Yep it's time again for some quick snippets!
• I've updated the Memory Effect list. If you're one of my regular readers, you might be wondering why I'm repeating news from earlier this month. Get ready to faint, because this is the second update this month! I've added so many new items, the list has jumped from 60 pages to 65 pages.
• Over at the Learned Pig Project, a magician's library accessible via free registration, they've posted the first two of Zufall's Memory Trix booklets, which were originally published in 1940. Up until now, these classic books have only been available via Lybrary.com or rare book dealers. The first booklet is titled Magazine Memorizing (as demonstrated by Jonathan Levit on this video), and the second booklet is titled Mental File Index, which deals with pre-memorizing long lists of facts, such as presidents, vice presidents, states, state capitals, the 100 largest cities, positions of letters in the alphabet and more! Although they haven't said so specifically, it's probable that they will eventually be posting all 6 books in the series.
• I've also updated the Memorized Deck Online Toolbox with new online tools and sites that will be of help to memorized deck users. As I come across more sites that are appropriate for it, I will keep this post updated.
• Two snippets ago, I mentioned Werner Miller's Sey On. If you enjoyed that, he's explored the principle further in both J. O'Seph and Liar's Clock.
• Earlier this week, the number of quizzes in my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post passed the 300 mark! You can now access this list of timed quizzes in a multitude of ways, such as RSS Feed, OS X Dashboard widget, online blog widget (customizable!), and Listible text list (which can also be posted on your site or blog).
• Speaking of OS X Dashboard widgets, the free Knight's Tour Dashboard widget I released back in May has been posted over on Apple's site! It even made Apple's top 50 most-downloaded widget list for 3 days after it made its debut. It's also spread quickly to other sites, like MacUpdate, Softpedia and more.
Yep it's time again for some quick snippets!
Last weekend, a few friends and I were having a discussion focusing on learning on TV. It started when we were talking about the old Schoolhouse Rock videos, which are responsible for raising an entire generation of people who can't recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution without singing it.
Songs to help people remember things had reminded me of something I hadn't thought about in a very long time. There was an episode of Happy Days where Potsie (Anson Williams) is failing his anatomy class, and threatens to quit school when berated by his teacher. When the Fonz (Henry Winkler) stops him from dropping out, he also suggests that he memorize the information about the circulatory system, which he needs for his final, by setting the process to music. Not only does this work wonders for Potsie, but the Happy Days audience got one of the most memorable songs to ever come out of any TV show:
Younger people may recognize this as the song used in the St. Joseph Aspirin commercials, but it was an original song written by Anson WIlliams himself. The fact that this song was used more than 20 years after it first aired gives you a good idea of exactly how memorable it is.
Earlier this week, I get an e-mail from one of those same friends, but with no reference to the previous discussion, or any other context of any sort. All he asked me to do is watch Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel that night. I thought it was strange, but I also know that the person who sent me this always had something interesting up his sleeve when he didn't give context.
Shortly after it started, I couldn't help but smile. Hannah had a European tour, but is told by her father that she can't tour Europe unless she gets a good grade on her biology mid-term. The plot was so similar to the Happy Days episode we had just been discussing it couldn't have been coincidence. Let's see, she has to pass a test in a biology class that she's failing, but she's only good with singing? Sure enough, she remembers the bones (I guess they figured the circulatory system was already covered) by singing them:
Silly as these videos are, they do bring to mind a constant question of mine. Why don't they teach memory techniques in school, when they're so basic to what school is all about?
Bob Cassidy is well known among magicians and mentalists, especially for his highly-regarded book, Artful Mentalism of Bob Cassidy. He has recently released an eBook will be of particular interest to Grey Matters readers, called Mind Explosions.
Mind Explosions features two routines, The Number of the Beast, which is Bob Cassidy's version of the Memory Magic Square (Found in Harry Lorayne's books, Mathematical Wizardry, and Reputation Makers), and Checkmate, which is his approach to the classic Knight's Tour.
Normally, either of these two routines requires more memory and mathematical work than many performers are willing to put in. However, in Mind Explosions, Bob Cassidy helps take the fear out of these routines. Also, for those who prefer a magical bent, both routines are taught as both the classical versions, and with surprise predictive endings.
