40 30s 4 15

Published on Thursday, June 30, 2005 in , , , ,

What I'm about to describe isn't so much a performance piece. Instead, it's more of a tool to create an offbeat surprising moment when the opportunity presents itself.

This unusual feat concerns the classic 15 puzzle, created by Sam Lloyd. Next time someone hands you either a real or virtual version of the 15 puzzle with the numbers 1 through 15 on it, you'll be able to hand it back to them with a magic square on it!

In order to be able to do this, you'll need to work through the following process, step by step:

1) Obviously, the first step is to learn how to solve the fifteen puzzle in the standard manner. Practice this step until you're comfortable, and can solve the puzzle with confidence.

2) Next, you're going to learn to solve the puzzle in a manner such that the pieces form a magic square. Here is the arrangement in which you need to put the tiles:

14 3 8 5
9 4 15 2
7 10 1 12
13 6 11

Note that the empty space in this arrangement is in the bottom left, instead of the bottom right as in the standard pattern. To adjust for this difference, you'll be using the same technique as in step 1, but you need to solve the bottom two rows from right to left.

This arrangement is a perfect magic square, and will total 30 in all of the 40 different ways described in section 3.2.5 of this magic square article, which is why the article is titled "40 30s 4 15" (Translation: "Forty '30s' for the 15 puzzle").

3) Once you feel comfortable solving the 15 puzzle for this new pattern by looking at the diagram, the final step is to memorize the number arrangement. To do this, you'll need to be familiar with the Major System.

Instead of simply memorizing the arrangement from left to right and top to bottom, the arrangement will be memorized in an order that works with the solution process.

Here's the story that you need to memorize, with the key words in bold:

I had a dream that I could fly. During this, I came across a pretty lion.

Now, his dad had a tan. He got onto a jet, which was filled with lots of tomatoes and one single sock.

Each of the bold words above represents a word that must be remembered, and is translated into a series of numbers.

The words in the first sentence, dream and fly, break down into 14-3-8-5, which is how you need to arrange the top row.

The second sentence describes the arrangement in the second row, with pretty and lion breaking down into 9-4-15-2.

From here on out, the phrases work from the bottom up, and from right to left, because that is how the tiles will be placed.

Dad and tan translate, respectively, to 11 and 12. This is to remind you to place 11 in the bottom right corner, with the 12 above it (refer to the above diagram).

The word jet breaks down into 6 and 1, which helps remind to place the 6 to the left of the 11, and the 1 just above the 6.

Tomatoes breaks down into 13 and 10, so the 13 goes just to the left of the 6, and the 10 goes just above 13.

Finally, sock (0 and 7) is a reminder to place the "0" (actually the empty square) in the bottom left corner, to the left of the 13, with the 7 directly over the empty space.

This may all sound confusing in text, but if you work through it with a 15 puzzle in front of you, it will help make everything much more clear.

As you work through these steps, it will also become simpler to remember which numbers are two-digit numbers, and which are single-digit numbers.

P.S.: On an unrelated note, this is the first post for this blog that was done by using the Dashblog widget.


Act Two Update

Published on Monday, June 27, 2005 in , , , , , ,

Apparently, my Act Two: Lieber pun was prophetic. Barrie Richardson's new book Act Two was originally supposed to be released on June 3rd. As I mentioned in a quick update, this was later changed to June 24th.

You're not going to believe this...

There's yet another new release date. This time, it's July 7th. Even the publisher is now calling Act Two, "The Book that didn't Want to be Printed!"


Pasteboard Presentations II

Published on Saturday, June 25, 2005 in , , , ,

Some of you may not know that I have a book out on the market called, "Terry LaGerould's Pasteboard Presentations II". It's the sequel to the much-sought-after Terry LaGerould's Pasteboard Presentations by Wayne Whiting.

Terry LaGerould has been a professional magician for many years, mainly in the Reno and Tahoe area. Ever since I read the original Pasteboard Presentations, I've been awe-struck by the creative approaches he takes when creating new methods and new presentations. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I was asked to write the sequel!

If you have known of this book, but were put off by the $25 price tag, you'll be glad to know that I've just authorized a lowering of the price to $18.75!

Yes, this is effectively a shameless plug. However, I would never have agreed to write the book in the first place if I didn't think Terry's unique approach to magic was worth putting on paper.


Magic Squares from Wonderland?

Published on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 in , ,

I've written about magic squares before, but I've recently found one with a new twist.

The next time you want to challenge some mathematically buddies, ask them if they can create a magic square with only eight numbers. Of course it sounds impossible, which is why the bets should come rolling in. You then show them this.

I like the whimsical nature of this magic square, and I admire the thinking it must've taken to put it together.


Quick Snippets

Published on Thursday, June 16, 2005 in , , , , , ,

Today's entry just contains a few quick items:

* Barrie Richardson's new book Act Two, which I mentioned in a previous entry, has been re-scheduled for release on June 24th (instead of June 3rd). It seems that when the initial run was received by Hermetic Press, all the semi-colons were replaced with multiplication signs.

