Derren Brown, etc

1. Article about Derren Brown
2. Aventis Science Book Prize
3. Rattleback Obsession
4. Enigma in Australia
5. Cryptogram Competition
6. Competition Winners

1. Article about Derren Brown

I wrote a major article about Derren Brown for the Daily Telegraph in May. Derren has been showing off his ‘psychological’ skills in a major Channel 4 TV series called Mind Control, but I am very dubious about some of his techniques, which are described in a very misleading way. His demonstrations seem to rely less on brilliant psychology and more on standard magic tricks. The article uncovers what is really going on behind some of his routines. Some people who read the article, emailed me to say “Ah, but what about the demonstration involving …?” I cannot get into email exchanges about this issue (because I am busy writing a book), but I can assure you that I could reproduce many of his other demos using ordinary techniques. Furthermore, I can’t expose these techniques as it would be unfair to magicians. You can read the article (along with some answers to FAQ) at:

https://www.simonsingh.net/Derren_Brown_Article.html
https://www.simonsingh.net/Derren_FAQ.html

2. Aventis Science Book Prize

Last month was the Aventis Science Book Prize, the most prestigious prize for science writers. If you are looking for a book to read, then you could do worse than pick one of the shortlisted titles. By the way, it was a disgrace that Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson was not shortlisted, so please also consider this book if you are looking a fun, interesting and brilliant book to read on the beach. You can find out about the short list and the winner at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3019032.stm
One of my favourites from the shortlist is Reckoning With Risk by Gerd Gigerenzer, all about how we learn to cope with risk in an uncertain world. One copy is up for grabs if you solve the following problem. If there are 23 people in a room, then there is a 50/50 chance of a shared birthday, which seems surprisingly high. The question is this: how many people do you need in the room for a 90% chance of a shared birthday? To enter, just email risk@simonsingh.net with your answer in the subject header and your name and address in the body of the email.

3. Rattleback Obsession

Some of you may know about my rattleback obsession. If you share it, then you can find out how to build one from a bent spoon at:

http://fluorine.e20.physik.tu-muenchen.de/~cucke/ftp/lectures/udine95.pdf
I tried with a tablespoon and it worked quite well, but my teaspoon rattleback failed dismally. I am not sure why.

4. Enigma in Australia

Claire Ellis, who manages my school-based projects, is going to be in Australia next month, touring the country with my Enigma machine. I know that lots of Australian students are using The Code Book in their classes (including Keryn Ellis’s class at UTS), so you might want to keep an eye out for Claire on her travels. To find out about Claire’s schedule, you can email her at enigmaproject@hotmail.com or you can visit her website at:

https://www.simonsingh.net/More_Information.html

5. Cryptogram Competition

Here’s the latest cryptogram competition. It’s a substitution cipher, but I warn you that this is a particularly tricky text. To help you, I have used a Kama Sutra cipher, i.e., if A represents F, then F represents A, etc. But still this is not a trivial cryptogram.

MHPNJ, ZJ XNPQH, NAP NEKH HA FQNAM OHNXPQAFK, N XNZZQ, NA NPTQXNE AHMHXQHVK GHX OQK EQASK MH TNKHAXJ, N MXQH HG WNXPQANEK NAP N MXQH, MHH, HG DHEQMQWQNAK QAGHXT VK NEE HG OHC HVX WHVAMXJ AHC XQKSK PJQAF HG KMNXUNMQHA.

Email the plaintext to cryptogram at simonsingh.net and one correct answer will win a copy of The Code Book and the accompanying CD-ROM. Please include your name and address.

6. Competition Winners

(a) The last cryptogram competition asked “What is cryptographically special about the words COLD and FROG?” – lots of you spotted that the words are Caesar shifts of each other.

COLD – DPME – EQNF – FROG.

Seasonal Caesar shifts include JOLLY to CHEER & HATS to SLED.

The winner drawn out of the hat is Esther Enderle from Switzerland. I will also be sending out five runners up prizes, so don’t be surprised if you got the answer right and receive something in the post in the next week or so.

(b) The winner of the Fermat trivia quiz (part II) was Corey Birtles of Australia – the prize is in the post. Well done!

And that’s just about it. I will leave you with a recent website discovery, namely a page at the Vega website which contains an online video of a lecture given by the physicist Richard Feynman in New Zealand. It is a fairly advanced lecture, but just watching the great man in action is a great way to brighten up the day.

www.vega.org.uk/series/lectures/feynman/index.html

Enjoy the rest of the summer,
Bye for now,
Cheerio,
Simon Singh.

Ps. If you need to email me, then please do not reply to this address, as your email will not reach me. Please go via the website https://www.simonsingh.net and click on the contact button. It takes me ages to answer emails, as I am struggling to keep up with my correspondence, so please be patient.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please email unsubscribe@simonsingh.net with your email address in the subject header preceded by UNSUB, e.g., [subject: UNSUB john.johnson@johnjohnson.org.za]