Brain Fun 2

Published on Sunday, July 31, 2005 in , ,

For a little more brain challenging fun, I've discovered three mind-boggling on-line productivity killers:

1) The Trebuchet Challenge - set up the physics of your trebuchet to meet each of three different challenges.

2) Planarity - Just one instruction: "Arrange the vertices such that no edges overlap." It's sounds simple, and it is . . . at first.

3) Avoider - All you have to do in this game is to keep your mouse pointer safe. This is probably the most ingenious and original came to come along since Tetris!


Brain Fun

Published on Sunday, July 24, 2005 in , , , ,

This blog's motto, "Train and strain your brain to entertain," can give the false impression that brain work is hard work. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

No one proves this better than the people at Mental Floss magazine. There's no better magazine in the world to help you prepare for a game of Trivial Pursuit, or to face off against Ken Jennings. Their site has a Fact of the Day section and a Quiz of the Day section to give you an idea of what the magazine is like.

For goodies that appeal to the knowledge-hungry, there's the ThinkGeek site. Regular readers of this blog can especially appreciate the Pi T-shirt and babydoll.

Anatomy Resources.com also features an amusing collection of brain-related goodies. I like the Brainy Thinking Cap, but I'm not so sure about the Brain Gelatin Mold (Picture using it for tuna salad!).

Aside: Sorry I haven't been posting much this month. Between Act Two, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I've been geeking out and keeping busy.


The Book That Didn't Want to Be Printed - Printed!

Published on Monday, July 11, 2005 in , , , ,

Not only has Barrie Richardson's Act Two, the subject of several blog entries here, finally been printed, but I have my copy in hand. So, I can finally give you my first impressions of this long-awaited book.

I'll start, not surprisingly, with the memory and lightning calculation feats. My favorite routine in the entire book is called, "A Modest Memory Routine". In this routine, you help the audience remember about a quarter to a third of a deck of cards. Not only do you involve the audience more with this type of routine, but it helps take the "show off"-type edge many memory routines have.

Those of you who have Barrie's previous book, Theater of the Mind, will also be familiar with "The Quasi-Memorized Deck", a routine of a similar type. Chuck Hickok's "Learning the Almost Impossible" from his book, Mentalism, Incorporated is another good routine of this type.

The chapter called "Super Mentality" contains nothing but memory and lightning calculation feats, and there are some real treasures here. It opens with some detailed thoughts on the classic Magazine Memory Feat. If you're even thinking of performing this, the tips in here are a must read.

There are also two ingenious card memory feats, neither of which would be too difficult for regular readers of this column. The "Super Mentality" chapter winds up with the "The Incredible Human Calculator" demonstration, in which numbers called out by the audience are added in different ways. They're even all added together, and finished off with a square root calculation.

There is one little annoyance in the Human Calculator feat that irritates me, however. In this routine, several references are made to the "Trackenberg" System of Speed Mathematics. The correct name is the The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics. It's just a minor point, but so much was made about all the proofreading this book went through, I would've expected somebody to catch an error like this. As I said, this is just a minor point, however.

Elsewhere in the book, there's a great article about what Barrie calls the "Lazy Magician's Memorized Deck". It is possible to use this easy version of the memorized deck in many memorized deck tricks, but it's best use is probably giving those who are new to the memorized deck a taste of what is possible.

What about the other routines that don't center around memory or math? In my opinion, the stand out chapter in this category would be "Magic and Metaphor". A quick glance through this chapter would give you the impression that this is just a collection of old effects, such as the G.W. Hunter Knot, ring & spring and even the age-old Professor's Nightmare. I hoping many purchasers of this book don't give this chapter a second thought, because Barrie shows how to bring new life to these classics in a manner I haven't seen since I first saw Docc Hilford's "How to Turn Ordinary Tricks into Mind-Shaking Miracles". Of course, I've already seen too many magicians taking a look at the Jar of Rice Suspension to know that this isn't a reasonable hope.

There's a wealth of other routines in the other chapters, focusing on money, business cards and much much more, which I'll discuss in more detail as I delve more into the book.

...and yes, of course I've already added the memory-related routines from Act Two to my MemoryEffect.pdf file.


New Pi World Record

Published on Saturday, July 02, 2005 in , ,

The world record for reciting Pi was broken today. Akira Haraguchi recited Pi to 83,431 digits, almost doubling Hiroyuki Goto's 42,195-digit record.

If you would like to try your hand at remembering Pi, check out Memorizing Pi to 400 Decimal Places and Mentat Wiki's PiMemorisation article for a good start.