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  1. Am I the only one disquieted by the idea of spilling boiling coffee onto a friend? Did that lady in MacDonald’s die in vain?

  2. Anyway, spilling coffee on to a friend – I’m still not keen. I mean, I’d have to find a friend first…

    1. Just to clarify. I did not post the above post. And neither did either of my friends.

      I fear the epidemic of fans who like to post under my name has broken out again.

      Though I am flattered by the attention these fans pay to me I do not want their to be confusion about names and posters on this website. I would ask each everyone of us to post as only who we really are.

      And yet I know that posting as who we really are is an amazeballs cosmic challenge for many of us. Who are we? Really? Who are we really? These are existential questions even the asking of which may lead to other existential questions that sharpen our perception of our innermost true self.

      It is also possible that there is another genuine Barry Goddard posting and he forgot that he did not post the original coffee comment and thus has inadvertently replied to himself. If so I would advise him to seek some experienced mental help before his problems grow too great. I may be able to assist with that as I have certified mental healing skills.

    1. Don’t be ridiculous: there are two original Barry Goddards.

      A while back I said that real posts by me would have “GENUINE BARRY GODDARD POST” stated at the top, so you can all of the above posts fail that test – including this one.

    2. I m the one true original Barry Clone.
      Ignore all imitations.
      [Thinking about it, ignore Barry too].

  3. It’s easy to identify false Barrys.
    If a post is under several paragraphs long it’s not the by the real BG.
    I can’t give you any pointers on the content of the one-true-Barry’s posts as I never read what he says.

  4. @Je Suis Barry

    > It’s easy to identify false Barrys.

    I fear that you have undermisestimated the quality of my posts. They are seldom long. They are like a wizards staff exactly the right length.

    My posts (though I be humble and say it myself) offer a perspective that gives enlightenment and insight to those who would listen.Yet for those that would prefer to just do puzzles that involve similtaneous values buried in a pointless anecdote about Steve being a faster Cyclist than Eve can eat apples – they find my posts to not to be to their liking.

    Yet rather than be humble and learn from what I have wrote they make demands that this blog be changed so their feelings are not hurt.

    This is an extreme form of blog-reader privilege that is a natural consequence of the Age of Entitlement in which we now live.

    Yet I refuse to be downhearted about this.No matter how much they cry for their “entitlements” I am happy to continue to offer enlightenment and insight to those who have ears to listen and read. This is the best I can aspire too and I know the silent majority (or should I say the illiterate majority as they have yet to set pen to keyboard and comment) are fully and silently in support of the aims to which my goals are pointed.

    1. See what I mean?
      I haven’t read the above, but I know it has been written by the one true Barry.

    1. If as you state the 2 points are on the BASE of the cone, then it is a simple case of picking up the cone inverting it and with a ruler drawing a line connecting the two points.

      However, your question is implying that the path has to traverse the CURVED surface, so I guess the answer that you are looking for is the arc of the circle at the base that connects the 2 points.

    2. not sure of the formula, but I reckon it’s basically unwrapping the cone drawing the straight line with a ruler between the two points, and then wrapping it up again.
      I guess there may be something about – when you look down vertically it is a straight line (a bit like that hanging wire-frame that was on this site a few weeks ago) – but that is a guess.

    3. yeah – I think that’s taking Friday ‘psychologically-biased’ puzzling to a different level…

  5. It is indeed sad that on the day that humans in the United Kingdom are exercising their ancient rite to elect a new government the only discussion on this blog is on how to save commute time if we were creatures stuck to the surface of an ice cream cone.

    Where once there was discussion of great import and depth and merit we now have imaginary journeys with arbitrary restrictions on the types of movement possible.

    Yet I tell you (in the words of Jeff Daniels) Life Will Find a Way. Those creatures stuck to the cone will not limit themselves to @Edie’s imagination. They will break free and travel in ways that Edie and DAve can not yet imagine until they see it with their own eyes.

    This blog to is an example of this. No matter how much some try to limit it to dry mathematical counting we the true contributors will always say “Look up at the stars. Behold their Majesty. This is the true human destiny”.

    Thus I intend to vote as perhaps all true thinking people would. Not for the tired old world parties with their economics and evasions when it comes to immigration. But for a party (indeed THE party) that has arisen recently and is not afraid to discuss these issues head on.

    I will not of course name The Party as my vote like all votes should be secret. Yet I make no secret of my intentions.

    Please follow if you wish my lead. Or follow your true deepest yearnings. In the end they will lead to the place and insight and realisations.

    Be blessed on this day and remember that maths puzzles do no maketh the man. Only we can do that for the Stars indeed are our Destiny.

    1. BG

      Given your claimed powers of divination and your ability to read the alignments of the stars and the planets, you probably know the outcome ahead of us mere earth-bound mortals.
      So, what is the point of you voting?

    2. @DAve Astrology is about Destiny not prediction. It does not deal with the minutiae of the future. It deals with the depths of our potential.

      Yet it is easy to see how you may be come confused by this. By having a deep and sympathetic understanding of human nature I can easily see the consequences of others’ actions and habits. This can look like a magical ability to read the future. Yet it is simply a deep ability to read others’ psyches.

      There is no magic in Astrology except where others misunderstand it and assume its abilities are anything other than a deep standing in Cosmic realisation.

      I do not make predictions. Yet I can sometimes see a little more clearly than others perhaps because I stand on the shoulders of astrological giants.

      For some thoughts about the election may I humbly refer you to here?


      It is a good read that will tell you much about the subjects at hand.

    3. For some thoughts about the election may I humbly refer you to here?

      Sunday, May 03, 2015

      The Royal Family and the State of the Nation

      We have been battered by Uranus and Pluto for years now, …..
      Neither Labour nor the Tories look like they will form a majority, and a coalition will be needed. But will the Tories and LibDems between them have enough to form a government? Possibly not. And no-one wants to get into bed with either UKIP or the SNP.
      So I suspect we will muddle along with a minority coalition for a few years until the great issues of the day, Scotland and the EU, are resolved. And because we are a conservative nation (Sun and Moon both on the axis of conservatism, Cancer-Capricorn), we will probably continue to have, in this time of muddle, a Tory-LibDem coalition, albeit attenuated.