* Now here's an unusual memory feat: David Rosdeitcher has built an act around his identity as the Zipcode Man. During his act, he asks for people's zipcodes, and invents stories about his audience, based on the city they in which they live. If you would like to get a sense of the scale of this feat, check out this extensive list of zipcodes. Better yet, check out this graphical implementation of Zipcodes.

* Lastly, here's a quick bit of humor from the Onion: Helen Heep reminds us that, as impressive as any of the mental feats you read about on this blog may be, it's not nice to be smarter than other people.


A Question of Character

Published on Thursday, June 09, 2005 in , , ,

Performing persona is often discussed as if it were just one more option to add to your act. The truth is that the lack of a consistent performing character creates a large gaping hole in the performance that is easily detected by the audience.

The reason is that any act is a communication to the audience. Without thought about what you're trying to communicate, you're sending unintended messages. Reknowned cellist Yo-yo Ma once said, "Sharing is a much better way of communicating than proving or showing off." To perform an act of sharing, you have to know what you have to share. You can read more about the importance of character in the essay, "A Lack of Character", by Richard Tenace.

Fortunately, there's a simple way to start evolving your character (I say evolving, because character development is never done). That simple way is by asking questions about who you are and what types of material you tend to perform. Here are a few sites with some great questions to get you started:

* Astonishment Site : Questions for Better Magic : Character

* Writing Fiction: Character Development

* Big Daddy Cool's 13 Character/Persona Questions


Remembering the Election

Published on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 in , ,

Despite the title of this entry, I'm not changing this into a political blog. This entry concerns a trick created by Robert Neale called "The Election Game".

This routine can be found in the February 1973 issue of Pallbearers Review, in Neale's article "End Game". His well-known "Rock, Paper, Scissors" routine (which many know from Tricks of the Imagination) works on the same principle.

As written, "The Election Game" is a great divination feat. However, I've been toying with the possibility of presenting it a memory feat. The trick isn't mine to give away, so the following description is written in an intentionally vague manner, and will assume you have the original article available for reference.

There are 4 people involved besides the performer. Three of them are holding the cards involved, and are referred to as the "candidates" in the following description. The fourth one stands with the magician, making the choices involved, and will be referred to as the "audience assistant".

Before each of the phases, there are 3 switches made (as described in the original article), with the particular switches being made by the direction of the audience assistant, and in view of the perfomer. The four phases in the memory version are:

1) The audience assistant chooses a candidate, and the perfomer can identify all the details on that candidate's card from memory.

2) This phase is described as "taking a poll". Two of the candidates are chosen by the audience assistant, and the performer can quickly determine who's card is better on two out of three qualities described on the card.

3) This phase is similar to the previous phase (perhaps referred to as taking a second poll), except that after the performer identifies the winner of the two, he details the qualities on each chosen candidate's card. This allows the audience to see how much work is apparently going on in the performer's head, and be amazed at how quickly it is done.

4) The final phase is referred to "rigging the election". The audience assistant choses one of the candidates, for whom the election will be rigged in their favor. The performer quickly works out which pairs of candidates to play against each other, and in what order (by the same two out of three standard used in phases 2 and 3), so that the chosen candidate wins.

Note that this presentation has a nice progression. The first phase simply involves one candidate. Phases 2 and 3 both involve two candidates, and the final phase requires apparently working out the relationships of all 3 candidates for a big finish!

My two new additions to this effect are the presentation of it as a memory feat, and a simple method for following which card is where.

Following where each card is through four phases may sound like a lot of work, but the nature of the original Election Game makes it much easier than most would think.

There's a simple mnemonic I've worked out, however, that will help. To remember the initial set-up, simply think of a freeway sign that says, "Ahead: Day Spa (turn Left)"

How does this help? Before I explain further, I'll be changing the spelling of "Day" to "Dae" in the following mnemonic, so that it works better with the original description.

Look at the cards in the original description, and note how the capital letters in the following version of the mnemonic correspond to each card: "AHeaD DAE SPA (turn left)." Also, note that "turn left" refers not only to which card is better than which in the initial arrangement, but also to which way the mnemonic should be read (towards the left, initially). This will be true throughout the entire routine.

As the 3 switches are being made before each phase, all you have to do is follow the "AHeaD" card through all the phases, and remember to change the direction from right to left, as you would in the original routine.

In the first phase, let the audience assistant choose which candidate you are to recall. Starting from wherever the "AHeaD" card fell, work out what card that person has (during this phase, the mnemonic will be read towards the right).

In the second phase, you'll simply determine which of the two selected candidates will win as you would in the routine. Don't forget to follow the "AHeaD" card, though!

In the third phase, you're going to determine the winner of the two selected candidates as before, but then you go into the detail of what qualities are on both the chosen candidate's cards, as well (again, thanks to the mnemonic and your tracking). To the audience, it should seem that you've worked out who had what quickly, and how those qualities would compare, all in an incredibly lightning fast manner!

The final phase, involving all three candidates, is done in the same manner as described in the original article.

Personally, I prefer to follow the mnemonic and the "AHeaD" card through all four phases, even though you don't need to for the final phase. That way, if the audience assistant (or anyone else) tries to corner you about who has what, or who is better than who, you're ready - just like a someone who really memorized all the data could!