Note: If you like the idea of the Memory Binder, I discuss other ideas for it in Memory Feat Props, Memory Feat Props II and in New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).
After I wrote in my iPhone/iPod Touch Amazement post about QuickCal as a reference, it began occurring to me that the iPhone/iPod Touch could replace the memory binder. This could not only make everything far more portable, but can also add a nice touch to the presention itself.
First, both handhelds have an amazing array of built-in features that can aid a memory feat presentation. If you perform Doug Canning's Mental Shopper, the 5 cards that show the items and their prices could be put in as photos in their own album. Even while holding the screen away from you, it wouldn't be hard to flip through the photos after your audience member makes announces their choices. Many of the feats I talked about in New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part III) could also be set up as photos, as well.
Another good ready-made feature is the ability to store and watch TV and movies. In Grey Matters' first year, I discussed the idea of memorizing a DVD boxed set by its chapters. Since many movies from iTunes have ready-made chapters in them, and this is supported by the iPhone's/iPod Touch's player, you have a nice portable version of this feat ready to go! Even if you're using movies ripped from DVDs, there are still ways to add chapters to those movies, as well. Back then, I never though this memory feat would be something you could carry around in your pocket.
Thankfully, you're not limited to the built-in applications that come with it. I've mentioned QuickCal (iTunes Link) as a reference to prove you're right in the Day of the Week For Any Date feat already, but there's also WhichDay (iTunes Link), a free app, than can also be used here.
In Part IV of my Memory Binder series, I mention carrying the props for the Knight's Tour. The native apps make that much easier, and there's even a free version of Knight's Tour (iTunes Link) available. Regular readers will also remember that I offer a Knight's Tour web app right here on Grey Matters. This is a great version if you're online, but what do you do if you don't have internet access and you have a web app that works with your presentation?
This is where one of the handiest native apps comes in - Air Sharing (iTunes Link) and/or Air Sharing Pro (iTunes Link)! Both of these programs set your iPhone/iPod Touch up as a hard disk via a wifi connection with your computer. The big difference between the standard Air Sharing and the Pro version is that the Pro version allows you to perform file manipulation, such as compression, print and e-mail. Air Sharing is probably one of the most used apps in my iPod Touch, because it is so versatile.
One of the best things about Apple's handhelds is that they can also help you practice for the demonstration of the feats, as well. About a year ago, I reviewed Mental Case, which has since become my favorite flashcard program. Since then, they've released the Mental Case native app (iTunes Link). Instead of a replacement for the desktop version, it works in conjunction with it. You can not only test yourself with your own cards, but download flashcard libraries from Flashcard Exchange, as well!
With a little thought, it's not tough to see how you can shrink a memory binder until it's small enough to fit in your pocket. Do you have any other ideas? If so, I'd like to hear about them.
Note: If you like the idea of the Memory Binder, I discuss other ideas for it in Memory Feat Props, Memory Feat Props II and in New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).
Remember my mention in the previous post of one more additional update? This new look is it!
Several visitors have already e-mailed me and commented that it looks more professional than the previous design. It's not just a new look, though. There are several new features, as well.
Starting from the top down, there's a vastly improved search feature. The older one was on its own page, and didn't stay updated. This new search quickly responds to an query. If you type flashcard, for example, you'll get the first 20 results on the first page, and you can click Older Posts to see even more search results.
Also note that each search result is presented with just the title, and [+/-] button to allow you to expand and contract the full post, thereby better letting you focus on just the search results you want without distraction. These peek-a-boo posts were actually a feature in my previous design, but this is the first time that the search feature has been able to make use of them.
Right below the search is the feature you probably noticed first when you saw the new design - the new featured post section! Instead of always featuring the latest post, this will be used to highlight either recent popular posts, such as the currently-featured iPhone/iPod Amazement post, or older articles that have again become relevant and/or popular. One simple click on the picture, the headline or the Read More button will take you right to it.
