If He Only Knew!

Published on Thursday, March 31, 2005 in , , , ,

"The Nikola card system idea is silly. Who in the heck can memorize an entire deck of cards?"
-Andrew Brocklehurst, reviewing Encyclopedia of Card Tricks on Amazon.com
(Hat tip to majical)


Grand Unified Square Theory

Published on Thursday, March 31, 2005 in , , , , , ,

If you're interested in learning about magic squares, the April 2005 issue of Genii magazine is a must-buy!

Memory expert Harry Lorayne has written a 7-page article in this issue entitled, "4x4 Magic Square Breakthrough??". It starts by describing a simple breakthrough that Harry discovered for making a seemingly endless variety of magic squares given any four digits by the spectator. The article goes on to show how the numbers can be placed in any row, column, diagonal, or even the four corners, and still result in a magic square with this simple approach!

For those wondering about the question marks in the title, Harry points out how learned that his breakthrough was one simple approach among many similar approaches that are just as simple.

The article concludes with different presentations inspired by Harry's new technique. One unusual approach begins with the spectator giving you both a total and in what direction they want you to start. The article also describes the use of playing cards and special dates (birthdays, weddings, etc.).

As the article itself is written, you almost get the sense of seeing Harry Lorayne's brain at work, and how he progressed through this discovery. Not only is a whole new world of approaches to the magic square is literally opened up by this article, but the resulting squares can be different every time, even when given the same starting numbers and the same orientation in which to start!

Traditionally, the magic square method most often used involves a ready-made layout that can be adjusted to a wide range of numbers (as detailed in section 3.1 of the Mentat Wiki article on Magic Squares). Improvements have been made in this method, most notably Doug Dyment's approach in his book Mindsights, that help minimize the duplication of squares, but approach in this article takes the magic square to a much wider range of possibilities.

Magic Squares with the basis described in this article have been around for some time, of course. It is only the approach that is new. As such, this approach can be incorporated in a wide variety of existing magic square routines, including those below.

In The Mind and Magic of David Berglas, there is a routine in which you make a magic square, and you then ask a spectator for their birthday, and you point out that their birthday is listed as the four corner squares of the magic square, and also add up to the magic total. Mark Farrar's version of the birthday square, in which the top row is spectator's birthday, can also benefit from this new approach (Mark's version is available as an e-book, for only $1).

The Insight Wallet includes a magic square routine that could be adapted to both the David Berglas routine and the Lorayne approach.

Even those who use Chuck Hickok's Diagonal Magic Square will see new possibilities.

Articles like this that get me thinking in new directions about classic concepts quickly become favorites of mine.

Update: Once you've learned this technique for making magic squares, you can practice at Grogono's "Make Your Own 4x4 Magic Square" page.


Memory Special on CNN

Published on Sunday, March 27, 2005 in , , , ,

I just happened to turn to a special on memory on CNN. If you're reading this on March 27th, it will be repeated at 10 PM Pacific Time (1 AM Eastern March 28th). If you're reading this too late to catch the special, you can still read the companion article.

One highlights of the show is Memory Grandmaster Scott Hagwood demonstrating his trained memory and giving a few tips on improving memory.


Mnemonic Performances at the Cafe

Published on Thursday, March 24, 2005 in , , ,

Over at the Magic Cafe, a new topic has just been posted, and it is one very close to my heart. The topic is Mnemonics performances- are they still amazing?.

This is a topic I had planned on discussing on Grey Matters in the future, and I still probably will. For now, though, click on over to the Magic Cafe to read (or better yet join in on) the discussion.


Memory Slate

Published on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 in , ,

A friend of mine just forwarded me an article from Slate, entitled Forget Me Not: How to Win the U.S. Memory Championship.

Let me answer your first two questions right now:

1) Yes, there is a U.S. Memory Championship, and even a World Memory Championship!

2) No, this article won't actually teach you how to win it.

NPR also has a good on-line discussion of the article, as well


Self, Working . . .

Published on Monday, March 21, 2005 in , , , , , , ,

Karl Fulves is most well-known for his series of "Self-Working" book series from Dover. If you dig a little further into his works, you learn about his other works, such as the magazines "Pallbearer's Review", "Epilogue" and "Chronicles" (some of the most read things in my personal collections!).

Few know that Karl Fulves also has a several books out available from him directly. There is one particular work in his collection that I will focus on, and that will be of particular interest to readers of this blog: "Combo"

Combo focuses on a rapid binary memory system for use in various memory feats, as well as gambling and magic effects. The book is broken up into four parts:

1) The System
2) Gambling Tricks
3) Magic Tricks
4) More Than One Way

"The System" introduces the binary concept, and how to memorize it. For those who fear the word "binary" (especially because of its close relationship to the inner workings of computers), Mr. Fulves starts slow, and eases the reader into the binary concept and his associated memory method.