For those not familiar with the classic version of the Memory Magic Square, a 4 by 4 grid is drawn on a blackboard, with the squares numbered from 1-16. First, the performer asks for a number from 50 to 100, which is written on the blackboard. The performer then asks for members of the audience to call out a square, and the name of any object to be written in that square (such as "12 - ball", "7 - computer", "3 - zebra", and so on). Once all 16 squares are filled, the performer is able to recall all 16 items in and out of order. The performer then asks for members of the audience to call out either the number or the object of any given square, and the performer then gives random-seeming numbers that are written in the specified square. When the board is filled with these numbers, it is shown that these numbers comprise a magic square for the number chosen at the beginning of the routine!
As a demonstration of mental and mathematical abilities, this routine packs a strong double punch. It seems incredible, yet still believable. The mental work required to perform it is simpler than one might expect, but still demanding in front of an audience. Bob Cassidy, however, teaches an ingenious way of minimizing the demands required for this routine. The formula, the numerical arrangement, and even much of the mathematics required, are all made much easier through this approach.
In the alternate psychic version, a spectator secretly choses a number that is unknown to the performer. The routine is performed as above, with the memory feat and number placement. When finished, it's shown that not only did the mentalist correctly predict the chosen number, but that the grid constitutes a magic square that adds up to that number in every direction! If you prefer your performances with a magical touch to them, you'll like this latter version.
Checkmate, Bob Cassidy's version of the Knight's Tour, is performed using the same memory-saving work that aids you in Number of the Beast. In the predictive version, there are letters on each square, and after the Knight's Tour is performed, a prediction leads an audience member to discover that part of the pattern reveals a word they secretly chose!
The best part about these works is not the memory-saving work that Bob Cassidy developed, but the attention to detail in both routines. He details not only the basics of each routine, but how to make the routine more vivid and memorable to the audience, and even what mistakes to avoid! These touches really help give each routine a more professional appearance.
Both routines are designed as closers, and will work well in that position for either the basic or predictive versions. For those looking for incredible yet believable routines to their act, I highly recommend Mind Explosions.
I'm sorry, but this post isn't for everyone. First, this post concerns some very advanced work in magic and mentalism that may not be everyone's cup of tea. Second, even if it is appropriate to your interest and skill level, you might not be able to access the information anyway.
Many of you are familiar with Leo Boudreau's books. If you aren't, but you enjoy magic and mentalism that appears clean, impossible, and is the next best thing to real mind-reading, you should become familiar with his work.
While Leo Boudreau isn't, as far as I know, working on any new books, he is a regular member of The Magic Cafe, and has shared some wonderful unpublished work there. However, to access most of these posts, you'll need to be a member of the Magic Cafe, and have 50 legitimate posts (as determined by the Magic Cafe's staff's standards).
If you like Mr. Boudreau's work, and qualify to enter the special section of The Magic Cafe, check out the list of his unpublished routines below the fold.
I haven't included any descriptions for any of the routines, as they're forum posts and usually describe themselves better than I ever could. Besides, I don't want to rob you of the joy of discovery.
Some binary basics
A number divination
A two-sided stack for a one-way pack
Binary Cuts (added: 3/16/10)
Body Language and Playing Cards
Bookless Book Test
Encounters with Faro Mentalism
Intuition (added: 5/21/09 – related blog post here)
The Magick Circle
Lie To Me (added: 5/17/09 – related blog post here)
One-Way Back Suit Code
Paper Cuts (added: 3/28/10)
Poems II (added: 5/17/09 – related blog post here)
Poker Prediction (added: 6/1/09)
A riffle shuffle away from ESP
Taking advantage of highly likely coincidences
Total Audience Participation (added: 5/21/09 – related blog post here)
The Poems link doesn't include explicit instructions for performing it, but anyone who is familiar with Leo Boudreau's work should be able to work out the method with little difficulty.
Memorized decks have long been a favorite tool of mine (no surprise to regular Grey Matters readers), but even tools themselves can benefit from having their own toolboxes. Here's the most useful online tools I've found for a memorized deck toolbox. As an added bonus, they're all free!
