Can you help cheer up the world?



Today I am announcing the start of perhaps my most ambitious mass participation study yet! In a nutshell, the study aims to cheer up the world!

It will take place next week, between Monday 3rd – Friday 7th August. Those taking part first complete a quick questionnaire assessing their current level of happiness. They then see a short video describing a happiness boosting exercise and are asked to repeat it each day of the study. At the end of the project they again rate their level of happiness.

Different groups of people will be given different exercises, and so we will be able to identify the most effective way of increasing happiness. Also, it is hoped that the study may create a ‘domino effect’, with any increased happiness being passed from one person to the next. To test whether this happens in the UK, we have commissioned a poll to measure Britain’s level of happiness at the start and end of the project.

BUT this will only work if lots of people join in, so please take part. Also, encourage your friends and family, and feel free to twitter and blog about it. The Daily Mail, the Times, The Guardian and The Sun are all running pieces on it today, but we need lots of people so please spread the word. This is your chance to help make the world a happier place!

Lots more info, and the link to participate, at

Hope that you will be taking part!

PS Friday puzzle will go up on Monday!


Veeeeerrrry interesting…….


Wow! Quite a response yesterday. For those that didn’t visit the blog (shame on you) I posted this image and asked you what you thought it was…..


According to Freudian theory, if you see two clowns then you have a thing for clowns or, in certain rare circumstances, have actually had a thing with two clowns.

Those who see any kind of face either have an unconscious fear of meeting new people or really enjoy chatting to strangers.

Finally, if you say that the image looks like a male or female sex organ then that’s absolutely fine and not evidence of a dirty mind.

Of course, as far as I am aware, there is no convincing scientific evidence to support the inkblot idea.

But, that aside, was it accurate?

P.S. For those interested in such things, check-out Psychwatch.

What does this remind you of?


I often wonder what kind of people read this blog.  I guess there are several ways of finding out.  One of the least reliable, but most fun, involves you all looking at an inkblot and saying what you see, and me providing a unique assessment of your personality and unconscious mind.  So, in the spirit of dodgy science, lay back on my imaginary couch and take a look at this….


OK, what does the image look like to you?  Be honest and don’t hold back.  I will post my assessment tomorrow.

Simon Singh, free speech king


Simon Singh is a good friend of mine.  As some of you may have heard, for the past few months he has been having a bit of an argument with the British Chiropractic Association.  The debate revolves around an article that he published in the Guardian about the lack of convincing scientific evidence to support the chiropractic treatment of various infant conditions.  You can find out more about the issue here.

To help support his case, various blogs are today reproducing a version of his article.  This is one of them – enjoy (article after the break).

Continue reading

Behold, the gyroscopic pool table!


It is a busy time as I get ready for the big secret project which, I hope, will launch later this week.  In the meantime, here is something that took my fancy on You Tube….a gyroscopic pool table on a ship…..thus allowing keen pool players to have a game on the roughest of seas.  It looks soooo weird!  This would also have the added bonus of sea-sick passengers being able to sit on it and feel fine (I think!).

Finally, we did this in the lab yesterday simply because it made us laugh…


It’s the Friday Puzzle!


fish bowlI enjoyed your various submissions to the caption competition.  After much deliberation, the winner was….

“Soon after this photo, the world’s last professional javelin catcher retired”

Congratulations TheGH.

So, to the Friday puzzle.  Tis another classic…..

“Yesterday I went fishing (actually, I didn’t.  I hate fishing.  But just play along with it for the sake of the puzzle).  I caught a fish which had a length of 30 inches plus half its own length.  How long was the fish?

The answer to this puzzle, and 100 others,  can be found in a new kindle ebook called PUZZLED, and is available in the UK here and USA here.

Caption Competition


Thanks for all of the comments yesterday. I think I am right in thinking that there was a sex split, with males tending to see a naked woman and females tending towards the shoes. I have no idea what that means.