Quick Explanation: Binary simply refers to something that only has two different possible states. For example, the binary quality of cards include such things as being red or black, face down or face up, odd or even and even spot and court cards.

The system taught in Combo lets you remember the arrangement of four binary states at a time. With one simple thing to keep in your mind, you can remember, say, whether the first four cards were "red, red, black, red" or "black, red, black, red" or any of the other possible arrangements.

My one criticism of the approach taught here is that a number from 1-16 is assigned to each of the states, and you are supposed to remember these states by their number. Lewis Jones teaches a much simpler and quickly-learned approach which he calls "The Pattern Principle" and is taught in Semi-Automatic Card Tricks: Vol. 3, but the drawback is that the Pattern Principle only lets you remember a group of 3 binary states at a time (as opposed to Combo's 4). To combine the ease of Lewis Jones' approach with the expanded capacity of the Combo system, I created the system listed in section 1.2 of Mentat Wiki's Binary Numbers System article.

Having established a system to help us remember, we get to jump to how exactly the system we can be used. Since cards and memory together instantly bring up the idea of gambling, the next section concerns gambling tricks. In this section, there are routines where you memorize where the high cards are (card counting demos, anyone?), where the good blackjack hands are (an especially ingenious application of the system), and even an apparent method of tracking memorized cards through shuffles.

One great thing about the routines that use this system is that, while you're usually only remembering something simple like re/black, high/low and so on, those watching can easily be led to believe that you're more details, such as the individual suit and values.

The magic routines include color divinations, ingenious code acts, and even an "oil-drilling" dowsing routine! Besides cards, there are routines with poker chips, ESP cards, crystals and more.

Just when you think you've explored all that is possible with the system, the book concludes with a section called "More Than One Way". In this section, you learn how to vastly expand the system by using other principles in conjunction with the "Combo" approach. Intriguing uses of things like one-way decks, subtle signals and even the Gilbreath Principle (ooooooh!).

If you're looking for something new in magic to experiment with, that not everybody else is doing, then I highly recommend "Combo" by Karl Fulves. It goes for $18, and is only available directly from Karl Fulves, at the same address he has made famous throughout his career:

Karl Fulves
Box 433
Teaneck, NJ 07666

Update: Concerning shipping charges, the standard suggested by Karl Fulves is 20% of the purchase price, but no less than $5 for USA customers. For customers outside the US, the suggested amount is 25%, but no less than $10 postage.


Old Paths, New Directions

Published on Thursday, March 17, 2005 in , , , , , ,

Working with the presentations of others, I often get inspired by them. Here are some of my own ideas that are currently turning gears in my head. I don't claim they're good, bad or indifferent, only that they are occupying my grey matter:

Psuedo-Phone Book Memorization
For those of you who perform Meir Yedid's Predict Perfect (scroll to the bottom of the page), here's a how to use it for a phone book memory feat.

Unlike the original presentation, you're not going to control the outcome (this will allow for a freer presentation). Have the cards mixed by an audience volunteer. Ask them to arrange the cards to make 3 three-digit numbers, and play up the fact that the cards can be arranged to make 362,880 different equations.

Have the equation totaled, and the total announced aloud. You are instantly able to give a name in the telephone book whose telephone number ends in those four digits!

While there really are 362,880 possible equations to be made, there are only 198 different possible totals (detailed in the Predict Perfect instructions). What you've done is used standard memory technique link the 198 different totals to their respective names in the phone book

The quickest way to find names and numbers that will work for this feat are:
1) Find the phone prefixes for your area
2) Use a reverse lookup site to find out who those numbers belong to (For the three-digit possibilities, use a 0 before the three digit number)
3) Double check to make sure that name and number are listed in the phone book

The best way to present this is as a "memorization in progress". You claim that you're working on memorizing the phone book, but not completed yet. Since you're closing in on 400,000 of the numbers (this should be done in an area with at least 750,000 people to make this feasible), you've come up with a way to demonstrate your progress, then proceed as above. The fact that 362,880 equations can be made helps sell the fact that you've memorized at least this many names and numbers in the phone book. The fact that you haven't completed memorizing the phone book helps you get out of the sticky situation that can arise when some local challenger asks you to give his phone number.

A few quick notes, here. First, Meir Yedid no longer has Predict Perfect in stock, but it can be found for sale by dealers with a quick internet search. Second, the Predict Perfect cards are also great visual aids when performing the Human Equation from Barrie Richardson's "Theater of the Mind".

New How-To for Deja Voodoo
For Bob Farmer's Deja Voodoo, my idea is simply an alternate version of the same effect. Prepare the dictionary as described in the instructions, but don't prepare the deck of cards. Instead, link each word to its card using standard memory techniques. You can even use Bob Farmer's own playing card mnemonics (see section 1.2.3) for the links!

That's all for now. Have these ideas inspired in you? Would you like to share some of your own ideas?


