ProProfs Update

Published on Sunday, August 31, 2008 in , , , , ,

BrainsBack when I first mentioned the ProProfs site in early 2007, it was starting out as a quiz and flashcard site geared towards serious scholastic subjects. Their SAT preparation section, for example, remains as one of the most impressive collection of quizzes, flashcards, and other material.

Over the year since my last ProProfs update, the site has grown a great deal. I'm very impressed with the change!

First, the site now allows quizzes on anything. Yes, you can still study for everything from school subjects like geography, all the way up to Microsoft Certification exams, but it's not just academic anymore. You can create quizzes and flashcards for any purpose!

Want to challenge your friends to see if the can match oscar-winning actors to the right movies? You can do that. Maybe you just want to know whether they're smarter than a 5th-grader, or which social network they are.

True, there are a lot of sites out there that let you create quizzes, but the academic origins of ProProfs actually helped to make its quizzes sturdier, and more powerful than most. Even if you're using it for fun, you still have a strong, flexible interface which helps develop your quiz/flashcard, and suit it to your needs.

In my previous update, I mentioned they had taken my suggestion (well, the suggestion of me, and probably hundreds of other people), and added an embed code feature, so that you could put it right onto your web page. Now, they've taken that idea to a whole new level! Take a look at the Share & Discuss this Quiz section, at the bottom of this Which Operating System Are You? quiz.

Just above the embed code, there's a customize link which allows you to determine the title, description, and even color combinations of the quiz! Don't like the standard color combinations offered at the bottom? Click more options to select any RGB color combination for the background, foreground and title! If you're worried about how to exactly post it to your blog or social network page, simply click the post button, select where you're sending it, provide your log-in information, and they'll do it for you!

It's also easy to share the link via e-mail, or save it to your choice of social bookmarking sites (digg, reddit, del.icio.us, etc.). The Options area, though, is where this really shines. It's easy to leave comments about a quiz, but also see statistics about quiz results (even statistics for individual questions), and reports about individual quiz-takers (yes, I'm the Scott from Las Vegas who took the quiz on Aug. 31).

Whether or not you took a look at ProProfs when I originally mentioned it, I suggest that you give it another look now. ProProfs is definitely becoming a stand-out quiz site!

(Hmm . . . maybe I need to look at redesigning some site features at Grey Matters . . .)


Scott's Puzzles

Published on Thursday, August 28, 2008 in , , ,

Scott's PuzzlesAs I've been adding new features to this site, I've often developed ideas for puzzles and quizzes that I could never really justify as part of Grey Matters. Many of these ideas have just been sitting on my hard drive, without a place to go on the web. As of this week, that is no longer the case!

I've started a new blog called Scott's Puzzles. This new blog's entries will feature interactive puzzles, quizzes, and other challenges, and will usually focus on current events. Scott's Puzzles isn't meant to be part of Grey Matters, and has its own look and feel.

To give you and idea of what this blog is about, check out my first posts, concerning (in chronological order) Obama choosing his running mate, the Top 10 Olympic Medal Winning Countries, the DNC convention in Denver, and Obama's official nomination as the Democratic nominee (regular readers might recognize this last puzzle from my US Presidential Candidate Puzzles post).

Don't worry, I'm not abandoning Grey Matters. I'm just adding another outlet for my puzzle ideas.

There are not only many more puzzles to come, but also many more kinds of puzzles to come, as well!


Review: Mirabill

Published on Sunday, August 24, 2008 in , , ,

MirabillMirabill is Dr. Bill Cushman's take on Stewart James' classic routine, Miraskill. Miraskill is a baffling classic of magic that uses a shuffled deck of playing cards that are freely shuffled, yet still allows you to make an accurate prediction of the outcome.

Most people's first exposure to Miraskill is either from someone performing it for them, or learning it from Scarne on Card Tricks. Scarne's version is one of the earliest attempts to remove the required sleights from the routine, and the version is still used by many. However, many magicians have longed for a version that was cleaner than the Scarne approach.