    4. @Lazy T

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It is always humbling yet reassuring that there are some who listen and then go on to read and think intelligently about issues of cosmic import. It makes such a refreshing difference from the usual puzzle solving mentality that so many of us are now working together to discourage on this blog.

      If you wish to converse any further on astrology or other deeply human and meaningful subjects please speak forth. I will be happy to humbly assist in any ways that I can.

      Between us perhaps we can raise the intellectual tone of these discussions.

  6. @DAve

    I would not wish to be one of those people who say “I told you so” as I do not have a gloating nerve in my body.

    Yet even those who have expressed skepticism towards Astrology must now concede that I put my words where my insight is. My analysis using only the deeper insights of Astrology have been evidenced as being more highly accurate than any opinion poll or exit poll or even the election result itself.

    Thus you may also concede that I have been far far more accurate than the puzzlers who revel in solving similtaneous equations while life slowly slips past them.

    I am a humble purveyor of the celestial methods so I shall not crow our successes. Yet in all humility I hope (even if just for one day) the detractors here can magnanimously admit that they have been silenced into acceptance on (not just this) occasion,

    And should this lead genuine enquirers to wish to look with fresh eyes at Astrology I will humbly offer to assist them in whatever ways I can.

    I am saddened that Messers Clegg, Farage, and that other one whose name escapes me have run away from the electorate and resigned. Although that was in their character to do so yet character is not Destiny and they yet could have stood strong taken their knocks and moved forward with the Will of the People ringing in their ears.

    1. “I would not wish to be one of those people who say “I told you so” as I do not have a gloating nerve in my body.”

      Yes, much like I do not have a conscious brain cell in mine, yet conscious I am.

      “And should this lead genuine enquirers to wish to look with fresh eyes at Astrology I will humbly offer to assist them in whatever ways I can.”

      Unfortunately, humility does not seem to be within your gift (although narcissism provides an impediment to noticing that); but remove ‘humble’, and you have the makings of a more accurate statement. (There is no ‘humble’ way of telling people you do not know that they will “simply be better human beings” by conceding to your tutorship and worldview.)

    2. @adzcliff

      Thank you for such a powerful compliment. To say that I have no need to use the word Humble suggests you at least have a very high opinion of my aspirations to help others and the depth of my abilities to do so.

      This I find slightly uncomfortable as I have never sought acclaim – I genuinely do just wish to impart what wisdom and insight and learning I have in as humble and caring way as I can in the few years that I have left before I depart this early plane for the higher reaches of the spiritual cosmos.

      Yet I accept your praise lest I fall into the opposite issue of being falsely modest and turning away genuine appreciation.

      Thus thank you once again. Such positive comments buoy me up in the sea of oft times more negative and self-seeking comments from those who would do puzzles all day while beyond and around them is a vast beautiful mysterious cosmos, If that cosmos has touched me even only slightly I am happy and willing to help pass that touch on to others such as yourself.

  7. Barry complains about impractical mathematical puzzles.
    Well, here’s one that might not be quite so esoteric (although I agree still has abstract qualities). You can change the type of liquid, and the unit of quantity to suit your own purposes but the essential idea is you have a couple of friends or children that you want to treat equally (but not be excessively generous).

    You have a large barrel of beer, and a five-pint and a three-pint container – both of which are opaque and of irregular shape, and initially empty. Your goal is to end up with a pint in each container.

    1. @ChrisR

      Please. I have never complained. I have commented and lamented at the tragic waste of human potential that is poured down the drain of puzzle solving. Yet that is the free choice of the potential waster. Provided they do not try to recruit me to their “dark side” I am happy to stand aside and let them get on with it.

      Yet I will not be silenced in my freedom. Thus I will speak out despite some not liking the truths I gently waft in their direction. I see what I do as akin to Observational Critique rather than what you would wrongly categorise as “complaints”.

      In the case of your puzzle the real world answer is trivial. I would use a one pint measuring jug of which I have several in the kitchen cupboard.

      You may wish to then try to trap me in a hypothetical situation and say I have no such measuring jugs. Yet for every hypothetical you wish me to accept you too must accept one from me. Thus I may rejoin: “your 3 pint glass has a hole in the base causing it to only hold 2 pints”.

      From there we would be lost in a world of ever increasing hypotheticals while all around us a solution has already been reached with the measuring jug.

      This is why study of the real world – such as physics and cosmology and astrology and the healing arts such as homeopathy – are so much better than puzzles. They are anchored in objective measurable reality.

    2. Fill 3 (0 3)
      Pour contents of 3 into 5 (3 0)
      Fill 3 (3 3)
      top 5 up (5 1)
      Empty 5 (0 1)
      Store in another container (0 0)

    3. I suppose this is where the abstract nature of the puzzle limitations kicks in.
      In the same way i wouldn’t allow Barry to have several (or even one) 1-pint measuring jug in his cupboard you are limited to what is stated in the puzzle.
      So no ‘another container’.
      It can be done in 13 moves,although it does need a little lateral thinking.

    4. As ever the solution is straightforward.

      1.Drink the barrel of all contents apart from two pints
      2.Pour the remaining contents in equal parts into the two containers

    1. @Eddie

      You are making seemingly random posts that do nothing to contribute to the quality or purpose of this blog.

      The blog is not a rubbish bin for your ego. It is a place for those serious in the study of human psychology spirituality and all aspects of the celestial realms may safely and freely discuss related issues.

      I ask you to take a long hard listen at the stuff you have been typing – and then ask you to be more collegiate or more silent.

      I mean this of course in the best possible way – and in such a way that you could never take offense for being corrected. See this as a learn opportunity after perhaps a lifetime of not hearing what others’ truly wish to say to you about your disruptive behaviour.

    2. This may be a first but I’m in agreement with Mr Goddard.

      Eddie and ChrisR, I humbly suggest that you both go forth and procreate

    3. Barry and DAve
      For me the purpose of this blog is puzzles.
      Looking forward to seeing the answer to your excellent (it had better be!…) puzzle.
      Love from

    4. @edie

      My equilibrium remains at Tranquil Level 5 thank you very much.