• An Introduction to Full-Deck Stacks: This is Doug Dyment's essay on the differences and advantages of various full-deck stacks, including the memorized deck. This essay makes sure you're starting off right by letting you know what you can and cannot expect.
• Simon Aronson's Memorized Deck Area: If you've decided that the memorized deck is for you, here is the next step. Simon's PDF, Memories Are Made Of This (this link will open in a new window), should be your first stop here. This is a more detailed look at memorized stacks, including some important terms you'll need to know. The tips and tricks in this section are of great help in memorized deck orientation.
• The Loomis Memorized Deck Page: Dennis Loomis' site is a great store, but for Memorized Deck users, this particular section is a gem. Directly underneath the selection of memorized deck items for sale is a collection of Dennis Loomis' memorized deck articles from the Smoke and Mirrors eZine. If you're just starting out with a memorized deck, his Memorized Deck Mastery article is the first thing you should read. If you truly want to be a master of the memorized deck, Dennis describes exactly what you'll need to do to reach that level.
• Memory Basics: Most stack are memorized via mnemonics, and here's a guide to numerous sites teaching mnemonic techniques for free!
• Online Memory Course Videos: Instead of learning memory techniques by reading, here's where you can learn them via video.
• 52-item Peg List Quiz: This is a flashcard set at Quizlet that will help you get you up and running with mnemonic images for the position numbers from 1 to 52.
• Bob Farmer's Playing Card Mnemonics: Besides needing mnemonic images for positions, you'll also need ones for the cards. Bob Farmer has developed some wonderfully simple and original playing card mnemonics!
• How To Memorize A Deck: Ken Simmons, via the magic talk discussion board, shares his method for learning a memorized deck here.
• How To Memorize A Deck of Playing Cards Video: This video is intended to teach a method that will allow you to memorize a shuffled deck of cards on the spot. However, if you regularly review the associations you've made, there's no reason it couldn't be used to recall a memorized stack, as well.
• Memorized Deck Made Easy: This is a five-part series on learning the memorized deck quickly and effectively, and is posted over at the Magic Café by user MemDeck329. Here are the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
• No-Mnemonic Stack Memorization: Here's an approach to learning your chosen stack that doesn't require learning any other mnemonic methods first! All you need for this method is your stack, practice, patience, and review!
• Online Flashcard Programs: There are many online flashcard programs that only require free registration, and will allow you to create flashcards to help you learn your memorized deck. Among these programs are The Amazing Flash Card Machine, cueFlash, FlashcardDB, Flashcard Friends, iFlipr (for your iPhone) Memorizable, Memorize In A Flash, ProProfs, Quizlet (a personal favorite), StudyCell (for your cell phone!), StudyStack, StudyTag, and You Know The Drill.
• Playing Card Clip Art: If you decide to learn your stack with the aid of a flashcard program, and it allows you to use graphics, why not use pictures of playing cards? You can find them for free at FunDraw, Hubpages, jfitz, Wikimedia and Wikipedia.
• Playing Card Systems: This article teaches an excellent array of memory systems geared specifically for remembering playing cards. The site as a whole is an excellent Wiki on Mental Feats, including myriad systems for remembering just about anything you want.
• Remembering a Pack of Cards: This page teaches how to memorize cards using Domonic O'Brien's numeric memory system combined with the Journey Technique. The major advantage of this system is that you can make the needed mnemonic links quicker and easier.
• Aronson Stack Page: Should you choose to memorize Simon Aronson's stack specifically, there is a wealth of information in this section. Besides some excellent stack-specific routines, there's also a Flash-based Arsonson Stack Quizzer. You can show or hide position information, card information, or even card graphics, to make sure your grasp is solid.
• Aronson Stack Viewer: This is the best designed of the Aronson Stack quiz programs. Like many of the others, it is Flash-based. It includes a timer function, so you can develop the speed at which you recall the card or position. The detailed instructions are a very big help here.