Usually, when sleights are removed from a trick, the additional procedures that are created tend to complicate the routine, and often weaken the effect for the audience. However, the Mirabill version actually manages to keep your hands completely away from the deck at the point where the original required some sleights.

This new approach is so simple to understand that it only takes two pages this nine-page ebook. The rest of the pages describe variations on the basic presentation, the psychological factors that make it work, and the various credits and references that provide valuable other ideas.

While the booklet itself stops there, the ideas don't! Mirabill's seems to have sparked a renewed interest in Mirakill, and many ideas were quickly suggest to Bill Cushman. As a result, purchasers also receive, at no extra charge, the Mirabill Supplement, which gathers these new ideas together. The ideas explore the use of the routine as a lead-in, increasing the fairness of the procedure in the spectator's eyes, and ways to apply Deddy Corbuzier's Free Will principle to Mirabill (whether or not you're familiar with it, the Free Will section is a true treat!).

Mirabill is available as a downloadable ebook from Outlaw Effects for US$15, and includes the free Mirabill Supplement. While many will question whether this is worth it for a handling of a classic routine, I've found the thought and the teaching in Mirabill to be far more valuable than the price they're charging.


Now Available: 2009 Day For Any Date Calendar

Published on Thursday, August 21, 2008 in , , , , ,

2009 Day for Any Date CalendarOne of the most popular items over at the Grey Matters Store is updated and ready for 2009!

The classic method for the Day of the Week For Any Date feat involves memory and math, and many people don't have the time required to master and practice this method. If you've ever wanted to perform this feat, but wished there was an easier way, now there is!

The 2009 Day For Any Date Calendar makes this classic feat easy for any date in 2009. While it can be used as a completely normal calendar, which features a collection of great photos of world landmarks, this calendar is also specially constructed to secretly communicate all the information you need to name the day of the week for any given date in 2009.

How effective is this calendar? Luke Jermay is known among magicians for the originality of his numerous magic books and videos, and will be familiar to the general public a magic consultant to Derren Brown's Mind Control and Criss Angel's Mindfreak. Just listen to what Luke Jermay wrote about this calendar on the MagicBunny forums (registration required):

“I have hanging in my house Scott Cram's brillant little calendar . . . and often use this, too.”
My 2009 Day For Any Date Calendar is simple to master, so you can focus on presentation. The included instruction book details 3 different ways to obtain the secret information you need, to help hide the method more effectively.

On the 2009 Day For Any Date Calendar's description page, you can get a closer look at every month by clicking on the [1] after View Larger Products. Here, for example, is what January 2009 looks like:

The calendar, when closed, measures 8.5 by 11 inches, and is wire-bound, printed on 100 lb text weight high gloss paper. It comes complete with the 5-page instruction booklet, detailing the method, and various presentations, all for only $24.95, plus applicable shipping and handling.


Pensive Quizzing

Published on Sunday, August 17, 2008 in , ,

LinksI can't be asolutely sure that Bibliophiliac is referring to my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes post in his Oh My Sick Lord post, but it's a good read either way.


Timed Quiz Generator - Final Message Options

Published on Sunday, August 17, 2008 in , , , , ,

Timed QuizI've added a new feature to the Timed Quiz Generator! This new feature is referred to as Final Message Options, and as the name suggests, will allow you to post a custom message to the player after the quiz has ended.

When the Timed Quiz Generator first loads, all the options are disabled. This feature doesn't become active unless there are at least 2 answers in the Answers/Alternatives List box. Initially, the options appear like this:

If no checkboxes are checked in the Final Message Options section, the feature will be ignored, and the quiz will simply not post any messages at the end. The tutorial begins after the jump.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm going to assume you're picking up from the first example Beatles tutorial, and that you still have the information up on the page, and edit mode is off. Even if you don't it's fairy simple to go back and put the example Beatles information back in. Once the Beatles information is in the Answers/Alternatives List box, you'll note that the first checkbox and the pulldown menu are now enabled:

1) Click the checkbox next to Show primary message if 0 or more correct answers are given, and leave the pulldown menu at 0. In the Primary Message box, type in Thank you for playing., so that your entry now looks like this:

2) Click the Generate quiz code button, copy and paste the information into a text editor, saving it with an .html extension. At this point, you will now have a quiz that operates exactly like this one. It appears to be the same quiz as the original at the start, but now when you end the quiz, you get a Thank you for playing. message once you complete the quiz, you click give up, or your time runs out.