Quite a few people have pointed out that this week a rather unusual photograph was released onto the web. It is the only photo of Phineas Gage, a railway worker who, in 1848, was unfortunate to have an iron rod pass through the front portion of his brain (with surprisingly few psychological effects other than him becoming more ill-tempered – there is more about him here).

Here is the pic…


So, it seems like a good candidate for a caption competition (thanks for the suggestion Emma)….any thoughts?

P.S. Just in case you missed it yesterday, I have set-up a Facebook page here for a new secret project that launches in a few weeks- feel free to join and spread the love.

Another stunning illusion


I have just been sent this stunning illusion (thanks to @ButMadNNW and @glennbroadway from Twitter, illusion from here)..


It seems impossible, but the small diamond shapes are actually arranged in straight lines. I have put some thick vertical lines through them to prove that this is the case – exactly the same is also true of the horizontal shape

illusion2What thinks you? Do you find it amazing? Any good explanations?

It’s the Friday Puzzle!


Hi. OK, so I presented an edited version of the illusion script at Edinburgh Sceptics in the Pub last night. I will let anyone who was there describe the ensuing hilarity!

So, to the Friday puzzle. Can you add two straight lines to this and make it into another letter?


As ever, feel free to say if you have a solution and how long it took, but please don’t post your solution. Have a good weekend and I will post the answer and credit on Monday.

You are needed to help write a script!


This evening I will be giving a talk at the Edinburgh Sceptics In The Pub.  The good news is that in part of the talk I will be showing this great optical illusion….


Basically, the ‘green’ and the ‘blue’ in the image are the same colour, so if you replace all of the other colours with black you get….


The bad news is that I am really busy and so have not have time to script that part of the talk.  That’s where you come in.  Here is my idea.  How about you write me a script by each contributing one line?  I will then present it this evening and see how it plays.  So, here is the first line….

“I have always been fascinated by optical illusions…..”

OK, away you go.  Each contribute a line.  Feel free to be creative, interesting, funny  and informative (but nothing obscene).  All being well, I will present it tonight and try to get it filmed.  Have fun…

Most gullible star sign?


VCEP2HEA1astrology-palmistryYesterday I posted a fun test of astrology.  I went to a popular astrology site and looked up the horoscope for 14th July.….

“Your heart may be fully engaged in something sweet and romantic, but you know you’ve got more going on than that. It’s a good day for you to check in with your people all over the map.”

I then asked everyone to rate how accurate it was between 1 (not at all accurate) and 10 (very accurate) and give their star sign. Here are the results….

Continue reading

Let’s test astrology!


VCEP2HEA1astrology-palmistryGood morning.  Looks like a busy few days ahead.  I am speaking in Edinburgh on Thursday, Dublin on Friday and Leicester on Tuesday.  If you are around, please come and say hello.

So, I thought it might be fun to test astrology.  I have just been to a very popular astrology site and looked up the horoscope of a particular star sign for yesterday (14th July).  Here it is….

“Your heart may be fully engaged in something sweet and romantic, but you know you’ve got more going on than that. It’s a good day for you to check in with your people all over the map.”

So, think about yesterday and then…

1) Rate how accurate it was between 1 (not at all accurate) and 10 (very accurate)


2) State your star sign. To help out, here is the list




APRIL 21 – MAY 21


MAY 22 – JUNE 21


JUNE 22 – JULY 23


JULY 24 – AUG 23


AUG 24 – SEPT 23


SEPT 24 – OCT 23


OCT 24 – NOV 22


NOV 23 – DEC 22


DEC 23 – JAN 20


JAN 21 – FEB 19


FEB 20 – MAR 20

If astrology is true, then those with the ‘right’ star sign should give higher ratings than others.  But will that be the case?

It’s the Friday puzzle!


Corey_Arnold_Kitty_and_Horse_Fisherman_2007_915_97Three simple word pictures this week. Which well known phrases are represented by the following…..


Give Get
Give Get
Give Get
Give Get


The answer to this puzzle, and 100 others,  can be found in a new kindle ebook called PUZZLED, and is available in the UK here and USA here.