      My concern is for those who could and do look forward to the intelligent and insightful posts on this blog – those people who have much to learn and an eagerness to engage with that learning. Those people instead find your indeterminable similtaneous equations and other similar pointless maths posturing.

      It has gone on for a long time. Some had tolerated it. Some have sad to say been your enablers even co-conspirators.

      But it is time for those of us who have been silent for so long to stand up and be counted. We are tired of your distractions. We want truth and beauty and insight and all manor of spiritually edifying discourse.

      I for one (though I say so humbly) have always sought to be a counterpoint to your less than useful contributions – and many have praised me either publicly or in their hearts. Yet I know I am not alone in voicing such silent concerns and I am happy just to be a conduit for these questions.

      Please seek appropriate interventions. Your maths attention disorder may be masking an easily treatable psychosis type condition.

    5. Hear, hear I say.

      Eddi/ChrisR, these irritating quizzes have ZERO relevance to Richard’s original post, so why are you guys polluting his website?. Think of it from Richard’s POV.

      There are countless other more relevant quiz sites where you can indulge in your self-centered onanism.

      Go away!!!!

    6. Of the 3,000 or so words written by commenters above, about 2,000 are keyed by the verbose Barry, only about one sentence of which refers to the blog topic ‘New Quirkology video!’, and the rest mainly dealing with people’s lack of respect for his Astrology agenda.

      I think pot is calling kettle black and upset that he can’t find fertile ground for his strange ideas. Leave me to my puzzles and I’ll leave you to your stuff!

    7. @Edie: Methink you dost protest too much.

      You know in your heart that there is a problem and you are a large part of it.

      You can be a part of the solution if you drop your ego-driven excuses and take a long inner look at yourself and your antisocial posting history.

      I can help you with that. I can help you come to terms with your over-active ego that is driving you literally to both distract yourself with puzzles and lash out at anyone who (no matter how gently) points that out to you.

      I can also help set you on a nourishing spiritual journey that will free you from your ego-clinging and limited world view. A journey that will let you see the cosmic dimension in everyday experience as I do. This is a journey toward inner happiness and spiritual fulfillment. This (although he uses the language of public understanding of psychological well being) is the very purpose of this blog.

      I can understand you being afeared of such language as “psychological well-being”. It is both threatening to your limited ego view. And it needlessly jargonified. This is why I prefer the more naturalistic language of cosmic insight and astrological depths. Such language is such a part of our shared cultural heritage that it is understood intuitively and no one can take exception to it.

      Thus please reach out to me and I will with utmost humbleness offer you the training and education you most currently lack.

      All you can lose is your limitations. Be brave and accept this offer. Or go back to counting how many cocoanuts a monkey can steal from a pirate if the pirate always lies and the ship sails 10% faster than the tide yet 30% slower than the wind. Or whatevs. In such a direction lies surely madness.

    8. In what is likely to be my last post on this blog…

      For each step, I will include the resulting contents of the barrel, the 3 pint and the 5 pint in that order, so we start at ?/0/0
      Fill the 5pt and 3pt from the barrel, and then empty/drink what’s left in the barrel… 0/3/5 (3 moves)
      4. Empty the 3pt into the barrel… 3/0/5
      5. Fill the 3pt from the 5pt… 3/3/2
      6. Empty the 3pt into the barrel… 6/0/2
      7. Pour the contents of the 5pt into the 3pt… 6/2/0
      8. Fill the 5pt from the barrel… 1/2/5
      9. Fill the 3pt from the 5pt… 1/3/4
      10. Empty/drink the contents of the 3pt… 1/0/4
      11. Fill the 3pt from the 5pt… 1/3/1
      12. Empty/drink the contents of the 3pt again… 1/0/1
      13. Pour the contents of the barrel into the 3pt… 0/1/1
      Hey presto! One pint remains in each of the containers, and you’ll probably have a hangover tomorrow 🙂

  8. The solution is as follows

    Fill 3 (0 3)
    Pour contents of 3 into 5 (3 0)
    Fill 3 (3 3)
    top 5 up (5 1)
    Empty 5 (0 1)
    Store in another container (0 0)

    1. So ChrisR, despite you clearly saying that there is no “other container” you are in effect using the barrel as one.

      You lying bastard

    2. Unfortunately, Eddie, you and I seem to have fallen victim to various pranksters who have taken advantage of the optionally anonymous nature of this blog and have taken our names in vain. As has Barry at times.
      For the record (which may have been the posting which was the beginning of the end if you know what I mean) I do believe you.
      I don’t know whether it was this sort of thing that caused Richard to give up on the daily updates to his blog, or whether he ran out of material, or had other reasons but it was good and fun while it lasted.
      But for now – so long and thanks for all the fish.

  9. Well, as far as I’m concerned, Prof. Wiseman ran weekly puzzles on this blog for many years before quietly stopping. I can therefore see why his remaining puzzlers are keen to continue this tradition; and until the actual owner of the blog says that it is no longer welcome, then they should feel free to do what the hell they like.

    It is like listening to a few remaining cronies, pitched up in a derelict house they used to visit but do not own, self-appointing themselves as the new head housekeepers, and protectors of the owners’ unexpressed interests. All the while the owner is free to look in, intervene, lock up, or even knock they place down if he so wishes. Yet the illusion that they have been placed in charge is a powerful one….

  10. There are n sweets in a bag. 6 of the sweets are orange. The rest of the sweets are yellow.

    Hannah takes a random sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet.

    Hannah then takes at random another sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet.

    The probability that Hannah eats two orange sweets is 1/3.

    Show that n² – n – 90 = 0.

    1. probability of drawing two orange = (p of orange on 1st draw)*(p of orange on 2d draw) = 1/3
      p of orange on 1st draw is (6/n)
      p of orange on 2d draw is (6-1)/(n-1) [it’s explicitly stated that 2d draw follows 1st]

      (6/n)*(6-1)/(n-1) = 30/(n)(n-1) = 30/(n² – n) = 1/3

      n = 10, by the way.