3) Next, we'll look at the effect of the pulldown menu. Click on the pulldown menu, and select 3, which means the primary message will now only display when 3 or more correct answers are given. Change the Primary Message text to read Wow! You really know your Beatles!, so that the Final Message Options now look like this:

Note that, since you selected a number other than 0, the Secondary Message portion has now been enabled. At this point, just leave it blank.

4) Just as you did step 2 of this tutorial, generate the code, copy it, paste it, and save it. At this point, you will now have a Beatles Quiz just like this one. Again, it appears the same at the beginning, but now you'll only get a message if you name at least 3 of the Beatles. Try out the quiz, giving just 1 or 2 correct answers, and then reload the page and give 3 or 4 correct answers to see the message. Note that the Primary Message you specified now only appears if 3 or more correct answers are given, with no message appearing otherwise.

5) In this step, we're going to show an alternate message when fewer than 3 correct answers are given. Click on the checkbox next to Show secondary message if fewer correct answers are given. In the Secondary Message text field, enter the phrase Better luck next time., so that the Final Message Options area now appears similar to this:

When the pulldown menu is set to show the primary message when 0 or more correct answers are given, there isn't any way to have fewer than 0 correct answers, so the secondary message features are disabled. Alternatively, when the pulldown menu is set to show the primary message when 1 or more correct answers are given, then it is possible for the player to have fewer correct answers, so the secondary message options then become enabled.

6) As with steps 2 and 4, it's time to generate the code and save it again. Your latest version of the quiz should now behave exactly as this version does. Try this version several times, and you'll see that when you enter 0, 1, or 2 correct answers, you get the Better luck next time. message, and when you enter 3 or 4 correct answers, you'll get the message Wow! You really know your Beatles!

7) Finally, we're going to turn the messages into links. First, change the Primary Message text field to read Great job! Enjoy the Beatles on Ed Sullivan., then copy the following YouTube link, and paste it in the Primary Link (optional) field:
If this video becomes unavailable at some point, simply search for another appropriate video with which to replace it.

8) Next, change the Secondary Message to read Learn more about the Beatles and try again., and copy the following Wikipedia link, and paste it into the Secondary Link (optional) field:
9) Click the Links open in new window checkbox, so that both of these links will open in a new window. The Final Message Options section should now appear like this:

10) Once again, it's time to copy and save the code as you did in steps 2, 4, and 6. In this final version of the quiz, you now get the phrase Learn more about the Beatles and try again., which links to wikipedia, if you can only name 0, 1, or 2 or them. If you can correctly name 3 or 4 of the Beatles, you get the phrase Great job! Enjoy the Beatles on Ed Sullivan., linking to a video of their performance on Ed Sullivan. Both of these links, just as specified, open in a new window, as well.


In the example above, we offered help if the player couldn't name at least 3 of the Beatles, and rewarded them with a Beatles performance if they could. This is far from the only way to use this new feature.

One variation of this idea is to quiz them on a topic related to your site, linking them to the introductory section of your site if they can't name a certain amount of things on your list, and a more advanced section if they can.

It's a quiz, so why not offer a prize? If you're selling a book, maybe people who do well enough on your quiz get access to a free chapter of your book and/or a link to a special discount on it. Better yet, give them a free downloadable item that they would otherwise have to pay for!

If you write articles with links to items you're selling, try linking to your quiz instead! It will grab people's interest quicker, and you can offer them different products, services, or discounts depending on how many items they can name from your list!

With a little imagination, you'll find numerous ways to use this quiz and the new Final Message Options feature to get more people interested in your site and whatever you have to offer!

Bonus Idea: Using the last version of the Beatles Quiz you created and saved (with the wikipedia and youtube links), here's an interesting bonus idea. Follow the instructions along, and you may be surprised at the result.

1) Go to the YouTube page we've been using as an example (opens in new window), and copy the embed code.