Speaking of Read More, you'll start to see that appear in more posts on the front page. The newer design doesn't look quite right with several long posts on the front page, so as newer long posts are added, you'll more frequently see a Read More... link on front page posts. They can be closed back up again with the Summary only... link at the bottom of the expanded article. When you click the article title to read it on its own page, you won't see either of these links, as they are not needed. You also won't see this feature on older posts, as they're listed with the peek-a-boo post feature described above (although with 5 articles to a page instead of 20).
On the blog entries themselves, the number of comments on each article is now listed at the top (only on the front page). At the bottom, there are now options to send a link to the post in an e-mail, and view links to the individual post (when available).
I've also cleaned up the sidebar a bit, as well. Some of the more noticable changes are the elimination of the site feed banner and the timed quizzes feed widget. Both these are still available in the site feed accordion menu under Site Feed Widgets. The blog archive itself is staying pretty much the same, but I've switched the label cloud to a list of labels ordered by frequency of use. The label cloud just looked a little too cartoon-ish, and seemed to work against the new design.
Thanks for the template that is at the root of the site design goes to Falcon Hive for their Magasin Cuatro design. I've actually had a redesign in mind for Grey Matters since late 2008, but it wasn't until I saw Magasin Cuatro that I knew I'd finally found the right design. Their information can always be found in the Site Information section, and in the footer. Note also that I've moved my own contact information into the site information section. It's done as part graphic and part text to confound the e-mail address bots (which is why 3 of the letters in my address aren't in line with the rest), so you'll have to type in your e-mail program manually.
To wind up, I should mention that the site design is fully complete yet. Right now, only this page and Grey Matters Videos have been upgraded to the new design. The Mental Gym, the Presentation section, and the Grey Matters store will all be redesigned to match in the coming weeks. Even the iPhone/iPod Touch page will be getting a redesign, although not as radical as the other pages, as it needs to be kept simpler.
I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on the new site design, so please let me know about them in the comments.
It's the first day of summer, so it's time to get some updates done that I've been meaning to add to Grey Matters. It all begins with the Read More... link below, which is itself an update to this site.
With an instructional site, I've always thought screencasts would be a good idea, but it's taken a while for me to find software that met my needs in terms of price and features. For those who are curious, I finaly settled on iShowU HD. Behind the scenes, I've also picked up iWork '09, so you can expect to start seeing some major changes in the tutorials section, once I'm up to speed on these tools.
My first effort was the Timed Quiz Generator tutorial, which turned out well. My newest one, mentioned briefly in the recent iPhone and iPod Amazement post, was the tutorial for the iPhone/iPod Touch version of Werner Miller's Age Square. This is a wonderful mathemagic routine Werner Miller created for Grey Matters last July, after being inspired by my post on how to determine someone's age.
As a matter of fact, Age Square has been updated not only by means of the video tutorial, but also by means of how it is delivered. I've moved it to a new location on the web, for those who wish to try it out. As a bonus, though, I've also posted the whole thing as a .ZIP archive (download link here), so that anyone can get it and load it up to their own server space if they wish. The archive comes not only with the needed files, but also a Read Me file that gives instructions and a link to the instructional video. Anyone can download it and install it, but you'll need either an iPhone, and iPod Touch or a Mac running Safari to view it.
Just because I'm focusing so much on software and video, doesn't mean I've forgotten print. Earlier this week, I just posted the latest update of my Memory Effects list. The last update was on New Year's Day, and so many good effects have come out that it seemed like the list was just begging to be updated. What started as a 2-page file I was keeping for myself has become a 68-page document viewed over 25,000 times, and downloaded roughly 10% of the time!
Yes, as with any software, they're more powerful than the previous versions, but that's not the only reason I'm upgrading the software in the background. You see, there's more update that is largely pushing me to update the software that powers it. However, this last update isn't quite complete, so I'm saving it as a surprise. Trust me, when it happens, you will notice it.
This edition of snippets focuses on mental math.
