A very common card trick involves the magician asking you to pick a card as he ripples through a deck of playing cards in front of you. Following a few misdirects, such as pretending to pick out the wrong card and burning it, the magician will reveal the card that you chose secretly in your head. How did they do this?
The solution to the trick is to simply trim the top of a card and placing it in front of a card that the magician chose ahead of time. Because of the small gap, the chosen card ends up being revealed longer than other cards to the person as the deck is being rippled. That slight increase in visibility makes it much more memorable, subtly nudging the person towards choosing it.
As simple as the trick may be, it highlights how often we are under the illusion of choice. As much as we hate to admit it, we are quite susceptible to suggestion and persuasion. This is the basis of subliminal messaging, hypnosis and many types of mentalism (magic tricks involving manipulation of the mind). When we make a choice, how do we know that it comes purely from our own free will and volition?
Take for example the phenomenon of fake news. One of the dangers of fake news is that by using provocative, misleading headlines and summaries, it grabs our attention and leaves an impression. This means that unless we are vigilant about fact-checking and reading news from reputable sources, we can easily be manipulated into thinking or acting in a way that benefits those who released the fake news. The results of this may range from benign, such as persuading you to choose a certain brand of product over another, to something as sinister as affecting how you vote in an election or creating discord amongst the population of a country.
The field of psychology constantly reminds us of how flawed our minds are, with its numerous cognitive biases and ways it can be manipulated. We must be constantly aware of this fact to prevent ourselves from falling victim to those who try to take advantage of our thoughts and actions.
Finally finished weekend shifts. My god, two 8am~8:30pm back to back is inhumane >< But wait, there’s more!!! I have 7am~7pm delivery unit shift tomorrow, then 7:30am ward round on Tuesday where we get ripped to shreds. Fuck yes. On top of the piling notes that I’m failing to study due to crazy amounts of O&G. The only thing that makes it all better? Good Scotch and a good movie.
Just finished watching Now You See Me and I definitely loved it! 😀 I’ve always been a fan of magic and this movie explored the field relatively creatively. I particularly liked the magician fight scene hehe. And tbh I didn’t fully work out the twist so that was a pleasant surprise. Welp, time for me to get 5.5 hours of sleep before I have to go in to sit around and do nothing. Thank god for the simple pleasures of life that keep me going.
Magic has been a great source of entertainment for the masses for thousands of years. Across the globe, under many guises, magicians have amazed audiences with seemingly impossible “miracles” using misdirection and clever trickery. The oldest recorded trick – that is to say one performed purely for entertainment and not under the guise of religion or supernatural power – dates back to ancient Egypt.
According to the Westcar Papyrus, a magician by the name of Dedi was famous for his miraculous feats. The Papyrus tells the story of how Dedi was called to put a show on for King Khufu. He proceeded to decapitate a goose, then reattach the head, bringing the bird back to life. He repeats the magic with a duck, then with a bull, wrenching its head off then bringing it back to life by reattaching the head. For his amazing performance, he is rewarded by being allowed to live in the palace. This trick is still practised by magicians to this day, thus making it the longest performed trick in history.
Larry Niven is a science fiction author. Like many other science fiction authors, he is responsible for citing many rules regarding the world, humorous or not. Niven took to this another level by publishing a series of laws on “how the universe works” as far as he can tell. The following is the revised list as of January 29, 2002.
Never throw shit at an armed man.
Corollary to #1: Never stand next to someone throwing shit at an armed man.
Never fire a laser at a mirror.
Mother Nature doesn’t care if you’re having fun.
Giving up freedom for security is beginning to look naive. (or “F x S = k”, meaning that the product of freedom and security is a constant.)
Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.
It is easier to destroy than to create.
Any damn fool can predict the past.
History never repeats itself.
Ethics change with technology.
Anarchy is the least stable of political structures.
There is a time and a place for tact.
The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.
When your life starts to look like a soap opera, it’s time to change the channel.
The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.
Corollary to #15: The gene-tampered turkey you’re talking to isn’t necessarily one of them.
Never waste calories.
There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
No technique works if it isn’t used.
Not responsible for advice not taken.
Think before you make the coward’s choice. Old age is not for sissies.
Usually to check if a person is dead, one checks their pulse and breathing. If you want to fake your death properly, you must be able to stop both of these. You can easily hold your breath, but how can one stop their own heart? The answer lies in a ball.