  11. It disheartens me that despite the consensus that we stop publishing puzzles in the blog that @Edie continues to do so.

    Nonetheless I am not disheartened and I have devised another method to return this blog to the dizzying heights of its original roots – that is the discussion of matters of crucial psychological importance.

    I speak of course of setting puzzles that can only be answered by people with a depth of humane maturity and psychological insight and spiritual awareness.

    I will set a few such puzzles below in the sure hope that those who work diligently to solve them will gain in such positive holistic dimensions.

    Yet first we are all familiar with the trick lateral thinking type puzzle. This sort of thing: “A midget, dyed blue, is dead in an elevator. What happened?” That is cheap psychological storytelling. Many more such examples are here: http://www.rinkworks.com/brainfood/p/latreal1.shtml

    Instead the ones below rely only on holistical approaches to the depths of our very inner being.

    Yet before we begin an answer for the curious. The midget drowned when a lump of toilet ice (containing blue dye) fell from an airplane into the conveniently open top of the elevator shaft.

    “A zookeeper shoots all the ostriches – and is given a medal. Why?”

    “A man reads the newspaper headline and shoots the bus driver – who laughs. Why”

    “A famous singer-songwriter (not Paul Simon – that would be too easy) finishes an encore and then strangles the sound engineer. Why is this and where did it happen?”

    “A box of chocolates – one missing. A fish tank – one fish too few. A carton of eggs – with 13 eggs. What is happening”

    By reflecting and meditating on these puzzles you will become more insightful and calmer and all round a better human being. That is my promise to you.

    Yet please: drop the dull mathematical stuff. No one cares.

    1. Barry

      On reflection, you views DO make sense and I realise the error of your ways. Frankly, I’ve been a bit of a tosser.

  12. @Edie

    Your confession of your previous faults and flaws is but yet the first step through the door of a new dawn in your emotional journey.

    Should you be able to emulate a humble practitioner of the spiritual arts such as myself you will soon find that your new egolessness will easily allow you to view the very depths of your being in an objective and insightful and compassionate way. No longer will you be closed off from others and get touchily emotionally defensive when critiques are made of your math and riddle obsessed behaviours. Instead you may laugh and happily own your faults in an egoless way.

    This is great progress though yet it be a short first step and backsliding remains a possibility against which you must remain ever vigiliant.

    My help as previously offered is extended to you and all the many others who inspired by your apology and contrition may wish to also engage in this process.

    Together we may light the fuse on a new renaissance of this blog. We will surely be blessed in such an endeavour. May the stars look down kindly on us as we move forward into the way ahead of ourselves together in this great enterprise that is our very core being.

    1. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was you impersonating me above, Barry.

      Anyway, go on, give us a taster of your divine powers. Can you change water into beer?

  13. @Edie – I have never impersonated anyone.

    I am my own person though I am deeply empathetic towards others I would never be so etiquette blind to help them by saying what they truly wish to say and sign it under their own name.

    Some may wish for such a service – as they are mentally tongue tied and having me express their thoughts in clear yet poetic language would be a relief and a release for them. Yet I would never do that.

    Several of us on this blog share the distinction of having had “tribute posters” who use our names to express their thoughts. That again is the very opposite of what I do. I use my name to express thoughts that all could have – provided they have the depth oc cosmic insight and human empathy that I demonstrate.

    As for performing a watery beery miracle that again is not what is important in this life.

    The truest miracle of all is the one where someone enters so deeply into another human’s heart and mind that they can find the true spirit in there – the spirit that until now had been cowering in fear from the all-powerful ego – and lead that spirit out into the light of enlightenment.

    That is a miracle I have seen many times and also (I say this from the depths of my humbleness) participated in when the conditions have been propitious. As they say: when the Student is Ready the Teacher will Appear.

    This miracle surpasses all conjuring tricks and marks out the true spiritual journeyer from the massed pretense of gaming playing and such distractions from life.

    Now you yourself are turning towards the light you may soon experience this for yourself.

    1. Tell you what – you’ve also got a lot of time on your hands.

      The devil will find work for idle hands to do.

  14. I am the master of all that I survey. Kneel before me and wallow in the splendour of my presence.

    1. Definitely not the original Barry Goddard. The original Barry Goddard would have asked ‘humbly’ that we kneel before him and wallow in the splendour of his presence.

  15. May we all have a very blessed summer solstice.

    May we all be unplagued by people taking our name in vain (@Barry the alpha omega – please be yourself in future. You are not me even if we are ultimately all part of the same universe. For now we must be honest to that splinter of the universe that identifies as “ourself” and thus for you to post as me is an act that the very universe would disapprove of were it not such a cosmically caring place.

    And thus the sun completes another year long journey around as as we approach this the longest and most sacred day of the year. In the short time of the night when we can see the stars may their splendour shine upon us with all their benevolence and grace.

    May this blog be freed from tricksters and puzzlers and may it flourish as a true place of spiritual enquiry and enlightenment.

    Shanti. Bless. Cheers.

    1. The same reason a man living in Wales should not be buried in England

      (O, bother I said I wouldn’t post again)

  16. @Edie

    You have backslid into puzzles again when I thought we were making progress in directing the conversation toward the more enlightening topic of our place in this our spiritual cosmos.

    Please look deep within at what really matters in this magical world of ours and then resume the path you had previously embraced.

    And I will be there to welcome and help you.

    Let us speak no more of burying the survivors whilst all around is is unexplored transcendental depths.

    1. @Edie.

      I would not – could not – joke about something as central to the importance of our lives as the stars and our relation to them. Nor about our spiritual dimensions and our yearning – not to say impetus – to reach out into the depths of our beings to understand and bring enlightenment to each an every one of us.

      That is surely the prime motivation for all of us. It is why Sir Timmy Bernard Lea invented the Internet to allow us to unite in freedom and spiritual exploration.

      I know that his invention gets abuses every day for photos of cute cats or sexual services or crude commerce such as Amazon or Bing.

      Yet it is far far more than that. Deeper richer and full of vibrant life and energy and the very vibrations of our beings.

      Yet you know that. You do. Deep inside perhaps hidden away from even your self and your marauding ego – you know that. You know what is truly important in this one short life we all have to share. And you know what I have humbly yet kindly offered to you.