• According to a study published last year, 1 in 4 adults have difficulty with mental math. That's more than 50%! (Yes, I'm joking.) With such skills needed, as the study claims, up to 14 times a day, this is a serious problem.
• Let's say you have trouble with math, and you decide to tackle the problem and learn more about the math you need everyday, including the use of mental math. Part of the problem is that you'll run into people who will deride you for just learning shortcuts or tricks. In some cases, this may even be someone to whom you're turning to help with math! This is hardly a unique situation, yet there is value in mental math. Read through The Value of Quick Addition Skills, and you'll get a better idea of just how valuable mental math can be. The rest of their speed and mental math category has not only techniques to help you get going, but also posts about the value of those techniques.
• Speaking of mental math techniques, where can you learn more? You're welcome to start right here on Grey Matters in the Mental Gym, with lessons in things like extracting third, fifth and square roots, working out exponential expressions, and you can find even more in the math category. There are many more sites, ranging from a few samples on Dr. Numsen's site, to full free archives, like the one at BEATCALC.
• Of course, you also need a place to practice your skills. The Mental Gym offers this. Momonix's Arithmetic Problems page offers a fun tester, includes lessons on all the problems with which it challenges you, and is even optimized for the iPhone. If you like learning mental math skills on the iPhone, but can't always count on an internet connection, don't forget the Mathemagics native app (iTunes link) I recently mentioned in my iPhone and iPod Amazement post. Just like Momonix, it teaches and tests you all in one place.
Last week, the number of quizzes in my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post quietly reached past the 2,000 mark!
On April 6, 2008, when I first introduced the Timed Quizzes RSS feed, I had only found about 90 quizzes from all over the web. Almost exactly 8 months later, the list had finally reached 1,000 quizzes!
The popularity of these quizzes must be increasing, because it only took 6 months for that number to double!
Fans of the TV show The Office might enjoy the fact that when the Sporcle quiz on Dunder Mifflin Paper Company Branches was added to the list on Wednesday, June 10th, 2009, it became the 2000th quiz on the list.
As I write this, Sporcle is currently responsible for more than 76% of the quizzes on the list! It doesn't look like it will Sporcle will be slowing down anytime, so it looks like we may be seeing Sporcle's 2,000th quiz about the time we total roughly 2,600 quizzes.
Celebrate as we begin building towards 3,000 quizzes by playing your favorite subjects in How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes?!
On Monday, Apple amazed many of it's fans at the WWDC 2009 Keynote, including new announcements about Safari 4, Snow Leopard, the new MacBook Pro lineup and the new iPhone 3G S. Even if you're not working for Apple, you too can still use the iPhone or iPod Touch to amaze people yourself.
The iPhone Flashcard Apps I recently listed should not be forgotten here. The trained memory you develop with these can be used in many ways to amaze people, such as in a memory demonstration or as the secret to a magic effect.
If you hadn't noticed yet, there are already a good selection of iPhone- and iPod Touch-based magic effects.
• Age Square (Free WebApp Zip Archive!): In this effect, you show a magic square, and ask if the person sees their age in the magic square. They then go through 4 screens, each one with several squares highlighted, and asking whether the person sees their age among those highlighted squares. At the end, another magic square is shown, and it adds up to the person's age in every direction! The program will even optionally step through the numerous arrangements that add to their age.
Werner Miller created this effect especially for Grey Matters. There is now a video tutorial for Age Square available on YouTube. If you'd like to try it out, you can try it out here, but if you're going to do this on any kind of regular basis, please download the file archive, unZIP it, and upload it on your own server space!
• Epicore iPhone Magic (iTunes Link): Rather than a single program, Epicore is an iPhone development company that has a very strong selection of magic routines for the iPhone. From reviews by fellow magicians, their magic app developers think deeper about their magic, and the routines are far more deceptive as a result. Their routines include MindCard (iTunes Link), iDetect (iTunes Link), iCoinPredict (iTunes Link), iCardPredict (iTunes Link), DestinyCard (iTunes Link) and FaceCard (iTunes Link). Faria, from Magiclaffs.org, who first told me about Epicore's magic apps, has a handy tip for those who buy and perform FaceCard: To let your audience member have the resulting picture as a souvenir, press the home and power buttons at the same time to take a snapshot of the screen, add your contact information onto the photo automatically using Imangi Studios' PhotoMarkr app (iTunes Link), and send it to the spectator's e-mail address!