If you wedge a tennis ball, squash ball, baseball or any small but firm ball in each of your armpits and squeeze tightly, the pulse at your wrist will disappear. This pulse is the radial pulse, and the radial artery is a branch of the brachial artery further up the arm. If a ball is squeezed in the armpit, it compresses the brachial artery, stopping the blood flow to the radial artery and obliterating the radial pulse. Most people who are not medical professionals tend to use the radial pulse for taking a pulse, so this method can be used to make it look like you do not have a pulse. But as this trick only causes the radial pulse to disappear, it is ineffective if the other person takes the pulse at another site such as the carotid artery or femoral artery. However, if you can control the situation and the person checking to see if you are alive is not a doctor or nurse, then it is quite a useful trick to use.
Rock-paper-scissors is a game with a long history. The earliest example of the game is a Chinese game called huoquan, which follows a cyclic rule where the frog eats the slug, the slug dissolves the snake and the snake eats the frog. The reason why rock-paper-scissors has been saved throughout history is because of the uncertainty it contains. Any hand you choose, the chance of winning is the same. Ergo, there is no single best choice and there is no move that will always win. But this is still a game played by people. It is not a game played by emotionless machines, meaning that you can use human psychology, the surfacing of emotion and specific signs and movements to help deduce your opponent’s hand. Mentalist Derren Brown can read tiny flickering of muscles in the opponent and microexpressions to pull off his “undefeatable rock-paper-scissors trick”, but this is near impossible for a normal person to try. However, you can use the following strategies to improve your odds.
Use paper on a beginner: Statistically, people prefer using rock. Males especially have a strong tendency to play rock.
Use scissors on an experienced player: People who know the first trick can be defeated by going one step further.
Use a hand that loses to the hand your opponent played: This uses the psychology of the opponent wanting to mix up hands and wanting to beat the hand you last played (which is the same as theirs as you drew).
Say what you will play and play that hand: In a competitive situation like rock-paper-scissors, people tend not to trust others. Thus, if you say you will play a certain hand, they will think is a trap and not play the hand that defeats that hand. For example, if you said you will play scissors, the opponent will play paper or scissors and you will either win or draw.
Do not give the opponent a chance to think: People have a subconscious tendency to play a hand that beats the hand that they played before. Without time to think, the subconscious takes action meaning that you can predict their move. If you do the same as strategy 3 and play a hand that loses against the opponent’s previous hand, you will win.
Suggest a certain hand: This is a form of hypnosis where you suggest something to the opponent’s subconscious. To use this trick, pretend to go over the rules by saying “rock, paper, scissors” then play a certain hand. The opponent will likely play the hand that the subconscious last saw.
If you keep drawing, use paper: This is the same as strategy 1.
Unfortunately, rock-paper-scissors has an equal probability of a win and a draw, meaning draws are rather common. Thus, a computer engineer called Samuel Kass devised a game where two additional hands are added: rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock. Lizard is played by making your hand into the shape of an animal’s head, while Spock is played using the Vulcan Salute from the science fiction show Star Trek, where you make a V-shape with two fingers on each side. The rules are as follows.
Scissors cut paper. Paper covers rock. Rock crushes lizard. Lizard poisons Spock. Spock smashes scissors. Scissors decapitate lizard. Lizard eats paper. Paper disproves Spock. Spock vaporizes rock. Rock crushes scissors.
As each hand has two ways of winning, the odds of winning is 10/25, or 2/5 and the odds of drawing is 5/25, or 1/5. As you can see, you have double the chance of winning compared to drawing, making the game much faster to play than the original game.
A succubus is a demon that takes the form of an attractive human woman to seduce men, tempting them to have sex with her. Through sex, the succubus leeches away the man’s life force until he wilts away. They tend to visit men in their dreams and use their beauty and charm to lure and enchant their victim. A famous example of a succubus is Lilith, the first wife of Adam. There are other similar demons throughout the world, such as the nine-tailed fox in Asia (kumiho in Korea, kitsune in Japan and Hulijing in China). A similar demon is an incubus – the male equivalent of a succubus.
The origin of the succubus may be explained medically. It is well known that sleep paralysis is related to vivid hallucinations in the hypnagogic state, with countless cases of alien abductions and supernatural sightings ascribed to the phenomenon.