      I have stretched out not just one but both arms in offering help and understanding. I believed you were stirring and responding even with just a flicker of the understanding that is truly yours if you just listen to your own innate being – as indeed I strive to do so every day.

      My offers are still there. My arms are still extended. My insight and passion for teaching remain as undimmed as the day I made my offer.

      All I can do now is wait patiently for you to respond – perhaps you feel like a scared tiny kitten hiding under a bed while all around you great vistas of knowing are lighting up the sky. Allow me to gently tempt you from your dark corner into the universe that is your home and destiny.

      @edie – join me.

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    1. Hello @AK.

      Welcome to posting on this blog.

      It is a friendly place filled with nutritious advice of a spiritual nature culled from our lifetimes experience in the realms of empathetic communication and higher spiritual resonances.

      There are some trolls on the website who insist on their antisocial heckling behaviour. They will flood the commentary with meaningless questions about cycle races and pirates sharing loot and buses driving across a city. They call their vandalism “puzzles” and act all surprised and hurt when the better mannered amongst us chide them gently for their disruptive activities.

      Yet if you are not disheartened and can take what they do with an understanding that the less emotionally gifted people will never be able to feel an equal to the rest of us. Then you may feel sympathy and sorrow for them. Let them do their stuff. It is the best they can do in this life. And like a 3-year-old running around being a helicopter they think what they do is in somehow or anyother impressive. They are sad. But they can solve similtaneous equations. Thus is their claim to happiness.

      For the larger majority of us: welcome! Please ask your spiritual questions and we will assist if we can in all the ways that we can.

    2. Hi AK (and Aliciakuehn)

      You have perhaps gathered that this is the remnants of a once very active blog about psychology, science, magic (the conjuring sort), and the human capacity for illusion and irrationality. Many readers were also attracted here by a weekly Friday puzzle laid on by Professor Wiseman. I was never that great at them – especially the more mathematical ones – but I looked forward to them nonetheless. This practice has unfortunately long stopped, but some of us still linger to chat, debate, argue and propose puzzles of our own. Unfortunately you will also find a few commenters have stayed on as self-appointed custodians of the blog; with some even going as far to redefine its very existence as some sort of astrological chat room. One of these pseudo-custodians also claims to know the minds of a silent majority who look in but never comment on this blog, and is convinced he speaks on their behalf.

      Anyway, I hope you enjoy the conversation you find here.

  18. Hi Barry Goddard,Thank you very much, you’re very kind!! maybe you are a friend and a guide but my tarotcards are not clear about it…I lost the connection sorry!!! But, maybe, you are a gentleman.Just right now I’m in a debate about the brain – the mind and consciousness… Perhaps you want to shed some light on these issues thanks!Thank you AK! 🙂

  19. @aliciakuehn

    Thank you for your comments and praise.

    Though I am yet a humble practitioner of the higher arts I know this, The mind and the consciousness are not contained in the brain any more than the internet is contained in your tablet.

    Many superstitious people believe otherwise. They say that because we can see the brain (with dissections and MFI scanners and the like) and because they (I do not say we) cannot see the mind that therefore the mind must be a figment of the imagination of the brain.

    Yet that is so illogical as to beggar the very question of belief. It is basic nonsense that flies in the face of all our evidence of higher planes and levels of consciousness and being.

    For no matter how much you damage your iPad or run its battery down or break it with badware stuff you will never damage the internet. You will merely simply degrade your ability to partake in it.

    This is why we should never do drugs or pills or puzzles that damage our abilities to think and to connection and to emote. Yet it also explains in words of simple syllables why we are greater beings than just the “lumbering meat robots” that Stephen Hawkin so fears may take over the world once equipped with AI.

    Indeed; the very idea of equipping human minds with Artificial Intelligence is a ludicrous non seciteur and should be roundly explained as nonsense whenever the topic is raised.

    We are far greater beings than many of us can hope to imagine even at our most rational, Yet many wish to reduce us to just quantum chemical trails that can be explained by physics. This is their blindspot and emotional weakness.#

    We must work together to help such people overcome their self imposed emotional straight jackets of so-called rational thought.

  20. Barry God-dard,you are brilliant, Antonio Damasio couldn’t explain it better, your comment is so inspiring! thank you very much for your time and energy. AK

    1. Thank God you’ve got a follower at last, Barry (assuming it isn’t you pretending to be one). Perhaps you can concentrate on her now and leave the rest of us to our puzzles and similtaneous equations.

    2. Hi Aliciakuehn. I am too pleased that Barry Goddard has acquired a fan, and that you appear to have as high opinion of him as he does. I genuinely hope you enjoy chatting with him, and may peer in from time to time. I am interested by your Antonio Damasio comment though, as I’m not sure I recognise any Damasio in anything Barry Goddard just said. Surely Barry Goddard is proposing a form of dualism, which is about the only thing that I understand Damasio opposes?

      Not sure what you think?

    3. @adzcliff

      Your words of praise are too kind and I am humbled by you suggestion that others should have a high opinion of me.

      Yet I wish to correct your vision of what I was saying. Dualism of all types is an invention of the human mind. Yet the human mind is not an invention of the brain. Thus dualism is not in any way an ultimate statement of the way Reality is.

      It may be a useful stepping stone for those taking their first steps away from the ego-clinging rationalism that has infected and held back Humanitykind for so very long. Yet is is not a final goal or description of reality that anyone with higher perceptions would recognise as being anything other than a placeholder for further exploration.

      For if dualism were true we would simply have split the universe into two separate aspects each of which wold require a separated explanation.

      I can see how instinctive such an approach is for those who think all problems can be solved with similtaneous equations. Yet it is a false path that leads to treating reality as a parlour-game puzzle rather than the cosmic mystery it truly is for those of us when we first start developing our higher faculties of perception and insight.

      Thus we should be wary of dualism as a limited unconnected thesis – much as relativity and quantum mechanics are the dual unconnected non-agreeing theories of the physical world.

      When we get beyond dualism and relativity and quanta then we are starting to make real progress in the exploration of mind and universe together as one.