2) Open up your favorite text editor, and paste the embed code into a new document. As his point, the document in your text editor should simply read like this:
<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/vWZvjDlnsh4&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/vWZvjDlnsh4&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
3) Open up your text editor's search-and-replace window (it may also be referred to as find-and-replace).

4) Set up your text editor to replace a single quote mark:
with the following:
" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "
The first quote should be the first item in the replace box, and the final quote mark should be the last item in the replace box, with no other preceding or trailing spaces. The capital letters and small letters must also be entered exactly as shown above.

5) Click on the button that will replace all instances of the former item with the latter, so that the code winds up looking like this:
<object width=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "425" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " height=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "344" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "><param name=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "movie" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " value=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "http://www.youtube.com/v/vWZvjDlnsh4&hl=en&fs=1" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "></param><param name=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "allowFullScreen" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " value=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "true" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "></param><embed src=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "http://www.youtube.com/v/vWZvjDlnsh4&hl=en&fs=1" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " type=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "application/x-shockwave-flash" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " allowfullscreen=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "true" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " width=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "425" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " height=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "344" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "></embed></object>
(Yes, it looks bizarre, but keep going and trust me.)

6) Without closing the document containing the altered code from above, open up the code generated for the most recent version of the Beatles quiz you generated above in the same text editor. Locate the line near the bottom of the quiz program, towards the end of the Javascript code, that reads as follows:
msg = "<FONT COLOR=BLACK><A HREF=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWZvjDlnsh4" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " TARGET=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "_blank" + String.fromCharCode(34) + ">Great job! Enjoy the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.</A></FONT>";
Make sure you're looking at the line that contains the phrase Great job! Enjoy the Beatles on Ed Sullivan., so that you're sure you're looking at the right line of code.

7) Edit that line of code so it reads:
msg = "";
8) Now copy the modified YouTube embed code you created, click on the above line from the program, so that your cursor shows up between the quotes, and paste the copied code inbetween the quotes. The line should now look like this:
msg = "<object width=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "425" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " height=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "344" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "><param name=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "movie" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " value=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "http://www.youtube.com/v/vWZvjDlnsh4&hl=en&fs=1" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "></param><param name=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "allowFullScreen" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " value=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "true" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "></param><embed src=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "http://www.youtube.com/v/vWZvjDlnsh4&hl=en&fs=1" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " type=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "application/x-shockwave-flash" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " allowfullscreen=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "true" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " width=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "425" + String.fromCharCode(34) + " height=" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "344" + String.fromCharCode(34) + "></embed></object>";
9) Save the file again, and then play this new version.

If you've done this correctly, you'll wind up with this version of the quiz. If you give 2 or less answers correctly, you'll still get the link to the Wikipedia page. However, if you give 3 or more members of the Beatles correctly, instead of just getting a link to the video, the video itself will appear on the same page!


Timed Quiz Generator Responses

Published on Thursday, August 14, 2008 in , ,

Timed QuizzesEven though I only announced it last Thursday, my Timed Quiz Generator has already gained plenty of attention and interest!

The Generator Blog gets most of the credit for, well, generating most of the interest when they linked to the Timed Quiz Generator on Saturday. After that, it started appearing on other blogs, such as Geradores de Imagem and in Lynn Viehl's list of ten things that will cost you nothing. Thank you for the links, by the way.

Once word got out, then you started to see quizzes appear. Some of them are the type of topics you would expect, like this quiz on New Zealand's regions.

However, since the quizzes are simple to create and post, people have been creating quizzes tailored to their specific interests, as well. For example, one “bored attorney who spends too much time reading medblogs at work” created a quiz asking how many medblogs can you name in 2 minutes. That quiz was actually posted twice, once at that bottom of the page of that link, directly underneath a list of medblogs, but also a second time as an entirely separate blog.

The same poster who created the New Zealand region test above has also created several tests concerning role-playing characters he and other people have created. I won't link to those, as they wouldn't make any sense to anyone outside his group of associates. However, this is a good creative use of the Timed Quiz Generator. The quiz doesn't have to be some grandiose test of someone's geography, sports, or trivia knowledge. It can simply to be to have fun or challenge your friends and associates on things that have meaning to you and no one else.

