Google Homepage Gadget

Published on Thursday, June 29, 2006 in ,

Google logoIt's time to add another way to make it easier to navigate the site! In the past, I've added an RSS feed and even a Dashboard Widget.

The new addition is a gadget for your Google personalized homepage. Actually, I've created two versions of the gadget, the Grey Matters Blog gadget and the Grey Matters Video gadget.

The gadgets will keep you updated as to updates to their respective sites. Once placed on your page, you can set it up to regularly show the 3 most recent posts. Clicking "edit" on the gadget will allow you to select your preference of how many recent posts are shown, from 1 to 9.

Clicking on either or both the previous two links, or the Google Homepage Gadget links over in the Site Feeds section, and click the Add It Now button, and it will be added to your Google homepage. If you don't already have one, you can set it up at the same time.


Gathering for Gardner 7

Published on Sunday, June 25, 2006 in , , , ,

Martin GardnerSeed Magazine recently published a great story on the Gathering for Gardner 7 (or G4G7, for short), which I briefly mentioned back in May.

The G4G meetings focus solely on recreational mathematics, such as puzzles, magic, illusions and games, in honor of Martin Gardner. You can find even more information about these events at G4G4.com.

If you would like a better idea of what is discussed at these meetings, you may want to check out Magic Squares, Indeed from the book Puzzler's Tribute. Better yet, you can download a free PDF containing the entire contents of The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler!


Divining Phone Numbers

Published on Thursday, June 22, 2006 in , ,

Magic CafeOver at the Magic Cafe, there's a great thread about divining phone numbers.

The second method described in this post uses simple algebra to let you find out someone's phone number. An explanation of the underlying algebra is also included.

While I'd seen the algebraic method before, the first version described in that post, which is described more clearly in this post, is one that I'd never run across before. The basic idea is that of the classic number cards trick (Java required), but applied to larger numbers in an ingenious way. One of the benefits of this method that it doesn't matter how many numbers are in your country's phone number system, it will still work.

Of course, presentation is important, so McCritical provides a great presentation, which helps hide the mathematical nature of the effect.

As a quick shameless plug, those who enjoy the above routines may also be interested in Mental Shopper and the Serial Number Feat, too.


Magic Blogospere Tracker

Published on Sunday, June 18, 2006 in , ,

Magicforge is a great magic blog you should definitely check out. Besides the obvious value of the blog itself, and the card, coin and sponge ball articles, the site features a great tool called the Magic Blogospere Tracker.

The Magic Blogospere Tracker is a chart listing how recently various magic blogs have been updated. They are also color-coded as to their status. Red means that the blog hasn't posted in over a month, and is considered a "dead" blog. Amber means that the most recent post is dated between 7 and 30 days ago, so it is considered to be "sleeping". Blogs with a green status have posted in the last week, and are considered to be alive.

Interestingly, this blog started in the dead zone, and then moved to amber, despite regularly posting about twice a week. This was due largely to RSS feed problems on my end, which have now been resolved.

Also, keep an eye on the tracker itself, as a major re-working of the Magic Blogospere Tracker is expected later this week.


Student Breaks North American Pi Record!

Published on Thursday, June 15, 2006 in ,

PiBack in March, I briefly mentioned Gaurav Rajav's attempt at the North American Pi Record. He was promised a new Xbox and a game he wanted, if he broke the record. He didn't break the record during that attempt, so his parents are reported to have bought him the Xbox without the game.

In a new attempt, however, Gaurav Rajav has now broken the 27-year-old North American Pi Record! His new Pi memorization record stands at a remarkable 10,980 digits, and there are now only 8 people in the entire world who have memorized more digits than him.

I'm guessing this means that he finally received the Xbox game he wanted?


Amazing Kids!

Published on Sunday, June 11, 2006 in , , , , ,

BrainIf you haven't already been over there this weekend, check out Grey Matters Videos! This weekend, we're featuring new videos of some very brainy kids.

