Posts Tagged ‘magic’

The Shepherd’s Crown

Monday, December 7th, 2015 | Books

So this is it then, the final Pratchett novel. Worse, it’s a Tiffany Aching novel.

Pratchett comes out swinging for his final work. Perhaps it was his last chance to do something big, or perhaps he was trying to claw back readers from the popularity of George R. R. Martin, but I did not expect it to stat that way.

I did find a surprisingly amount of enjoyment in the book though. I have never been an Aching fan, but this was quite a good one. A nice way to go out on.


When Magic and Science Collide

Monday, July 8th, 2013 | Foundation, Humanism

For the June meeting of Leeds Skeptics, we had magic boffin Oliver Meech present his show “When Magic and Science Collide”. It was a hugely entertaining show that received a ton of positive feedback.

One the tricks, named The Evolving Trick, changes every time he does it. You can see a clip of it below.


Sunday, May 19th, 2013 | Books

I was quite excited to get onto Sourcery, the fifth book in the Discworld series, as I’m a big fan of the wizards. Plus, who doesn’t love Rincewind? I’m seriously considering it as a middle name for Chris Junior. While I was an enjoyable read, I didn’t find it quite as good as Equal Rites or Mort – but then anything with that amount of Death in it is always going to be hard to beat.


Equal Rites

Saturday, May 4th, 2013 | Books

In the third book of the Discworld series, a dying wizard passes his staff onto a baby without first checking the gender. As it turns out, Eskarina is a girl. But there are no female wizards. What a to do.

I was a little disappointed in the content of the book I think, I was hoping for a in depth examination of gender roles and the struggle of a female wizard in an otherwise all male university. But most of the novel was about the journey to Unseen University rather than what happens when she gets there.

Never the less, it was an enjoyable read and featured plenty of Granny Weatherwax, which is always going to be a good thing.

The Colour of Magic

Sunday, April 28th, 2013 | Books

I had only read one Terry Pratchett book since becoming an adult, which is now quite a long time ago, and I’ve never read any Discworld – so clearly that was something that needed fixing. While some people suggested the first in the series was far from the best, after careful consideration, I decided my OCD was too great not to start at the beginning, so The Colour of Magic it was.

The book starts by unloading a large amount of information at once, and I struggled to put everything together immediately, but as it went on, everything slotted into place and I found myself amerced in a wonderful world, packed with fantasy, magic and ever flowing adverbs.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I’ve already made a start on the second book in the series, The Light Fantastic.


Inspiring minds

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 | Distractions, Photos

Sorry, not sure who to credit, but someone posted this. It’s brilliant.

Missed connection

York Brights talk magic

Thursday, May 26th, 2011 | Distractions, Life, Thoughts

Last week I headed down to York Brights for their monthly meeting. It was the second time I had been to the city in a month, having visited North Yorkshire Humanists two weeks prior.

The topic of much of this week’s discussion was Derren Brown. Derren has done amazing things for reviving the art of magic, but it always a divided opinion in the skeptics community because although he says it is all magic, he then goes on to pretend a lot of what he is doing is real.

Take the example, when he correctly predicted the lottery numbers. Of course, he didn’t, it was a simple camera trick. But be started the show by saying “this is all magic” and then took you on an hour long journey about the wisdom of crowds, which is of course nonsense. I spoke about this at Skeptics in the Pub in 2009.

One of the group members, Michael, went on to explain just how much of Derren’s material relies on this. Take for example his TV show Trick of Treat, although he claims to use no actors, they almost certainly did, partly because some have been identified as actors but also because you just can’t morally do a lot of that stuff to unsuspecting members of the public.

You could argue of course that that is part of the show though. When we watch fiction or magic, we suspend our disbelief for the purposes of entertainment (deep down, we all know there probably isn’t a man traveling around space and time in a vehicle disguised as a blue police box but it’s fun to pretend for those 45 minutes), and maybe it’s just part of that.

Stop Playing Tricks On Me

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 | Humanism

Atheist Society recently welcomed Leo Dragon for a magic show and talk on illusions.

Leo describes himself as an honest liar in that he is tricking us but it’s ok because we all know it’s an illusion and we accept it – basically, it’s like democracy in cabaret format. Interestingly, along these lines, Derren Brown writes, in his book Tricks of the Mind, that all magicians are inherently bad people because their life is to trick people. Luckily, at A-Soc we don’t tend to subscribe to the idea of inherent evil.

Leo wowed the audience with a range of tricks, even after having appointed Michael to make sure there was no funny business going on – this means that either Leo is genuinely magic, or Michael should be permanently banned from working for the Child Protection Agency.

How to win the lottery

Saturday, September 12th, 2009 | Distractions, Thoughts

I’ve just watched through Derren Brown’s “how to win the lottery” in which Derren (supposedly) correctly predicted the lottery numbers for last Wednesday’s national lottery draw. Last night he offered to explain how he did it. Of course in reality, he still leaves you wondering.

His explanation was that it used the “wisdom of crowds” which suggests that subconsciously a group of people can make more accurate predictions than one person alone, and in his example he took 24 people, had them study the lottery numbers for the past year and try and work out which ones came next. He then averaged them out and claimed to have successfully predicted the numbers.

That or, as a final end to the show briefly discusses how we could have fixed the lottery to make sure that the right numbers came up. Of course he claimed this theory was both illegal and ridiculous and this is for the most part true – I think we can rule out that Derren and his team actually managed to get through security and fix the draw.

So how did he manage it? Derren begins his show on Friday by listing the three possibilities by which he could have done it. Faked a lottery ticket, genuinely predicted the numbers or fixed the draw.

However this is where it begins to break down. Where have we seen such an example before? The answer of course is “bad, mad or god.” The classic Christian proposition that Jesus was either evil, crazy or he actually was the son of god. Immediately ruling out the idea that he could have been mistaken, never claimed to be god or never existed at all, to name just a few of other possibilites.

Derren begins by ruling out his first suggestion and leaving us with just two possibilities – either he correctly predicted the numbers or he fixed the draw. He then dismisses the second idea and offers us a very dubiously scientific but almost believable senario and invites us to “believe, or not.”

In reality of course, the first lines Derren spoke on the show were the most accurate. “This show uses magic, trickery and misdirection” he proclaims boldly and yet we still do not appreciate on what scale it is – that the entire one hour show is a misdirection leading us down the garden path to draw attention away from the fact that there is was something a little dodgy about the stand the predictions were held on – which couldn’t be revealed in advance for legal reasons.

We rack our brains trying to work out whether his theory of crowds could actually work and so much thought do we put into this that it never occurs to us that the 24 people predicting the numbers are probably in on the trick – or that Derren ignored the numbers they predicted and only “revealed” to them the numbers they had predicted when the lottery draw had been made.

Not that this takes away the magic of it. Derren put on a superb performance and one which I would highly recommend watching. Just remember that you’re still watching a magic show.

Or at least, that is my take on it. You can believe, or not.

Derren Brown