to get there in person should get in touch at thingexplainer@johnmurrays.co.uk. For updates on the results see @johnmurrays. The results and winners will be announced on www.johnmurraybeagle.co.uk on 7th December 2015.