• Google App: In this routine, you have a spectator name any playing card, and then have them ask Google what their card is. Real Google search results are returned, each containing the name of their playing card!
• iForce (iTunes link): Through an interesting use of the iPhone's capabilities, you can apparently predict the outcome of an amazing array of choices. It's disguised as a drawing program, which is also available in the iTunes store. The whole idea is very well thought out. To get a better idea of what it does, watch the videos at the iForce link above.
• iKnow: You show someone your playlist of favorites, and have them choose one song randomly off this list, listen to it, and then imagine the song they heard. You then listen in their ear, as if you're trying to hear what remains of the rhythm in their head, and then name the chosen song! This effect isn't limited to just the iPhone and iPod Touch. It will work with just about any MP3 player out there!
• iMagic: In this iPhone card routine, you have several spectators name a card by having one choose number or picture cards, one choose a suit, and the final one choose the number. Without touching the iPhone, the named card appears briefly over the iPhone menu, and then vanishes. The hands-off handling of the iPhone, along with the card being named instead of chosen, add to the seeming impossibility.
• iSensor (iTunes link): In this effect, you show a screen with 5 ESP symbols (star, cross, wavy lines, circle and square), turn the phone face down, and ask them to name anyone of the symbols. You then pick it up and show that it is the only symbol remaining on the screen! If they think this is simply done with Voice Control, you can repeat the effect, and have them make their choice known by drawing the symbol in the air. I first mentioned this one back in May, but it deserves mention here, too. There are effects with a similar principle, such as iMystical and iThought Receiver, but iSensor comes across as the most mystifying and deceptive.
• MagiCard (iTunes link): In this effect, a card is chosen from a real deck, and the image of the selected card appears on the iPhone, all without the performer ever touching the iPhone! As you can see from the videos, there are actually multiple ways you can present this effect. The hands-off nature of this routine makes it very deceptive.
• MindBeam: In this video, you beam an app to another persons iPhone. The App displays 3 playing cards or postcards, and they secretly choose one while you're out of the room. When they call you back in, you can name their selection! Performed properly, this can be an amazing piece.
• Mobile Opener: This effect is a professional stage magic routine that isn't limited specifically to the iPhone and iPod Touch, but members of your audience can use their iPhones to take part in it. In the routine, numbers given by the audience are then totaled. The total is then shown to have been predicted. It sounds simple, but the real strong point is the presentation, which is intended to generate audience interest at the beginning, and work the next speaker or the client's product/message into the effect.
• Pick Any Card (iTunes Link): A face card is on the face of the iPhone/iPod Touch, and a spectator is asked to guess whether this card is red or black, and their guess is shown to be correct. Next, the performer asks the spectator whether they think a face down card is high or low, and the spectator's guess proves correct again! Since the spectator seems in tune enough, they're asked to name any card, and then to flip the card over on the screen. Think you've got this one figured out? If so, consider the fact that at no point in the routine does the performer ever touch the screen!
There are numerous production effects in which you appear to remove an object from the screen. They all have the same basic method, but in the right time and place, these can be amazing interludes. Among the objects you can produce from your iPhone are cards, bills (comedy version), coins (including slot winnings!), popcorn, matches and sponge balls.
Here are the works of those venturesome soles who like to create magic that doesn't fit neatly into pre-determined categories.
• Books: If you look, there are many books of magic effects that have many routines that can be adapted to the iPhone or the iPod Touch with a little thought. If you're going this route, my first two must-have recommendations are Impuzzibilities and Further Impuzzibilities by Jim Steinmeyer. These two works not only teach original effects, but are excellent object lessons in how to disguise mathematical and other self-working principles. From there, good sources of inspiration can be found in Karl Fulves' Self-Working series of books, such as Self-Working Number Magic and Self-Working Mental Magic.