    4. Barry Goddard.

      If minds exist, but aren’t in brains, then we have situation than might reasonably be called ‘dualism’. You may think this term is insufficient to define your particular version of unembodied minds, but so far you have failed to convince me. I was also interested in this:

      “Dualism of all types is an invention of the human mind. Yet the human mind is not an invention of the brain. Thus dualism is not in any way an ultimate statement of the way Reality is.”

      It looks to me like you are trying to construct some sort of syllogism. (A is an invention of B, yet B is not an invention of C, thus A is not…). If I am correct – regardless of its validity – why is this not an attempt at the the ‘ego-clinging rationalism’ that you so despise? Is it the case I have mentioned before where rationality applies only when it suits you, but should be derided and rejected when it doesn’t?

      (By the way, I have some sympathies with your negative claims that minds may not yet be reduced solely to brains, but your positive claims that minds therefore exist in some Chopra-eske collective ether seem to be missing quite a few links in the argument. But, yes, I accept, non-rationality doesn’t require links, infinite conclusions can arise from infinite premises. If rainbows, and not cheese, then fish. Yeah, yeah.)

    5. @adzcliff

      Alas you are thinking so hard. Yet thinking cannot help you reach truth and reality and beauty or even cosmic enlightenment.

      The universe is not made of thought – no matter how much hermit solipsists may wish it so. Thus if it is not made of thought thinking cannot be the route to understanding it,

      Thus all the puzzling and problem solving and equations merely simply direct you away from reality and into an ego cave that is a cage in which you cower.

      To truly see the beauty of the world lose your mind and come to your senses. Like a painter drawing what exactly they see rather than what they see in their filtered minds’ eyes simply see what is there. And then you will truly know.

      There are paths to reaching this understanding. The ancients of past days have done so and left us guides and clues and great big waypoint signs that cannot fail to direct us if only we had the nous to read them rather than dismiss them as irrelevant for solving puzzles and playing mind games or being dismissive of those of us who humbly try to point the way forward.

      You may think the world is bounded by rainbows cheese and fish. Yet they do not even start to begin to be relevant to any true seeing of the understanding of the cosmos.

      By reaching upward and outward from our ego limitations to beyond the sky and the stars we can begin to see the limitless possibilities of cosmic freedom. That path is what I can humbly help others to step upon. Once upon it the distance and height you gain is immeasurably yours alone to choose.

      As soon as you stop you will be ready to start. Thus please no more filling your head with syllogisms. That is like a starving person trying to cook recipe books.

    6. Arthur was walking in the park when he saw his friend, Daniel. He saw that Daniel had his eyes closed. Arthur asked Daniel if he was OK and Daniel said he was very tired because he had carried a tree for five miles. Arthur told Daniel he was either a liar or completely mad! However, Daniel was able to prove he did, in fact, carry a tree for five miles. How was that possible?

    7. It disheartens me that despite the consensus that we stop publishing puzzles in the blog that @Edie continues to do so.

      Nonetheless I am not disheartened and I have devised another method to return this blog to the dizzying heights of its original roots – that is the discussion of matters of crucial psychological importance.

      I speak of course of setting puzzles that can only be answered by people with a depth of humane maturity and psychological insight and spiritual awareness.

      I will set a few such puzzles below in the sure hope that those who work diligently to solve them will gain in such positive holistic dimensions.

      Yet first we are all familiar with the trick lateral thinking type puzzle. This sort of thing: “A midget, dyed blue, is dead in an elevator. What happened?” That is cheap psychological storytelling. Many more such examples are here: http://www.rinkworks.com/brainfood/p/latreal1.shtml

      Instead the ones below rely only on holistical approaches to the depths of our very inner being.

      Yet before we begin an answer for the curious. The midget drowned when a lump of toilet ice (containing blue dye) fell from an airplane into the conveniently open top of the elevator shaft.

      “A zookeeper shoots all the ostriches – and is given a medal. Why?”

      “A man reads the newspaper headline and shoots the bus driver – who laughs. Why”

      “A famous singer-songwriter (not Paul Simon – that would be too easy) finishes an encore and then strangles the sound engineer. Why is this and where did it happen?”

      “A box of chocolates – one missing. A fish tank – one fish too few. A carton of eggs – with 13 eggs. What is happening”

      By reflecting and meditating on these puzzles you will become more insightful and calmer and all round a better human being. That is my promise to you.

      Yet please: drop the dull mathematical stuff. No one cares.

    8. I can think of many answers to this question, but I expect there is a much more elegant one that I am missing. Unless of course this question has been posted by Barry Goddard posing as someone else; in which case, I guess all answers are equally valid. To suggest anything else would be to be embracing ‘rationalism’…

  21. @adzcliff

    We have indeed a mystery facing us. That is indeed a post I once made. It has been reposted by someone who has signed it as @Edie.

    Was it Edie or was it not Edie? I am inclined to think it was not. Despite Edie’s increasingly eccentric and weirdness fill postings it is never been his style to copy someone elses posts.

    He may of course be trying to begin a new life by copying me – in the same way that a young artist may begin their painting career by making copies of paintings by the great masters (I say this merely as an example of what may be happening in his deranged brain – I do not say that I am a great master).

    Or yet it may not have been Edie and we have a mystery suitable for the talents of a Miss Marple.

    We have posts. And we have names. Yet we cannot be sure that any posts (other than my own of course) are have been posted under the right names.

    Some – Edie perhaps – would try to turn this into a Puzzle – he would say we could somehow find the right names based on an exact reading of the way the Puzzle is phrased. Sadly we live in the real world and such puzzles are merely a distraction for lesser minds. We have a Mystery not a Puzzle.

    I shall commune with the spirits in the stars and see if any inspirational intuition comes upon me. Yet I fear such a mundane usage of spiritual gifts will prove to be a disappointment – at least to those who want “hard knowledge answers”.

    It may simply be that a one-time trickster has visited this blog. Thus if we ignore them they may grow weary of their tricks and go elsewhere leaving us free once again to discuss matters of cosmic import without having to be puzzled over mysteries.

