Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Stop Press!

Press Release
For immediate release 30 September 2009

From Sceptic to Psychic?

Can a scientist become a psychic and win a million dollars?

Dr. Matthew Smith leaves behind the safety of academic life today to pursue a unique and rather ambitious project. After more than fifteen years of researching ‘paranormal’ experiences from a scientific perspective, Matthew will set aside his scepticism to see if he can discover and develop his own hidden psychic abilities. In a year-long project, he will work with some of the world’s leading mediums and psychics to discover if he has any hidden psychic talents. Leading parapsychologists will monitor his progress by subjecting him to scientific tests along the way.

At the end of the year he will take the million dollar challenge offered by American magician and sceptic James Randi for anyone who can demonstrate genuine paranormal abilities.

'It’s one heck of a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to delving into the world of the psychic. There’s only so much you can learn from conducting experiments on other people. Sometimes you just have to get in there and try it for yourself!', said Matthew.

Matthew’s first challenge will be on Saturday 3rd October when he will be giving readings at a psychic fair in Witney, Oxfordshire. ‘They will be readings based on tarot, and maybe a little cold reading!’, explained Matthew, ‘I’m keen to find out how good my readings are before I’ve even started any psychic development.’ Matthew will give readings for free and ask his clients to compare his with those they get from other readers at the fair.

Deb Blakeley, organiser of the psychic fair said, ‘I applaud Matthew for trying this out for himself. He may surprise himself! And I welcome any attempt to find out more about how psychic readings might work.’

Matthew leaves his post as Associate Professor of Psychology at Liverpool Hope University on Wednesday 30th September after ten years at the University. Shortly after he arrived at the University, he was asked to be the resident parapsychologist and sceptic on Living TV’s
Most Haunted Live to pass a critical eye over the ‘paranormal’ activity experienced by the investigation team.

Matthew added, ‘This challenge takes me outside of academia, and out of my comfort zone, to explore these topics from a very different perspective.’

Matthew is writing about his experience for a book,
Million Dollar Psychic, to be published next year.

Saturday 3rd October: Psychic Fair, Langdale Hall, Market Square, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX8 6AB. For details, contact Deb Blakeley: Tel. 01993 702233; Email

Matthew Smith Email


Million Dollar Challenge (James Randi Educational Foundation)
Third Eye Workshops
Liverpool Hope University

Friday, 25 September 2009

Pick a card

With just over week to go before the psychic fair, I think I'm just about able to remember the basic meanings of each of the 78 tarot cards. This has been aided by a nifty little memory system based on one described by our good friend Derren Brown in his book Tricks of the Mind!

I guess there's only one way to find out how much I remember... Care to call out a card?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

59 seconds later...

I've said before I'm a slow reader. I've only just got round to finishing Richard Wiseman's latest book 59 Seconds. I enjoyed it. It's Richard's take on the whole self-help industry in which he corrects some of the myths about self-help psychology. He also uncovers surprising snippets of useful information about techniques that are supported by scientific research. These range from how putting a pot plant in your office can increase your creativity to how a picture of a baby in your wallet can increase the chances of being returned if you lose it!

In light of my upcoming attempt to give readings at a psychic fair (less than two weeks away!) it was some of the stuff towards the end of the book that especially caught my attention. The final chapter focuses on personality, and draws attention to a number of things that can reveal something about our pesonality. Of particular interest to me was how much can be determined about our personality just from our hands. First, did you know that the ratio of the length of your index finger to your ring finger is related to your tendency towards typically 'masculine' personality traits? And did you know the way you clasp your hands can also reveal your tendency towards typically 'left-brain' or 'right-brain' ways of thinking?

Perhaps if I don't get the hang of the tarot cards I could always do a scientifically supported version of palm reading?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Who'd be a dentist?

Why would anybody want to spend their entire working lives poking and prodding around inside other people's mouths? I think it takes a certain personality (i.e., weird) to want to do something like that. Very odd.

