Saturday, 23 May 2009

More weird science

The book on anomalous experiences I mentioned in an earlier post will hopefully be published later this year or early next year. In the meantime I thought I'd draw your attention to a book editted by a former colleague of mine, and himself a contributor to the Anomalous Experiences book, Dr Craig Murray.

This book has the rather wordy title of Psychological Scientific Perspectives on Out of Body and Near Death Experiences and is published by Nova. More details can be found here. With chapters written by the leading researchers on OBEs and NDEs, it looks set to become a leading text dealing with these unusual, though not uncommon, experiences. Perhaps these experiences tell us something about consciousness, how our brains construct conscious experience, or even shed light on what happens after we die!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

All done by mirrors (or is it?)

My mistake. The camera trick linked to in the previous blog was more than likely inspired by this Dr Wiseman trick (not the colour changing card trick):

Friday, 15 May 2009

Camera trick

I came across this today quite by accident and just love it:

I actually discovered it when I stumbled upon a blog that linked to it. The blogger even made reference to the fact that it reminded her of a Dr Wiseman trick (don't worry Richard, I'm sure she meant to say Professor Wiseman). She was no doubt referring to his superb colour-changing card trick. Remember the effect is achieved with no editting. Have a think about how it might have been done before you watch the clip below that reveals the wonderful secret:

Great piece of marketing.. who knows I might even consider buying a Samsung if I didn't already have my eye on an iPhone.

(Just for now, I have stretched the template for the blog so that the full screens from the YouTube clips above are shown. The usual template rather annoyingly cuts off the right hand side of the clips.)

Flowery Twats

After their recent attempt to kill off the nation's brain cells by broadcasting back-to-back episodes of The Vicar of Dibley, G.O.L.D., the nation's favourite comedy channel (apparently), have redeemed themselves. I just caught the repeat of Fawlty Towers Re-Opened, a two-hour documentary about the truly classic sitcom in which John Cleese, Connie Booth, and others from the show talk about why it was so successful, how it was written, what inspired it, and so on. Excellent stuff.

Fans of the show will remember that at the end of the opening credits of each episode, the letters on the hotel sign were re-arranged by the paper boy to spell out different words like 'Fatty Owls', 'Farty Towels', etc. In fact only one of these was an actual anagram of Fawlty Towers...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Israeli bender (of spoons)

Talking of psychics, when I was a kid Uri Geller was a bit of a hero of mine. I guess I have to use the word 'psychic' loosely as nowadays he refers to himself as a 'paranormalist', whatever that is.

I also use the word 'hero' fairly loosely, but he was a big influence on me. In fact he was probably one of the reasons I became interested in the idea of paranormal phenomena as I already an unhealthy interest in magic and conjuring. Geller seemed to be able to bend metal (more often than not in the form of spoons) with the power of his mind as well as start broken watches and reproduce hidden drawings. What Geller did looked an awful lot like magic tricks but he claimed he was doing it for real. And it started me wondering whether any of this stuff could be done for real. I still wonder.

I was hoping that YouTube might provide a clip from the Dimbleby Show on which Geller shot to fame in the UK in the 1970s, but all I can find on YouTube are clips seeming to show Geller bending spoons in less impressive ways. Either that or clips from the various versions of his recent TV shows in which he leads the search for the Next Uri Geller (this is the title of the German version of the show; in the US it went by the name of Phenomenon, and in Israel it was called The Successor). The show hasn't made it to the UK. Yet.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Psychic Unfair

I have long been interested in the possibility that some of us, or indeed all of us, possess some kind of psychic ability. In fact, the vast majority of my academic research over the 15 years or so has examined this question in one way or another.

It was therefore with interest that we paid a visit last weekend to a psychic fair that was being held in a village hall just a few miles down the road from our home. As we paid the £3 each entry fee to the girl on the desk, I looked over the girl's shoulder to glance at the room we were paying six quid to enter (Freya was free). Down one side of the room stood five or six tables selling a little jewelry, a few crystals, and not a lot else. On the other side of the room were a handful of smaller tables at which were sat the psychics giving their readings.

Call me old fashioned but having been to one or two psychic fairs before I was expecting a few more stalls, and perhaps even a few more psychics. Still, we thought we'd enter into the spirit of things and get a reading each (me and Rachel that is, I don't think Freya was that arsed...). To get a reading we were required to put our name down with the girl on the front desk for the psychic (or indeed medium) of our choice. We opted for a reading from a medium so put our name down for someone called Annabel. I would go first and then Rachel, and we'd take turns to look after Freya. While waiting for Annabel to become available we thought we'd wait outside as it was such a beautiful sunny afternoon, and surprisingly Freya found it rather boring inside the hall with absolutely nothing to do.

A few minutes later I wandered back inside to see if Annabel had become free, only to find she was now giving a reading to someone else! What an effective queuing system... It's good that the girl on the front desk was taking people's names so as to avoid just this.

Oh well, perhaps it wasn't to be. Rather than wait another half hour for Annabel to become free (and perhaps be gazumped again) we decided instead to take Freya to a park and enjoy the Saturday afternoon sunshine. We quickly saw the positive side... we'd just saved ourselves £40 and we could be back home to catch the remaining hours of the Dibley-a-thon on G.O.L.D. Yay!

Goose, Moose and Apple Juice

As I've mentioned before, I'm a bit of a fan of Derren Brown. So it was a treat last night to see the man himself in his touring show, Enigma, at the Lowry Theatre in Salford. This was the second time Rachel and I had seen DB in a live show, having seen his An Evening of Wonders show in the West End last summer.

Both shows were excellent. Members of the audience needed on stage are chosen by frisbies thrown out into the audience. At the London show I was lucky enough to be one of about eight on stage at one point for a segment involving pendulums, each made of a large nut tied to the end of a piece of string. Through the power of suggestion the pendulum swings from left to right or in a circle no matter how much you feel you're keeping your arm still.

The best part of the Enigma show comes right at the end which, of course, I can't reveal. Suffice to say, the the title of this post might seem random but it isn't. It seems that DB is in agreement with Spiritual Junkie in so far as nothing is random.