    1. This makes no sense at all. Why should someone be tired because they have carried a bonsai tree for five miles? Why should the very act of carrying a bonsai tree be the reason for tiredness?

      The carrying of a bonsai tree alone does not make one tried except in the literalistic world of puzzles where one can be precise and pedantic about the wording – or one can ignore it if one so chooses,

      This is arbitrary and has no bearing on one’s search for the simple truths of the universe that stare at us from the cosmos above and from our very hearts from within.

      “Daniel said he was very tired because he had carried a tree for five miles” Because he had carried a tree for five miles. If he had not been carrying thr tree thus he would not have been tired by the five mile walk. And thus if he had just carried any old tree for a lesser distance (perhaps a spruce or a larch) he would not be tired. Yet under the specifics of the puzzle: a tree. Carried. For five miles. By Daniel. Who speaks of it. To Arthur. We are tp conclude that it must be a bonsai tree?

      This is not rational thought. This is not clever and/or amusing word play. This is just the mad rantings of a Puzzler driven mad by the insanities and inanities of the “art” of setting pointless puzzles.

      Let us free ourselves – and this blog and its readers from such pointless double twaddleness and turn once more to the deeper and higher things of life.

      Spiritual cosmology. Astrology. Inner exploration. Higher visionary journeying with an experienced guide. These are some of the things of import in this life.

      But a magic bonsai tree that saps the energy from Daniel in the course of a five mile walk? That is a sad dead end for the human imagination impoverished to such an extent that that is all they can come up with for a “puzzle”.

      Time to draw a sorry line under the whole puzzling enterprise. Surely that is the one thing those of us rational enough to be able to think would agree upon.

    2. “This is not rational thought.”

      Then why aren’t we to congratulate Eddie and/or Gabby Bollard for “lifting their rational filters”? Or have a relapsed into an unhealthy rationalism again, whereas yours is dose perfect? You don’t make it easy…

    3. Yet another pathetic response from BG, Inconsistent, incoherent, incomprehensible, inebriated.

  22. @adzcliff

    You fail to distinguish pre-rational from rational from trans- (or post-) rational.

    Some people are not rational at all. They cannot think and do not know they cannot think. They are their own private emotional train wreck. They do not know it of course – they do not have the thinking capability to perceive their cognitive blindspot. Several of the regular commentators here meet this level of pre-thinking ability.

    Some people are rational yet they use it too much, Like a child with a hammer who sees all as if it were a nail. Despite their binge thinking they have no ability in the wider or deeper sense, They can solve puzzles. Whoop-di-do. Big deal. It is thinking yet only at a cognitive level.

    Others are trans-rational. We can use our rational mind a tool at the few times when it is appropriate. Yet we do not become over reliant on it. We can equally and better intuit the higher nature of our being and of the reality that surrounds and enfolds us. We have the true ability to think at higher levels.

    Think of it like this. One person is illiterate. Another has an A-level in English. A third has a PhD in Languages. The illiterate pre-A level person cannot even read a book. The precocious teenager with an A-level will bore you to tears with their shallow analysis of popular song lyrics. The post-A level PhD scholar is humble and caring and can truly discuss the full extent of the meaning of language. Which would you prefer to be?

    It is saddening to see seemingly intelligent people limited to puzzle solving and word jousting. Go beyond that and reach the true reality. The cosmos is truly as big as the universe and more. We should not artificially limit ourselves or our potential.

    Let us learn from and be inspired by my humble words here and from henceforth on this blog let us aspire to inspire rather than be like @edie and lower an eyeore-like blanket of dull rationality over the bright and enlightening discussions that some of us sneak past the rationalistas who would box us in.

    1. Do think, don’t think…now I don’t know if or what to think. Can you recommend a thinking tool for differentiating your writings from pseudo-intellectual nonsense please?

    2. If I may be permitted to to say a few words on this matter?

      Are we, the human species, unreasonable? Do rational arguments have any power to sway us, or is it all intuition, hidden motivations, and various other forms of prejudice? The answer isn’t simple, but we may not be irrational creatures after all.

      The question has been hanging over me because of my profession. I work as a cognitive psychologist, researching and teaching how people think. My job is based on rational inquiry, yet the picture of human rationality painted by our profession can seem pretty bleak. Every week I hear about a new piece of research which shows up some quirk of our minds, like the one about people given a heavy clip board judge public issues as more important than people given a light clip board. Or that more attractive people are judged as more trustworthy, or they arguments they give as more intelligent.

      Commentators and popularizers of this work have been quick to pick up on these findings. Dan Ariely has a book calling us Predictably Irrational, and the introduction tells us “we are pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend. We usually think of ourselves [with] ultimate control over the decisions we make [but] this perception has more to do with our desires… than reality.” Cordelia Fine’s book A Mind of Its Own has the subtitle “how your brain distorts and deceives,” whilst David McRaney doesn’t pull any punches with the title of his You Are Not So Smart.

      The wider context is the recent progress in the sciences that puts our species in the biological context of the animals, a project that most psychologists are signed up to, to some degree. A reflection of this is all the experiments which attempt to give a mechanistic —that is natural—account of the mind, an account which downplays idiosyncrasy, subjectivity, and non-determinism. The philosopher John Gray was reflecting on this trend in research, as well as giving vent to his own enthusiastic pessimism, when he wrote:

      We think our actions express our decisions. But in nearly all of our life, willing decides nothing. We cannot wake up or fall asleep, remember or forget our dreams, summon or banish our thoughts, by deciding to do so. When we greet someone on the street we just act, and there is no actor standing behind what we do. Our acts are end points in long sequences of unconscious responses. They arise from a structure of habits and skills that is almost infinitely complicated. Most of our life is enacted without conscious awareness.
      The science, and those who promote it, seem to be saying that we’re unreasonable creatures. That’s a problem, given that many of our social institutions (such as democracy) are based on an assumption that rational persuasion can occur. If I believed the story told in these books I would be forced to choose between my profession as a cognitive scientist and political commitment as a citizen and democrat.

