What are four words that state the problem in The Cold Equations?
The answer comes directly from the reading where the law of "Interstellar Regulations" is written out for the reader: "Any stowaway discovered in an EDS shall be jettisoned immediately following discovery."
Four words that sum it up would be "stowaway shall be jettisoned." The major conflict in this story is both Marilyn and the pilot know she must be sacrificed so that the colonists may survive. The reader hopes something else can be worked out, but the ultimate ending is that the law must be followed. Those four words cut to the point, and the title of the story itself states that those are the cold hard facts (laws) that must be followed.