• Easy iPod Magic: This magic.about.com page has 2 free tricks, The Animated iPod Man, in which your iPod seems to bring a paper-drawn stick figure to life, and The iPod Card Trick, in which the iPod makes the name of a selected card appear in a square drawn on paper. The former is cute, and the latter seems to be the same, until the iPod is removed, and the real drawing has changed. The screen ratio of the included videos are intended for classic iPods, but the idea could easily be adapted for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Even if you don't have the skills or software to create a video, a sequence of picture in the photo album could be used to make the picture appear.
• Magic Compass (iTunes link): Simply put, you can place any object anywhere around the iPhone, and the Magic Compass will point right to it. With the iPhone 3G S' new compass feature, this effect is actually quite relevant. The same site also offers a cuter version of the same trick with bunnies (iTunes link).
• iPunk'd: You definitely won't find this one on the App Store, as there's nothing to download! In iPunk'd, you take someone's ear phone cord, and cut it with scissors. Before they kill you for destroying their headphones, you magically restore the cord! Yes, this is the cut & restored rope updated and made relevant. If you're familiar with how to use a certain silk-vanishing gimmick to cut and restore a rope, that would make this routine even more deceptive.
• iScan: This one isn't quite a mind reading effect, and it isn't quite a production, so it wouldn't fit in the first 2 categories. In iScan, a card is selected from a deck, returned, and shuffled. You then use your iPhone to scan the spectator. You then run your hand back and forth underneath the iPhone's camera, and the image of the card appears on your hand. Here's a YouTube video of the effect being performed, so that you can get a better idea of this strange effect.
• iUtility: This is from the makers of the Magic With the iPhone DVD below, but instead of having the tricks happen on the iPhone/iPod Touch, this DVD focuses on using the use of your handheld as the method behind tricks, such as switches or vanishes.
• Magic Tattoo (iTunes link): A number is chosen, and used to find out which ESP symbol corresponds with that number. That symbol is then dragged onto a picture of a hand, where it appears on the palm. When you lift the iPhone off of your hand, that same symbol is on your real palm!
• Magic With the iPhone DVD: Nicholas Byrd has put out a 2-disc set of iPhone magic. The first is a performance and instructional DVD, while the other is a data disc, containing all the files needed to perform the effects. Among the more standard iPhone magic effects, such as producing money and the princess card trick (which was overdone on the web long before the iPhone came along), there are more intriguing uses, such as a Hot Rod routine, a penny-to-dime effect, a prediction effect with the icons themselves, and more! The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a review of it here. Not enough for you? You'll be glad to know there's a 2nd volume available now, as well as iUtility (above).
• Predictext (From Mind Blasters): In this routine, you text a message to someone in the audience, and then have them shuffle, cut and deal half of the deck, as you do the same with the other half. You ask if it would be amazing if both sets of dealt cards would have all matching pairs on top (such as both red 10s, both black 5s and so on). Unfortunately, it doesn't work out. However, the top cards on the spectator's pile is correctly predicted on the text message sent earlier! This is probably a rather strange entry for this list, as it depends on a feature most cell phones have, but isn't readily available on the iPhone – SMS Templates. However, there are 3rd party apps which can offer this feature (even for the iPod Touch through AIM!). The routine could also be reworked with AlibiSMS (below), but as you ultimately want your contact information left on a spectator's cellphone, I wouldn't go this route.
• Spirit Photo: This effect seems to dance on the border between prank and magic effect. You borrow a spectator's iPhone, mentioning that you're going to install a Spectral Filter for the iPhone camera that can photograph dead spirits. Once the filter is installed, you mention that it works best with pictures of dead people, so you ask them to take out a bill of any denomination. You snap a picture of their bill, but when they look at it, the skull of the person on the bill appears on it! It really is in their photo album, and they can keep it or delete it as they wish.