• Faro Shuffle Simulator: If you do the Faro Shuffle, this is a great tool for discovering your own new ideas with your chosen stack! The Faro Shuffle is the name for the perfect interlacing of two 26-card halves. The effects of such a shuffle are so mathematically consistent that eight out-faros (as demonstrated in this video) will bring the deck back to its original order (out-faro: The original top card remains as the top card after the shuffle. In-faro: The original top card is becomes the second card from the top after the shuffle)! To try this on the Faro Shuffle Simulator, select New Deck from the pull-down menu, click on the RESET button, then click the Out button (which performs an out-faro). After the first click, you'll note that the deck becomes 26 red cards followed by 26 black cards! A second click on the Out button will result in an alternating red-black arrangement. Click the Out button six more times, and the deck will be back where it started! The Faro Shuffle Simulator is included here because it already includes most stacked and memorized decks in the pull-down menu, allowing you to see what happens with various cuts and Faro Shuffles for those stacks (or even your own custom stacks!).
To give you an idea of how useful this tool can be, I'll assume you're familiar with Simon Aronson's classic routine Shuffle-bored, and show you some set-ups for this routine. Simon Aronson describes an easy set-up in his Prediction Shuffle-bored article. To see what will happen when you follow that set-up procedure, go to the Faro Shuffle Simulator and select Aronson from the pull-down menu. Click on the Nine of Diamonds (9D, the bottom card), then click the up-arrow once, followed by two clicks on the left-arrow. If you did this correctly, the 9D will now be between the Jack of Diamonds (JD) and Four of Spades (4S). Next, click on the 4S and click Cut to bring the 4S to the top, and the 9D back to the bottom. Looking at the cards from the 4S to the 6C (Six of Clubs, where you break the deck to start Shuffle-bored), you should be able to see that Simon's prediction, as described in the previous link, will prove accurate after performing Shuffle-bored.
Perhaps you use the Tamariz Stack, and would like to use that as a starting point for Shuffle-bored? In this case, your predictions will read:
1) There will be 21 cards face-up.
2) The face-up pile will contain 13 red cards.
3) All the black cards are clubs . . .
. . . except for the King of Spades!
Select Tamariz from the pull-down menu. Click the In button (effectively giving the deck an in-faro), click on the 10 of Diamonds (10D, in the bottom row, 6th card from the left), and then click the Cut button. At this point, you break the deck at the Eight of Clubs (8C, in the second row, 6th card from the right) to begin the Shuffle-bored trick, and the predictions above will prove accurate.
Alternatively (Select RESET to follow this, making sure you're still on Tamariz), try clicking on the Six of Hearts (6H, second row, 4th card from the right), clicking the Cut button, finishing by clicking the Out button (effectively performing an out-faro). Just as before, if you set up the above predictions, perform this second set-up, and cut at the 8C, the trick will still work!
• Memorized Stack Trainer: Most of the memorized stack quiz programs on here are limited to a particular stack. Not this one! You can enter any stack you like (the default stack is the Tamariz/Mnemonica stack) into it, and instantly be quizzed on it!
• MemoryEffects.PDF: Once you have a memorized deck mastered, you'll need some routines in which you can use it. In this list I keep updated semi-regularly, you'll learn where to look to find many memorized deck routines in the Covert Use of Memory section. There are even some resources you'll find online for free!
• Random.org: Instead of being randomly quizzed by computers generating pseudorandom numbers, you can get a truly random quiz (what's the difference?) at random.org. You can set up their Random Integer Generator to give you a stack position from 1-52, and set up their Playing Card Shuffler (where playing cards can be shown as images or text) to generate a random playing card. To verify your answers when quizzing yourself on this site, I recommend using a deck of cards with each card having its respective stack position written on the back.
• StackView Musings Blog: Nick Pudar's blog could actually fit in any of the categories, as it features memorization tutorials, original effects, and many other tips! It also covers many aspects of Nick Pudar's incredible free deck-manipulation program, StackView (Windows executable only. Intel Mac users can run it under Darwine or WineBottler, and Linux users can run it under Wine). If you tried and liked the Faro Shuffle Simulator above, picture that on steroids, and you've got a rough idea of StackView's power. A quick look at the StackView user guide (PDF, will open in a new window) will give you a better sense of what it does.