As the use of the generator spreads, there are also some things we're learning about posting the quizzes. One quiz poster was having trouble running his quiz on MEGAONE's free hosting. Naturally, MEGAONE adds its own advertising code to the program, but their service inexplicably changes the line “window.onload = init;” (which sets up the initial quiz variables as soon as the page loads) to “window.freehomepages = init;”, which renders the quiz unusable on their service. The quizzes work fine on Angelfire, another ad-based free host, but due to their method of embedding, the quiz won't show up on all browsers. Safari 3, in particular, seems to have problems displaying Angelfire pages.

If you're having these problems, I suggest using a free hosting service without ads, such as Freehostia or AwardSpace. Another simpler idea is to do what medblog addict did and post it on a free blog service, such as Blogspot or WordPress.

Speaking of timed quizzes, I should mention that, since last Sunday, the number of timed quizzes in my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes post has blasted past the 500 mark, and is already well into the 600s! If you enjoy these types of quizzes, or are just looking for quiz idea inspiration, you'll want to check it out.


The Fitch Cheney Card Trick

Published on Sunday, August 10, 2008 in , , , ,

cardsImagine the following scenario, you're sitting around with several friends, and, to pass the time, one offers to show a quick card trick. The magician of the group borrows a deck of cards and asks that it be shuffled. While the shuffling is going on, the magician mentions that he is going to leave the room, and while he's gone, the person doing the shuffling is to remove any 5 cards, and hand them to another person. That person who will receive the cards is told to put the five cards in a row, with the first four in the row face-up, and the fifth one face-down. The magician then leaves the room, and the other parties do as they're told, and then call the magician back into the room. He takes one look at the arrangement of five cards on the table, and correctly names the face-down card!

This is known in magic as the Fitch Cheney Card Trick, first published by William Fitch Cheney in 1950. When done properly, this magic effect is baffling. As it happens, it's also an interesting lesson in mathematics, memory, and creative thinking. As you'll see, this trick has several layers to it, which is what makes it such an excellent lesson.

Upon first seeing the routine, many would naturally think it was marked cards. However, the deck can (and should be borrowed), so you won't always have the luxury of a marked deck. As a matter of fact, the magician can't even count on a full deck of cards, so how is this possible.

The first piece of the puzzle is that one of the people in the group is secretly helping the magician. The person who receives the cards arranges 4 of the cards in a predetermined manner, so as to communicate the identity of the 5th face-down card. However, knowing that it's up to a secret helper to arrange the cards isn't enough to understand the trick. Exactly how are the cards arranged?

What really stumps most people who get this far is that 4 cards can only be arranged in 24 different permutations (4 * 3 * 2 * 1), which isn't enough to communicate 52 different possible cards. Remember, though, that the secret helper receives 5 cards, and chooses which one will be hidden. Since 5 cards can be arranged in 120 different ways (5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1).

Even knowing this, you need to find a method of arranging the cards that will work regardless of what cards are given. Let's start with the suits. If you're given 5 cards, you know that you'll get at least 2 cards that have the same suit (Even if the first 4 are all different suits, the suit of the 5th card MUST match one of the first 4). This being the case, the secret helper can communicate the suit by the magician by setting one of the matched-suit cards as the face down card, and the other card of the same suit right to its left, face-up.

For example, let's say the cards are the 8S (8 of spades), 6C (6 of clubs), 10H (10 of hearts), 3D (3 of diamonds), and the 9D (9 of diamonds). In this case, either the 9D or 3D would be the face-down card, with the other diamond card right next to it.

At this point, we've determined that one card will be face-down, and that the card immediately to its left will be of the same suit. The other three cards, then need to be arranged somehow to communicate the value (the value of the cards are 1 for the ace, 11 for the Jack, 12 for the Queen, 13 for the King, and the other cards as their respective numbers). This is complicated by the fact that 3 cards have only 6 possible arrangements (3 * 2 * 1).