There's Shecharya, who can recall 106 digits of Pi, a 4-year old and a 6-year-old, both of whom can solve the Rubik's Cube, and footage from a 4th-grade mental math competition.

These aren't the only kids ever posted on Grey Matters Videos, either. If you've ever seen them, you certainly can't forget Abby Julo, Florian Osmani, Xaver Neuhausler, Fabrice Becker and “Elliott”!

While I'm talking about the video section, I should also mention the new Grey Matters Video Channel over on YouTube. As I add new videos from YouTube, you'll be able to find them on that channel, on the Amazing Mental Feats playlist, or in this Grey Matters Video entry.

If you're interested in posting this collection of videos of amazing feats on your own site, you can do so by copying and pasting the following code to your website or blog:


Memory Sites Around The Web

Published on Thursday, June 08, 2006 in , ,

Classic Memory TechniqueIf you're interested in memory techniques, there are plenty of sites to increase and share your knowledge that have opened in recent weeks.

First, we have Memory Techniques Pages and the similarly-named-but-unrelated Memory Techniques Blog. Both of these sites, at this writing, don't contain much information in their respective entries, yet both of them contain high quality information about making your memorization more effective. I hope to see them both continue and develop!

If you're more interested in looking for mnemonics on a particular topic, there's Mnemonic-Device.com. This site makes a great addition to the mnemonics collections I mentioned back in August. I especially like their mnemonic for how to spell "mnemonic": Mnemonics Neatly Eliminate Man's Only Nemesis - Insufficient Cerebral Storage.

To close out this entry, I'd also like to tell you about Build Your Memory. Many of the techniques described on this site will be familiar to regular Grey Matters site. However, there is an intriguing article on combining all the systems into one "mental database", which I found to be a fascinating read.

If you find any of these site useful and or enjoyable, please let me know in the comments!


NEW: The Grey Matters Presentation Section

Published on Sunday, June 04, 2006 in , , ,

Grey Matters faviconTake a look at the Site Menu up above. Notice anything different? Take a closer look.

I've added a new Presentation section to Grey Matters! This new section of the site will focus on how to present magic and the mental feats on which Grey Matters is focused.

Currently, there are only two items in the presentation section, my “Understanding Magic” essay and my list of Questions For Better Magic, both of which were written in the mid-90s.

The presentation section, as it stands now, is mainly about magic, as both of the items above were written for my magic-focused “Astonishment Link Site”, which eventually became a cobweb site. However, much of the content on there still holds true, and deserves to be seen, so I'm taking the more visited parts of the old Astonishment Site, and will be moving them to the presentation section as time goes on.

As always, if you have any suggestions for the presentation section, or any part of Grey Matters, please contact me or leave a comment on the site with your ideas. I'd love to hear them!


Review: Theater Close-up by Greg Gleason

Published on Thursday, June 01, 2006 in , , ,

Theater Close-Up AdWhen I first saw the ad for Greg Gleason's Theater Close-up, many of the effect descriptions peaked my interest, so I picked them up as soon as possible.

The DVDs themselves are professionally produced, with a crisp, clear picture. Those of you used to the high picture quality videos from Bob Kohler magic (please note that Theater Close-up is NOT a Bob Kohler release), will see similar high quality here.

Every effect (or technique, in some cases) begins with Greg detailing the important points of the effect, as well as the proper credits for the inspiration. As Greg Gleason is a cruise ship performer, almost all the performance segments are shot in front of a real-world audience on a cruise ship (some are performed in the cruise ship cabin for fellow performers, but not many of them). As this is close-up for large theater, you also see a video screen behind Greg, as shot from above. I always appreciate seeing material in front of real-world audiences, especially after so many videos that feature the same audience members so frequently that we can all refer to them by name. The explanations that follow are then shot in a cruise ship cabin. This contrast really helps give the explanations a stronger "behind the scenes" feel than most other DVDs.

What about the effects and techniques themselves?