• Tamariz Memorized Stack (Mnemonica) Trainer: No, Tamariz Stack fans, the online quiz makers have not forgotten you! This is a spreadsheet-based quizzer that you can learn to remember cards by their position and vice-versa. As a bonus, there's even an Any Card At Any Number quiz included. It's easily altered to work with other stacks, as well. A version of this file set up for the Aronson stack is available here.
• Tamariz Stack Quizzer: The good people at Card Shark offer this Flash-based quiz. You simply click either the number or the card to make this disappear (another click will make them reappear), and then click the R button to generate some a random new card and/or position. You can even limit the range of cards on which you're quizzed (setting the range in the Von and Bis boxes), give yourself a timed quiz (setting the interval time in seconds in the Intervall box, then clicking on the large play/stop button to its right), or even quiz yourself on the cards immediately before and after the random card (using the left and right buttons)!
• Universal Stack Viewer: Concerned about whether the stack you're using appears random? Use the Universal Stack Viewer, and get an idea of how the deck appears to the casual observer. You can enter any stack, full or partial, and then see the results with one click.
Most of the flashcard programs I've reviewed have been freeware programs. The flashcard program I'm reviewing today, Mental Case, however, is a commercial program with a free trial version available.
As many of you know, my choice has been Ebbinghaus. The improvements that were discussed for version 2.0 sounded good, but this promised upgrade never arrived, and the blog for it has disappeared, so I'm guessing work on it has stopped.
I'll start with the basic details. Like Ebbinghaus, Mental Case is only available for Mac OS X (10.4 or greater required). Normally, the full version goes for $39, but in honor of the program's first anniversary, it's available for only $19.50 until June 30th, 2008 (use coupon code CPN8024333798 when purchasing to get this discount). Other similarities to Ebbinghaus include an iTunes-like interface, drag-and-drop graphic functionality, the ability to set whether the questions and answers are interchangable, progress monitoring (via pie chart instead of progress bar), the ability to study and test yourself on the notes in an ordered or shuffled order, and the abilities to import and export libraries (called cases in Mental Case).
For the extra money, however, the basic capabilities are designed with a smoother and more intuitive feel. Compare Ebbinghaus' basic interface to that of Mental Case. The latter has a more minimalist, welcoming feel to it, yet still shows the cards (with an adjustable view), the progress, and even offers a section for loose, uncategorized notes.
The editing of individual cards is also smoother. Instead of being edited in an external window, Mental Case's notes are edited in the main window, and let you set things like viewing times and lesson schedules, beyond just the card itself.
The slide show controls themselves are thorough, yet simple, as well:
The 3 leftmost controls are standard navigational controls (previous, pause/play, and forward). The checkmark and X buttons are your way of letting Mental Case know whether you correctly answered a particular flashcard. It defaults to a green checkmark, but a simple click (or the even simpler TAB key) will switch it to a red X. You can also move the current mental note to the trash, restart a card's learning progress, or mark it as complete with the next three buttons. The large rightmost X button stops the quiz/study session.
Above and beyond using it as an organized series of lessons, it's great for remembering odds and ends. Check out the Mental Case screencast for yourself to get a fuller idea of the capabilities. When you first begin the program, you can even download free sample data that gives you an excellent lesson in the program's capabilities.
As a whole, this program really has an AJAX/Web 2.0 feel to it, and is very professional. It's definitely worth it's normal price of $39, and the anniversary price of $19.50 doubles the value you get for your money.
If you take a quick look in the downloads section of the rightmost column, you'll note that my list of memory-related effects (PDF, will open in new window) has been updated once again!
This update of Memory Effects is available online at Scribd.com, as well.