As long as the two cards of matching suits have values that are no more than 6 apart, such as our example cards above (3D and 9D), this is great! The other cards in our example, 8S, 6C, and 10H, could be placed in various arrangements of high (H), low (L), and medium (M) values, as long as the magician and secret helper agree on which arrangement communicates which number. A common code for this trick, based on the ternary system, is: LMH = 1 , LHM = 2, MLH = 3, MHL = 4, HLM = 5, HML = 6.

Going back to our example cards, we'd arrange the cards as 10H, 8S, 6C, 3D, and a face-down card (the 9D). When the magician comes back into the room, he sees that the first 3 cards are arranged in HML order, which means 6. With this 6 added to the 4th card, the 3D, gives the 9D, so the magician says the face-down card is the 9D!

This works well in our example, but what happens if we replace the 9D with the 10D? There's no way to communicate a 7 with the code. This is where a bit of lateral thinking comes in. What if we think of the values from 1 to 13 not as numbers in a straight line, but rather in a circle (sort of like a clock marked 1-13)? Going counterclockwise from 10 to 3 would take 7 steps, but going clockwise from 10 to 3 only takes 6 steps (this is modular arithmetic)!

So, using the “clock approach” above, we would arrange the cards as 10H, 8S, 6C, 10D, and the 3D face-down. As before, the HML arrangement codes the number 6, but this time the 6 is added to the 10D. The magician would think of this as the “16D”, and then subtract 13, giving the 3D, and announces this as the answer. As you can see, this 1 through 6 code can be used to secretly communicate the difference between any two values.

There is one remaining complication. While it may be unlikely, let's take the worst case scenario of 3D, 3C, 3H, 3S, and the 9H into consideration. As before, the 9H will be used to communicate the heart suit, and as a starting point to get to the 3. However, this leaves us with the 3D, 3C, and 3S. How do you communicate low, medium, and high when all the cards are 3s? Even just two cards of the same value would present a similar problem.

Fortunately, a classic magician's tool, known as the CHaSeD order, comes in handy here. Instead of just using the card's values to determine whether it's high, low, or medium, the suits are also used. CHaSeD refers to a specific order of suits: Clubs, followed by Hearts, followed by Spades, then followed by Diamonds (This suit order has no particular value over other order, except that it's already well-known among magicians).

Using this order, we'll declare that clubs have the lowest “value” of all the suits, with hearts having a higher “value” than clubs, spades having a higher “value” than hearts and clubs, and diamonds having a higher “value” than any other suit. In this system, a 2S would be considered as having a higher value than the 2C, because spades are considered as having a higher value than clubs. Keep in mind, this system of suit values is only employed when 2 ore more cards are of the same value. Even in this system, you'll never have to deal with questions like whether the KH is considered to be higher or lower than the 2S.

Gong back to out latter example, we'd arrange the cards as 3D, 3S, 3C, 3H, and the 9H face-down. This would definitely throw anybody off the trail who is trying to reverse-engineer the routine. The magician, however, sees the 3D, followed by the 3S and the 3C, and using his knowledge of the CHaSeD order, is able to work out that this is an HML order, coding 6. The 6 is added to the 3H, giving the magician the coded answer of 9H.

Obviously, this will take regular practice between the 2 people, in order to make sure that all situations can be handled smoothly, the cards arranged and coded correctly, and the performance refined so that the secret communication between the two people remains a secret.

Imagine the work it must've taken to think of this in the first place, especially considering the codes, mathematics, and memory involved. The efficient and ingenious method, combined with the simple appearance of the effect to the audience, quickly made the Fitch Cheney Card Trick a classic.

Many magicians have even taken it as a challenge to figure out how to minimize the number of cards used in this routine, while still keeping the code employed easy enough to put into effect with minimal hesitation, both on the part of the secret helper doing the coding, and the magician, when doing the decoding. Colm Mulcahy, in his Card Colm column, published a version called Fitch Four Glory that involves the use of only 4 cards!


Make Your Own Timed Quizzes!