Free can be good

Published on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 in , , , , ,

I've talked about numerous commercial products, so it's about time to balance that out with some free links to some memorization and lightning calculation feats:

Mental Shopper - Add up five prices chosen by the audience faster than they can with a calculator!

Calendar Feat - Above and beyond just the normal "day of the week" for any date feat, you can learn to turn the feat around and take it to another level!

A New Breakthrough Routine! - A deck is mixed by the audience, and then a random card is reversed. Amazingly, the spectator reverses the same card as the magician!

Super Memory Remembered - This is an updated version of the classic memorization of a list of 30 items. The modifications made here are similar to suggestions in Eddie Joseph's book, "Memory of the Mind".

...and here is the real goldmine:

Memorized Deck Magic Index - This is a complete archive of Dennis Loomis' "Memorized Deck Magic" column from the magic e-zine "Smoke and Mirrors". Especially interesting is the article on Memorized Deck Mastery


Kindred Souls: Memory and Cards

Published on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 in , , ,

As many of you will see, this blog will cover mental feats of both of the type used by competition memorizers and lightning calculators and the type used by magician. The term "magician" implies that there is some sort of cheating and, in the context of this blog, that legitimate memory technique isn't being used. While cheating is stock in trade for magician, anything that can made amazing (especially by making it hidden) is a potential tool for the magician, including classical and modern memory techniques.

In recent years, memory technique has become more popular among magicians and mentalists, especially where the memorized deck is concerned. To the competitive memorizer, the term "memorized deck" means taking a legitimately shuffled deck, and memorizing the order as quickly as possible. To the magician and mentalist, however, it usually means taking the time to memorize one particular arrangement of cards, and using it (and the knowledge of it) as a tool to amaze.

To understand the basics and value of the memorized stack as a tool, check out Doug Dyment's "Introduction to Full-Deck Stacks" and Simon Aronson's "Memories Are Made of This" in "the Magicians Only" section of his site. (A few minutes with Google should yield the password)

The biggest names in memorized stacks are currently Juan Tamariz, Simon Aronson, Martin Joyal, Doug Dyment and Richard Osterlind.

Hopefully, this will help clear up future references to the concept of the memorized deck on this blog.



Published on Monday, March 14, 2005 in , , , , , ,

Probably the biggest recent news in the field of memory work is the release of the e-book version of Dominic O'Brien's "How to Develop A Perfect Memory" from Lybrary.com.

For those who aren't familiar with Dominic O'Brien, he's the 8-time winner of the World Memory Championship. He wrote "How to Develop A Perfect Memory" back in 1993. It went out of print a short time later, and has been long sought after by those who wish to train and improve their memory. Before this release, the only way to find a legitimate copy of the book was to find a copy on eBay, and pay $150 to $200.

Lybrary.com also has many other titles that would be of interest to readers of this blog:

Roth Memory Course
Zufall's Memory Trix
Leo Boudreau's books: Psimatrika, Spirited Pasteboards and Skullduggery.
The Ultimate Magic Square

The Roth and Zufall books are courses. The Roth Course is a complete course from beginning to end, while the Zufall course teaches much about memory, while focusing more on memory feats. Bernard Zufall was a professional memory performer, and has some unusual and impressive touches for many of the classic memory feats.

The Boudreau books focus on one particular technique, and its various applications for mentalism. The technique itself requires only moderate work, and the results are clean, impressive and is probably as close as you can get to real mind-reading. For example, from the book "Skulldiggery", there's a great routine called "Murder Most Foul". You hand your subject a book listing 64 different aspects of a murder, including different weapons, victims, locations and murderers. The person silently chooses a complete murder scenario, and concentrates on it. With no further muss or fuss (no questions, nothing written down and so on), you reveal the complete murder scenario. Almost everyone of the routines in the Boudreau books are just as clean and impressive.

The Ultimate Magic Square is a great routine by Chris Wasshuber, who runs Lybrary.com. You have a stack of 16 cards, and ask an audience member to roll 3 dice (real or imaginary) to generate a random number. One by one, you quickly lay out the cards in your hand in a 4 by 4 grid. When it's finished, you point out that all the rows, columns, diagonals, pan diagonals, corners and many more directions all add up to the random number! The fact that the cards are never rearranged and laid out so quickly makes the climax even more baffling. The instructions are clear, and available in both English and German. The effect itself can be tricky at first, but it is well taught, and becomes easier to understand and perform with practice.


Happy Pi Day!

Published on Monday, March 14, 2005 in , , ,

Welcome to my brand new blog. As my subheading suggests, this blog is all about entertaining mental feats and related thoughts. What better day on which to start a blog like this out on than Pi Day (3/14)? It also happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday!

Here's a few links to help you celebrate Pi Day the right way:

How to Memorize 400 Digits of Pi
Wiki Article on Pi Memorization
1 Milllion+ Digits of Pi
His and hers Pi shirts!