However, another explanation may be that the succubus is an allegory of the femme fatale. Femme fatale – French for “deadly woman” – describes a mysterious and seductive woman who uses her womanly charms to ensnare and manipulate men. A femme fatale is highly able in utilising the various tools at her disposal: beauty, charm, sexual allure, music, seductive dancing, persuasive language, deception, coercion, hypnotising and generally toying with a man’s reproductive instincts.
There are many examples of how different femme fatales – ranging from the biblical Eve to the spy Mata Hari – made an impact in history through the elaborate manipulation of men to their advantage. This is reflected in folklore through the concept of witches and enchantresses who use “magic” and sexual charms to have men do their bidding, essentially having them on a leash.
Essentially, the moral of the story of the succubus (that is, to men) that women can be deadly and are completely capable of sapping a man’s life away if she wished so. That is why men should know when they are actively being deceived or being controlled by a woman with (false) promises of love and sex. Perhaps the flipside moral of the story for women is that with the power of sex, a woman can have a man do anything for her – a valid strategy that has proven to be effective for all of recorded history.
Faust is a famous German legend telling the tale of a man who sold his soul to the devil in a deal. The legend has been retold in many forms, in both literary and artistic forms, with the most famous versions being Christopher Marlowe’s and Goethe’s. The story goes as follows:
Faust was a very knowledgeable scholar who grew bored and disappointed of earthly knowledge. To seek more knowledge, he summons the devil, Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles proposes a deal to Faust, suggesting that he will serve Faust with his magical powers and with knowledge beyond this world. In exchange, after a certain amount of time has passed he would seize Faust’s soul and send him to damnation for eternity.
After making this pact, Faust proceeds to satisfy his wants by using the devil’s powers. Eventually he seduces a beautiful, innocent girl by the name of Gretchen, but ends up destroying her life instead of living a happy life with her. However, she is saved by her innocence and ascends to heaven.
Faust, with his term now over and about to burn in the eternal inferno of Hell, is saved by God’s grace via his constant striving. It is also said that his salvation is largely brought on by Gretchen, now a symbol of the Eternal Feminine, pleading to God to save Faust.
Although this is the tale that is familiar in modern times, earlier versions of the Faust story end in damnation, with the devil carrying away Faust’s irrevocably corrupt soul. Faust accepts his sins and his punishments, regretting making a pact with the devil and destroying the life of his beloved Gretchen. Faust serves to remind us that although every person has a right to be happy and satisfy their wants, there are boundaries that must be followed. By satisfying one’s needs and wants by destroying someone’s life and causing harm, one is subject to eternal punishment.
It is fascinating to see that one could go to such length to attain more knowledge. Is ultimate knowledge worth your soul being damned to eternity? Or is it wiser to accept that the only way to gain true knowledge is by continuously learning and thinking rather than finding a shortcut?
Clairvius Narcisse died in Haiti on May 2, 1962. In 1980, he returned to his hometown. Alive.
How did a man who was dead and buried come back to life?
According to Clairvius, he was cursed by a bokor (sorcerer) to become a zombie but returned home after the curse was undone. The sorcerer had enslaved him in a sugar plantation for 16 years and many others were working as “zombie slaves” until they revolted, killed the sorcerer then ran away.
Harvard ethnobotanist Wade Davis studied and investigated this case extensively. According to his research, most “zombies” were placed in suspended animation to fake death and were then (often after being buried) put under psychosis by the sorcerer. Many Haitians believe in the ancient African religion of voodoo, where one legend says that when a sorcerer curses a person, they are revived after death to become the sorcerer’s slave. Thus, Haitians strongly believe in the legend of zombies. In reality, the sorcerer was using drugs to zombify people and Davis used his expert knowledge in botany to deduce what the chemicals were.
The so-called zombie powder was a combination of tetrodotoxin (TTX, blowfish poison) and datura (from the poisonous plant Datura stramonium). The TTX simulates death due to its paralytic effect and datura is a powerful hallucinogenic that causes the person to confuse reality and fantasy (dissociation). Also, it may cause memory loss which allows the sorcerer to easily manipulate the victim. Long-term maintenance of the datura dose could allow the sorcerer to enslave someone for a long period of time. However, the zombification is not the same as perfect mind control and more like a strong hallucination or hypnosis (as seen as the above mentioned revolution).
As it involves the handling of poisons, only an experienced sorcerer could give the right mixture of doses while avoiding the lethal dose. Although science has advanced greatly, there are still many things we can learn from magic and sorcery. The reason being, magic and sorcery are simply undiscoveredscience.