Published on Thursday, August 07, 2008 in , , ,

Timed QuizzesProbably everyone who has played those How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes-style quizzes has, at one time or another, come up with a topic they'd like to see as the subject of such a quiz. If you've ever wanted to create a timed quiz like this for your site, now you can, with the new Grey Matters Timed Quiz Generator!

To help you learn how to use this to create your own quiz, this post will act as a tutorial for the Grey Matters Timed Quiz Generator. You'll probably want to open the generator in a new tab, so you can easily go between the generator and this tutorial as you proceed.

In this tutorial, we'll create a simple quiz in which you have to name all four of the Beatles (Just the well-known 4, not including Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best).

1) Enter Beatles in the Quiz Topic (plural) field.

2) Enter Beatle in the Quiz Topic (singular) field.

The plural and singular forms will be used in the generated quiz to refer to remaining answers properly.

3) Even though most people can name all four Beatles in about 5 seconds, let's set a time limit of 2 minutes. This is done by using the Time Limit pull down menus. From the minutes... menu, select 2 mins., and from the seconds... menu, select 00 secs., and the 2-minute time limit will be set.

At this point, your entries should look something like this:

Next, we're going to provide the answers we'll accept, as well as alternatives that we'll accept for each answer.

4) In the Main Answer field, type John Lennon.

Note: Capitalization only affects how the answer will appear in the giving or missing answer areas of the final quiz. As long as the player of the quiz spells the entries as you did when creating the quiz, even if the capitalization isn't exactly the same, the answer will be marked as correct.

5) In this example, we'll also accept just last names for each entry. In one of the alternative fields, type in Lennon. Each answer can have up to 6 different alternatives.

6) Once it looks as above, click on the Add answers/alternatives to list button, and your entry will now showup in the Answers/Alternatives List box with John Lennon at the start of the line, followed by the alternative Lennon in brackets. The Main Answer and alternative fields and now empty, and the Edit Mode checkbox will also now become enabled (although it remains unchecked).

This box contains all the answers and alternatives that will be accepted as answers in the generated quiz.

7) Next, I'm going to ask you to intentionally make a mistake, which will be corrected later. For this entry, type in Fred McCartney in the Main Answer field, followed by McCartney in one of the alternative fields. Click the Add answers/alternatives to list button, and the Answers/Alternatives List box should now look like this:

8) Now that you're familiar with how to enter answers and alternatives, add George Harrison, with Harrison as an alternative answer to the list, and follow it with Ringo Starr, with Starr as it's alternative.

9) Just for purposes of the tutorial, we're going to make another intentional mistake, so type in Jennifer Aniston as another answer, without any alternatives, and click the Add answers/alternatives to list button.

10) Next, we're going to use the edit mode to fix those mistakes we've made. Click the Edit Mode checkbox. This will cause the editing features will be activated, and an arrow to appear next to the John Lennon entry.

11) To get rid of the Jennifer Aniston entry, keep clicking the Move arrow down button, until it points to Jennifer Aniston. As you move down, you'll notice that the Move arrow up button becomes active, and when you get to the final entry, Move arrow down button becomes inactive.

12) Click on the Delete answer next to arrow button, and you'll be asked if you're sure you want to delete that answer and its alternatives. Click on OK, and Jennifer Aniston will disappear from the list, and the arrow will jump back to the first item on the list.

13) Now, we'll fix the other mistake we made. Use the Move arrow up and Move arrow down buttons to move the arrow up and down until you arrive at the Fred McCartney entry.

14) Click on the Edit answer next to arrow button. You'll note that the text next to the arrow changes to the word **editing**, the Main Answer field now reads Fred McCartney, and one of the alternative boxes now reads McCartney.

15) In the Main Answer field, change Fred McCartney to read Paul McCartney, then click the Return edited answer/alternatives to list button. The Answers/Alternatives List field should now look like this:

16) After making sure that all the other answers are correct, and making any changes, click the Edit Mode checkbox to turn off the editing features.

For this tutorial, we're going to skip over the Final Message Options section as a whole. You can learn about this feature in the separate Final Message Options tutorial.

17) Finally click the Generate quiz code button. In the Quiz Code box, the required code, employing HTML, CSS and Javascript will appear! Copy and paste this generated code into your favorite text editor or code editor, and save it with an .html extension. Upload it to your server, link to it appropraitely, and your quiz is ready!