Not Magic, But . . .
• AlibiSMS (iTunes link): This is a fun app that lets you enter a text message that can be scheduled to come up on your phone later, as if it were happening at that time. With a little creative thinking, this could be used to reveal a prediction.
• Banner (iTunes link): This could be an interesting way to reveal a prediction. It's appears to be an array of LED lights, across which a message scrolls. Here in Vegas, sending a message that way can be very thematic. In a similar vein there's Light Writer (iTunes link), which is basically an iPhone version of those SkyLiner novelties (although since the SkyLiner is only $20/unit, I think I'd rather risk dropping one of those than an iPhone or iPod Touch).
• Deckster (iTunes link): This isn't quite a magic effect, but rather a playing card deck simulator. This App goes to great length to simulate the experience of a deck of cards, down to the opening of a new deck (you even have to remove the seal!), dealing and shuffling the deck in numerous ways (overhand, riffle shuffle and more). The web page hints you may even be able to deal seconds and bottoms, but they're not saying exactly how. This is just too creative not to share here.
• Magic Café's App Forums: The Magic Café now has 3 forums dedicated specifically to magic apps: APPS-alutely (for general discussion of apps), APPealing or APPalling? (for app reviews), and APPearing Soon... (for discusing app announcements, rumors, and marketing). This is a great way to keep up with the latest magic apps.
• Mathemagics (iTunes link): This program gives you lessons on how to quickly solve several challenging arithmetic problems in your head, and then lets you practice your newfound skills. Lightning calcuator-style feats are not only amazing in and of themselves, but are also useful as a build-up to seemingly more difficult feats, such as mind-reading.
• QuickCal (iTunes Link): Do you perform the Day of the Week for Any Date feat? If so, this calendar app is the perfect way to demonstrate that you're correct. Just select the year via the spinning-wheel picker, and you can see a single month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, or even a whole year at a glance. True, you could use a perpetual calendar web app, but QuickCal is great for when you don't have a Wi-Fi connection.
When I introduced the Grey Matters Timed Quiz Generator, I included an introductory tutorial, and an additional tutorial on the Final Message Options when I added that feature.
However, the tutorials are so long when written, I think many people believe it is too complicated. For a long time, I've wanted to create a video tutorial about it, and thanks to my recent purchase of iShowU HD, I've finally been able to do just that!
While the video is 9.5 minutes long, it really is short and simple to understand. Watch it, use it, and if you create your own quizzes that you post publicly, let me know so that I can add them to my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post!
You've probably heard that all computers really understand is 1s and 0s. But how are those 1s and 0s made so useful?
The answer is the use of logic gates. Just like gates in real life, logic gates are something binary numbers pass through. However, when the 1s and 0s pass through these gates, they are judged according to set rules. A bit (binary digit) may go in a 1, but it might wind up as a 0, or remain a 1, depending on the rules applied.
The 3 most basic operations performed on bits are NOT, AND and OR. These sound complex, but are fairly easy to understand. However, since I like to make mathematical concepts fun, here's an excellent example of these logic processes in action, through the use of dominoes and marbles:
As noted in the wikipedia article on logic gates, there are additional operations referred to as NAND (NOT + AND), NOR (NOT +OR), XOR (Exclusive OR), and XNOR (NOT + Exclusive OR), but we'll save discussion of these for another time.
A good way to learn about the logic gates more directly would be to build some yourself. If you're a hands-on type, you might like to do this by printing out and building these AND, NOT and OR logic goats. The finished AND and OR logic goats are demonstrated below (including their internal workings):
However, if you'd like to play with logic gates more directly, and figure out what you can do with them, I highly recommend playing with Logicly, a free logic gate simulator that runs in your browser.
It's amazing to think that just 2 digits and a few simple rules about how to process those digits are responsible for the awesome power of computers, but hopefully this will help bring a little more understanding, and thus a little more computer power, into your hands.