This puzzle has only one metric. Any valid solution will be awarded 10 bonus points on top of the usual score for its rank according to that metric.
Cost / 5 + Cycles + Area
Match Pattern (3 × Earth, Air, Water, or Fire)
Exoplanetary Sample (6 × Earth, Air, Water, or Fire)
Match Result (Salt or Gold)
If the Match Pattern appears within the Exoplanetary Sample (contiguously, going from left to right, without being flipped), the solution must output gold. If the Match Pattern does not appear within the Exoplanetary Sample, the solution must output salt. A valid solution must reach the victory screen for all 262,144 combinations of Match Pattern and Exoplanetary Sample reagents.
Output conditionals are disallowed: dropping a salt atom onto a gold output or vice versa is counted as a collision. Every Match Pattern reagent pulled during a single run of a solution is identical (you can pull them freely), but solutions must handle Exoplanetary Sample reagents being different each time they are pulled. Valid solutions must output gold or salt for each Exoplanetary Sample in the same order that they are pulled.
The Cost / 5 + Cycles + Area metric is measured for each run of the solution. The maximum over all 262,144 combinations is the solution's overall metric value. In addition to these combinations, if the host deems the solution to be a "batching" solution that optimizes for identical inputs, the solution may also be measured once more, with a secret sequence of six different Exoplanetary Samples. The metric from this extra measurement may then be included in the maximum at the host's discretion. The website only checks 128 test cases—for solutions where these test cases don't find the actual maximum, the maximum value may have to be worked out manually before final scores are given. Also note that these test cases use 6 identical inputs. If you'd like to test your solve with varying inputs, check out the computation mod in the Discord—or contact me at panic#9031 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can check that it runs in the computation mod. There's also a tool by notgreat which can check more thoroughly than the on-site checker.
I knew you'd be loyal in the end.
I'm not doing this for you.
What's the difference? We're both here for the same reason. The belief that alchemy can bring us the future we desire.
I'm here to help the people I care about. You're only here to help yourself.
The people only want to live their simple lives. They don't possess the intelligence or the interest for our alchemical pursuits. Let them live the lives they deserve, and we can live ours!