If you've been following along with the tutorial, you should now have an HTML file that looks and acts exactly like this one. Try out this quiz for yourself, starting the clock by entering text in the text filed. Entering a mixture of full names and last names, in any combination of small letters and capital letters, so you can see the results for yourself. As you take the quiz, look directly above the answer box, and you'll see that it lets you know how many answers are left. When you're down to one answer, it even refers to the subject in the singular form you entered in step 2 of this tutorial.

The quiz also includes a Give up? button, which stops the clock, and reveals all the answers you didn't list. Reload the page, enter two or three answers, and then click on the Give up? button to see it work.

Imagine you're taking the quiz, but have decided to cheat by peeking at the answers as you take the quiz. Use your browser to view the source code (use your browser's help section, if needed, to learn how to do this), and try and locate the answers (either just by looking, or by having your computer search the code for you). You'll note that you can't find the answers anywhere in the code, as they have been obfuscated to prevent cheating!

Feel free to use this tool to develop your own quizzes, and host them on your site! Obviously, the more you know about HTML, CSS, and Javascript, the better you'll be able to customize this file to better work with your site. If you want to learn more about them, w3schools and The Javascript Source are great places to start.

If you're looking for inspiration for quiz topics, you should start with what interests you, and any ideas you may have had for a timed quiz. I also suggest browsing through the topics in my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post, and the comments in Mental Floss' Name x in y minutes post.

Note: I take no responsibility for the consequences of using any quiz or quizzes you create with this tool in any manner, nor do I make any guarantees concerning any such quiz or quizzes.


The Adventures of MemoryEffects.PDF

Published on Sunday, August 03, 2008 in

BrainSome of you may have noticed that my MemoryEffects.PDF document was missing last week. It went on a bit of an adventure.

Recently, over at the home offices of Wonder Wizards (Kenton Knepper's magic business), they received several notices of illegal copies of their works being posted on Scribd.com. The people hired by Wonder Wizards to protect their copyright combed through Scribd.com, found several documents that violated the copyright. Unfortunately, my MemoryEffects document was caught up in this search, due to the following entry:

“Any Card at Any Number” - The performer invites two spectators on stage, one to act as a psychic, and the other to act as a referee. A blue deck and a red deck are both shown to be complete and well-mixed, then the blue deck is returned to its case. The red deck is then mixed further, and then a card and number are chosen by the acting psychic. The acting referee then removes the blue deck from the case themselves, counting to the chosen number, which proves to be the chosen card, “Sorcerer Series #2”, Kenton Knepper (Trick by Newell Unfried)
The document was removed, and a notice was posted in its place stating that it was removed due to the violation of Wonder Wizards' copyright. I was confused at first, as I knew that simply describing a trick wasn't a copyright violation, nor was I linking to any illegitimate copies. I decided to have fun with this, as I still had the copy hosted on my servers, and brought it up on a couple of magic forums, titling the posts The Document Kenton Knepper Doesn't Want You To See!

I learned from these forums that Kenton hadn't seen the document itself, and that it was described to him as an ad for a book I was apparently promoting, that included all the routines on that list. I'm guessing the people who were doing the search didn't look too closely at the document, either, as they would've had to believe that this was a 65-page ad for this supposed book.

After receiving several e-mails about this one takedown from people who had read my forum posts, Kenton e-mailed me, and graciously apologized for the mistaken takedown. Yesterday, we cleared the matter up between us, and he helped me contact Scribd's copyright dept. to correct the mistake. MemoryEffects was back up on Scribd by late Saturday night.

I also figured that this was a good a time as any to update the document, so there are a few new entries! For those not already familiar with MemoryEffects, it's a bibliography of where to find routines related to memory, including not only memory demonstrations and magic tricks that secretly use memory techniques, but also books and articles on memory, and even pseudo-memory demonstrations. You can even take a quick peek at it right here on the blog (The full size version of the document at the previous link may be easier to read).

Read this document on Scribd: MemoryEffects