I've got the dentist this morning. Not looking forward to it.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

You do the math(s)

So that's how it was done! Deep maths. Should have guessed really, shouldn't we? All that stuff you did at school... that was shallow maths. If only we'd had a few double periods of deep maths and we might have been able to win the lottery!

Of course DB wasn't going to reveal how he really did it, but he did give us some plausible sounding 'explanations', including a strenuous denial that he did NOT fix the lottery machine. All of this feeds the ongoing debate over how he really did do it. What amazes me is the number of people, in particular journalists, who seem to be so pissed off that he didn't reveal his actual method!

After Friday's show, Channel 4 aired a show featuring that other DB that seems to get under people's skin, David Blaine. This show included more examples of Blaine's street magic where he performs close-up tricks with things like cards and coins and focuses on the wild reactions from his audiences. The exception was the final item: A bullet catch. Traditionally, this has involved catching a bullet between the teeth and is (surprise, surprise!) usually achieved by some kind of trickery. Blaine's version seemed to be a little different. He didn't attempt to catch the bullet in his teeth, but instead held a small metal cup between his teeth and stood there while a fellow magician fired a .22 calibre rifle at him. The high speed cameras seemed to show that is what indeed happened!

Blaine's show was titled What Is Magic? This question is fitting for both Brown and Blaine as they both do a fine job of blurring the line between what is real and what is not.

Friday, 11 September 2009

How did he do it?

Still wondering how Derren Brown predicted the lottery numbers on Wednesday night? Supposedly all will be revealed in The Events tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm. If you missed the live broadcast on Wednesday night you can watch it on YouTube.

From the moment he revealed his prediction there has been much debate over how he achieved it. Theories range from camera trickery (i.e., the use of a split-screen) to laser technology (a laser beam somehow projecting the numbers on to the ping-pong balls that formed his prediction). Some have even suggested that Derren spent the last year recording all of the possible combinations and splicing that together with the live broadcast. However, I have a feeling it would take longer than a year to pre-record the millions of combinations that could come up! Some of the more common theories have been collected together here.

No matter how he achieved it, Derren Brown and Objective Productions have again produced an amazing effect that has got us all scratching our heads wondering how on earth he might have done it. I know I'll be watching tonight to hear his explanation, whether it be the truth or some other fantastic deception!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Brown knows

Psychological illusionist (i.e., magician) Derren Brown is up to his old tricks again. Or rather, he's up to some new tricks. He has a new series called The Events starting on Channel 4 this week. He's opening the series with a rather audacious stunt in which he plans to predict the winning numbers in this Wednesday's National Lottery.

Coincidentally (!) I took part in a psychic lottery experiment yesterday as part of an ongoing study being run by Mick O'Neill. The aim was also to attempt to predict this Wednesday's winning lottery numbers. No trick here, Mick has spent a few years collecting data in an attempt to see if it is possible to predict the numbers using psychic means. For what it's worth the numbers I 'predicted' were: 3, 4, 8, 9, 17 and 38.

The draw is broadcast on Wednesday 9th September on BBC1 at 10.35pm. Mr Brown will be on Channel4 at the same time.

Monday, 7 September 2009

It's a goat thing

The movie based on Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats is premiered this week at the Venice Film Festival. It's due to be released in in the USA in November and in the UK in January. The film stars Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. You can view the trailer here.

When I read Ronson's book I was aware it was being made into a film, but couldn't really see how it would translate to the screeen. It would seem that the film is inspired by the book. That is, it's a story based upon the ideas in the book.

Don't worry, there are still men staring at goats.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Mystic Moo

In a series of posts earlier this year, I showed an interest in learning to read Tarot cards. Can they really show an insight into our past, present and future lives? In an attempt to discover a little more about how tarot and other psychic readings work, I have set myself a challenge.

Four weeks from today I will be sitting at a table at a psychic fair giving readings. That's right. I'll be giving readings. This means that before then I need to learn what each of the tarot cards actually mean! There are 78 cards in a tarot deck that each have their own meaning (in fact they can each have two meanings, depending if they appear in an upright or reversed position) so this isn't going to be easy. I'll let you know how I get on (but if you read tarot, I guess you'll already know).