The Devil Went Down To Vegas is a great Gambler vs. Magician plot, using slightly re-written lyrics for the Charlie Daniels' classic song. The best thing about this effect as an opener is that the song gives it an element of familiarity that helps establish rapport right away.

The G-Card is Greg's approach to Martin Nash's Infinity work. There's a different psychology and approach to the work here than Infinity, however. Three routines are then performed and taught that use the G-Card idea - Quicker Than the Eye, Lost and Found, and I Found It. These effects show off the strengths of the G-Card technique well, and would be difficult if not impossible to do without them.

Next up is Moneymorphosis, a close-up Metamorphosis effect with two signed 20 dollar bills. This effect requires some special props (yes, still available), but plays very strong, and allows a brief break from the card magic.

The last two tricks on Vol. I are my among my favorites from this series.

Greg shows how to start with a shuffled deck, perform a single routine (no deck switches!), and end with the deck prepared for J.C. Wagner's classic Super Closer routine. The routine taught here is classic, but Greg has modified the handling so as to both allow the set-up and make the original routine better suited to going just before a closing effect. I expect that this will be the most-used items from the DVD.

Sleight of Butt is a stage routine with a regular deck that doesn't require video screens. It's a fun cards across routine in which cards go, well, from butt to butt.

Moving on to Vol. II, we have the Hot Shot Opener. This is a routine that employs the Magician In Trouble scenario as a quick effect. An added bonus is that those who have trouble with Daryl's Hot Shot Cut can still be able to do this with the help of Greg's approach.

I have to admit, I've never been a big fan of Matrix effects, so Matrix Explosion didn't really grab me in the same way as many others. If you're willing to put in some work (even Greg mentions that you won't be doing this routine without plenty of practice) and engage in some preparation, you'll have a nice Matrix routine with a multiple coin finish.

Next up is the OSC ("Overhand Shift Control"), which is a technique for controlling multiple cards to the top that appears very fair. Banned from Vegas is a Triumph-style routine in which the four aces wind up face-up in the center of a face-down deck. If you've ever seen Ricky Jay's version of this routine (which inspired Banned From Vegas), and wanted to do it, you'll be glad to know that no Faro shuffles are used here.

The OSC Full Deck Control combines the OSC with the G-Card idea to allow you to control the entire deck. Although Greg never specifically discusses it, you could force the bottom four cards of a memorized deck and then lose them and find with this technique. Afterwards, you simply place them on the bottom in the right order, and you'll still be able to do any memorized deck routines. After all the apparent shuffling, you also have the advantage that the audience must believe you're working with a shuffled deck, which is a very nice psychological advantage.

Invisible Card is a shuffled-deck version of the Invisible Deck. To me, the classic version is hard to beat. The fact that there is work to be done after the card is named reduces the attractiveness of this version as an alternative to the original. However, the work is relatively simple and appears fair.

Lock Up is the first of two closers on this volume. A Master Lock dial is placed on the face of a deck of cards, and the card immediately underneath the lock dial changes to the selected card. As a surprise finish, the dial is used to "lock" the cards, so they become one single brick. I've seen plenty of solid deck style routines, and I like the whimsical logic as to why the deck becomes solid here.

Finally, Signed Card to Sealed Deck, which is precisely what the name implies, has some very nice thinking behind it. As with some of the other effects, there is some presentation and special props required, but the resulting effect is well worth it. In what is a rarity for this type of effect, the selected signed card not only ends up in a sealed deck of opposite color, but ends up in precisely the location where it should be (in the routine, the selected, signed card is the 10C, which winds up in the sealed deck between the 9C and the JC). Greg's detailed explanation of how to prepare and perform this routine makes this trick seem much more approachable.

Overall, while I can see some complaining about the routines that requires special props or "too much" set-up, there are plenty of routines here that can be worked from a shuffled deck without preparation. Remember that this is a video put together by a professional performer, and his focus is to do what works and what entertains real-world audiences. Every routine is given proper crediting, and important details are mentioned repeatedly and clearly.

I highly recommend these DVDs!