To whet your appetite, I'd like to share a few free online goodies that are part of this update. The first one is from the simulated memorized deck presentation, and is available for free (for a limited time!) from Lulu.com:
“Memorised Deck, The” - The performer hands the deck to a spectator for shufﬂing. The performer then takes the deck back, and remembers the order of the cards. The performer then asks the spectator to name any number from 1-52. The performer names the position of that card from memory, and counts down to that position, showing the re membered card at the named position, “The Memorised Deck”, Maxime Nadeau
The second one is a post from the Magic Cafe. Some magicians who use the memorize deck have wondered about the idea of memorizing a second deck. In a recent Cafe post, Simon Aronson suggests an easy method for using a second deck in memorized deck routines. He also discusses what qualities a routine should have that would make a second deck worth the extra effort in:
“Complementary Memorized Stacks” - A simple method for memorizing a second stack, http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=257185&forum=205&15#11, Simon Aronson
These aren't the only updates, of course. There are numerous others, including an article from MAGIC Magazine that teaches a method of peeking a card from inside a cased deck. This particular move is very useful in a wide variety of memorized deck magic. I don't want to ruin your joy of discovery, so I won't reveal any more details.
The theme of this edition of snippets is updates!
• Despite the adult-sounding name, Naked Science is not only family safe, but highly recommended for all members of your family! I'd visited the site before, back when it still looked like this. I'd read through the articles, and it really hadn't been updated for a while, so I stopped going. However, it got a new life in May of 2007, and the current Naked Science site is excellent! The new articles, and the new design, really make this site stand out!
• Regular readers know that I've kept track of online flashcard sites (see my posts here, here, here, here, here, and here). FlashcardDB is the newest online flashcard site I've run across. Besides using the previously discussed Leitner System of spaced repetition, which helps you memorize more difficult information more quickly, there are a wide variety of other features, such as visible graphs to track your progress, and the ability to export your information and progress to other programs, such as spreadsheets.
• Last September, I wrote a post on visualizing scale, and followed it up in November with articles on concreteness and credibility (Both based on the book Made To Stick). All of these articles talked about the importance of making even the biggest and smallest measurements easy for others to understand.
I wish the Sensible Units site existed back then! Sensible Units is a site that takes almost any measurement, and converts it into more real-world units. For example, typing in 100 acres will return .92 Vatican Cities (92% of the size of Vatican City, in other words), while 150 pounds returns 9.4 men's shotputs, 41 average physics textbooks, and 4 CRT computer monitors. It isn't perfect, for example, it doesn't recognize lbs. as meaning pounds, but it is in constant development, and new features are being added regularly,
• I've often written about the usefulness of the binary system in memory, math, and magic. Leo Boudreau's books, and Karl Fulves' Combo and Combo II, make great use of this concept in magic. I've discussed ways of memorizing binary numbers, and pointed to sites like the Howtoons on binary counting and Computer Science Unplugged's binary numbers page to explain the basics.
To those sites, I'd like to add the Bitwise Operations page as an update. This page details what exactly those weird operations like AND, OR, NOT, XOR and bitshifting achieve. To make it easier to understand, you're walked through each idea with the help of a monkey that is walking, running, panting, hungry, thirsty, scared, bored, and/or tired. It sounds strange, but it's a great way to teach and learn about the binary system!
• If you've enjoyed my discussions of people like Martin Gardner, and sites like Numericana and Cut The Knot, where recreational mathematics are a regular topic, you should definitely take a look at Jim Loy's website. Like the previous sites, this is a large site, with much to enjoy and explore. I'll especially recommend the mathematics, gambling, games, and puzzles sections, but you should by no means limit yourself to just those areas.
Due to the interest shown, I've made my list of timed quizzes easy to post on your website or blog!
I've actually made this possible in a few different ways. First, I've created a listible version of the timed quizzes. The advantage of this version is that you can rate each quiz, voting your most favorites up, and send your least favorites down. You can add this version, in rated order, as a text list to your blog with the following code:
The other new version is from Widgetbox, and appears as below. The listed titles link directly to their corresponding quizzes, and the main title links directly to the full How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post for a complete categorized list of timed quizzes!
The size and color of the widget are also customizable, so as to better suit your blog. In contrast to the wide version above, you could, for example, make it narrower for a sidebar, as I've done in the rightmost column, just below the Site Feed Subscriptions. You can customize it and get the code at this page.
In addition, the previous versions of the timed quizzes list are still available. There's the RSS Feed, the Google Homepage Gadget, and, for Mac users, the Dashboard Widget.