Universe Puzzle

Article written: 17 Feb , 2010
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

I’m trying something new, here in Universe Today, a puzzle.

This is, I hope, a puzzle that cannot be answered by five minutes spent googling, a puzzle that requires you to cudgel your brains a bit, and do some lateral thinking.

There are no prizes for the first correct answer – the judge’s decision (mine!) will be final – but I do hope that you’ll have lots of fun.

What do David, Nicholas, and Ferdinand have in common?

Post your guesses in the comments section, and check back later at this same post to find the answer. To make this puzzle fun for everyone, please don’t include links or extensive explanations with your answer, until after the answer has been given. Good luck!

Answer has now been posted below:


Malin1 (Hubble Space Telescope image courtesy of Aaron Barth)

Mayall's Object (Hubble Space Telescope)

David Malin (Malin I), Nicholas Mayall (Mayall’s object, or Arp 148), and Ferdinand Magellan (the Magellanic Clouds) all have galaxies named after them!

I should have said that David, Nicholas, and Ferdinand have a deep association with the topics we regularly cover here in Universe Today – astronomy, space, telescopes, etc.

Congratulations to IVAN3MAN, who guessed correctly first, and to all those who came up with equally good answers – all must have prizes.

Stay tuned for another Universe Puzzle, next week (HINT: I will pose a quite different kind of puzzle then).

19 Responses

  1. Have been members of Space Shuttle missions

  2. Jorge says

    They are all male. And, since that is one thing they most certainly do have in common, I win.

    What’s the prize? Thank you.


  3. jennis says

    They all ‘got around’.

  4. smithdc says

    I would say David McComas, Nicolaus Copernicas, and Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan changed our view of the shape of Earth, Copernicas changed our view of the shape of the solar system, and McComas changed our view of shape of our local galaxy.

    I’ve noted, however, that the spelling above is Nicolas, and so this may not be a good guess.

  5. Member
    IVAN3MAN says

    They all have had objects in space named after them.

  6. ROCA says

    Three Croatian Scientists:
    Ferdinand Kovacevic (1838-1913);
    David Schwarz (1852-1897);
    Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).
    Source: History of Croatian Science by Darko Zubrinic, Zagreb (1995)

  7. ROCA says

    Another answer:
    Three Radio Pioneers
    David Sarnoff 1891-1971
    Karl Ferdinand Braun 1850-1918
    Nikola Tesla 1856-1943

  8. Member
    ToSeek says

    None of them have been in my kitchen.

  9. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says

    Good idea, but I saw the related arXiv article of the 17th February too. I.e. Yu. L. Bolotin. et.al. “Dynamics of Universe in Problems”

    My favourite is Chapter 1 ; Cosmo-wrap-up No. 49. Find probability that transition between two atomic states occurs due to gravitation rather than electromagnetic forces.

    Love to see our ol’ mate, Anaconda, reply to that one!

  10. agtoever says

    They all work at UCLA department of Physics an Astronomy – see:

  11. Astrofiend says

    They are all the first name of famous explorers/mapmakers. Nicolas Copernicus, Ferdinand Magellan and David Thompson – All of these men are renowned for their explorations of undiscovered parts of Earth and creating maps of the new territory…

  12. neoguru says

    They were all artists?

  13. RUF says

    All kings:

    King David, Israel
    Czar Nicholas, Russia,
    King Ferdinand, Castile Spain

    Nicholas could be king Nicholas of Montenegro, but Czar Nic is as notorious as the other two.

  14. Manu says

    I don’t know, but looking around a bit I found this asteroid called (9007) James Bond.
    Hilariously off-topic.

  15. Elf4God says

    3 physicists is my best guess.

  16. William928 says


    A great idea! it seems some couldn’t resist the temptation of going the Google route. My congratulations to those of you who used your noodles instead, right or wrong….(Astrofiend, neoguru)

  17. Jon Hanford says

    Thanks, Jean, for this thought provoking exercise.

  18. Jean Tate says


    There have certainly been astronauts, whether on Space Shuttle missions or otherwise, named David (six?). There is also, I think, one Nicholas.

    However, I do not know of any astronaut (or cosmonaut!) named Ferdinand.

    Who did you have in mind?

Comments are closed.