      Fortunately, as a cognitive scientist, I don’t have to believe what I’m told about human nature—I can look into it myself. So I set out to get to the bottom of the evidence on how we respond to rational arguments. Does rationality lose out every time to irrational motivations? Or is there any hope to those of us who want to persuade because we have good arguments, not because we are handsome, or popular, or offer heavy clipboards.

      Persuasion and Arguments

      Can Rational Arguments Actually Change People’s Minds?

      One of the most famous examples of the way our minds twist arguments is an experiment performed by Charles Lord, Lee Ross, and Mark Lepper way back in 1979. These American social psychologists recruited participants who had views for or against the death penalty. They then presented them with reports of studies which seemed to support or oppose the death penalty. Here’s a pro-death penalty example:

      Kroner and Phillips (1977) compared murder rates for the year before and the year after adoption of capital punishment in 14 states.

      In 11 of the 14 states, murder rates were lower after adoption of the death penalty.
      This research supports the deterrent effect of the death penalty.

      Lord and colleagues found that people didn’t change their minds in the direction of the arguments presented to them—far from it. Rather, people who had pro-death penalty views found flaws and biases in the anti-death penalty studies, and vice versa. The participants in the experiment ended up with more extreme views than they started with—the pro- people becoming more pro and the anti- becoming more anti. This “biased assimilation effect,” whereby we only believe evidence that fits with what we already believe, is no historical artifact. Adam Corner and colleagues from the University of Cardiff showed in 2012 that this bias holds for a very contemporary topic—climate change. People who were more skeptical about climate change rated editorials supporting the reality and importance of climate change as less persuasive and reliable than those people who were less skeptical.

      At first glance, evidence like this looks like a triumph for the “we’re all irrational” team. And don’t be tempted to dismiss this as evidence that the people in the experiment are bad thinkers or somehow not qualified think about the topic. Another recent study showed that the more scientific education a climate skeptic had, the stronger their skepticism was likely to be.

      But I want to persuade you that this is evidence of the power of reason, not unreason. Psychologists perform their interventions on participants who are far from a blank slate—they are all adults, usually University educated (our great weakness is performing most psychology experiments on psychology students), all probably having spent years developing their opinions about the world. It is not really surprising that their views can’t be dislodged with a few choice anecdotes. Who’d want opinions if they were shifted by the slightest counter-argument. That’s not rationality.

      To really look at the power of reason, we need to look at the effect of strong rather than weak arguments. Unfortunately, as two leading researchers wrote in a 1998 review, “relatively little is known about what makes an argument persuasive.”

      Two decades earlier, one of the authors of this report, Richard Petty, had been involved in a piece of research which showed an important qualification you need to take account of if you want to measure how persuasive good arguments can be. Along with John Cacioppo, Petty ran an experiment looking at how involvement in an issue affected the power of arguments to persuade. The experimenters tried to persuade undergraduates at the University of Missouri that University regulations should be changed so that all students would have to pass an additional comprehensive exam before being allowed to graduate. Previous work had revealed that such a change was “strongly counter-attitudinal for most college students.” That’s psychology code for “they hated the idea.” Cacioppo and Petty varied the kinds of arguments they used on their volunteers. Half received strong arguments in favor of the change, and half weak arguments—arguments that had obvious flaws or simple counter-arguments. A second factor was manipulated: how involved people felt in the argument. Half the volunteers were told that this change was under consideration for the University of Missouri. In other words, that it would affect them, possibly requiring them to pass an extra exam or flunk their degree. The other half were told that the change was being considered at North Carolina State University (approximately 1000 miles away).

      The results show that when people have low involvement in an argument, neither the strong or weak arguments were persuasive. People’s minds were made up, and no argument shifted them. But in the high involvement condition both the strong and weak arguments had a significant effect. Weak arguments entrenched people’s positions—they shifted their attitude to be more against the final exam. Strong arguments, however, had the effect you might expect from reasonable people; they shifted their attitudes to be less against the final exam idea (it still wasn’t very popular, but it was less unpopular).

      This research, and research that followed on from it, showed that strong arguments can be persuasive, but only when people are motivated to deliberate on the issue. Recently, a team led by Joseph Paxton of Harvard University showed that, in the domain of moral arguments, strong arguments were only persuasive if people were given some deliberation time before being forced to answer. Like crimes, it seems, reasoning requires both motive and opportunity, but if both are there even in crude psychology experiments we can show that strong arguments persuade.

      Truth Wins

      Can Rational Arguments Actually Change People’s Minds?

      The strongest evidence on the power of argument comes from domains where there is a right answer. For public issues like the death penalty, or moral arguments, it will never be clear what the right answer is. Because of this, one person’s strong argument won’t be the same as another’s. In logic or mathematics, however, because a correct answer can be defined precisely, so can strong arguments.

      For a long time, Psychologists have used a logic task called the Wason Selection Task as a lens on our power of reasoning. The task works like this: imagine there are cards which always have a letter on one side and a number on the other. You are shown, flat on the table, four cards. Their up-facing sides show E, G, 7, and 6, and you are told that you need to test this rule: “All cards with a vowel on one side have an even number on the other side.” Which cards do you need to turn over to test if this rule is true?

      In experiments using this task, over 80% of people test the rule by picking the cards showing “E” and “6” and they are wrong. The result is often held up as an example of the weakness of our powers of logic, showing how unsuited our minds are to formal reasoning.

      The correct answer is that you need to turn over the “E” and the “7” cards. If the “E” card doesn’t have an even number on the other side, the rule is false: a vowel did not lead to an even number. Similarly, if the “7” card has a vowel on the other side, the rule has also been shown to be false: a vowel led to a non-even number. Turning over the “6” card doesn’t tell you anything, since the rule doesn’t say anything about what even numbers cards ought to have on the other side (i.e. it doesn’t say that non-vowels can’t lead to even numbers too).

      But what is often held up as a testimony to our irrationality can also be a laboratory for examining our rationality. Whilst the selection task is normally completed by individuals, you can also ask small groups to try and solve the task. When you do this, two remarkable things happen. Firstly, the success rate jumps massively so that most groups solve the task correctly (75% or more, compared to a success rate of less than 10% for individuals). Secondly, we can observe the process of discussion that generates the correct solutions, enabling us to discern something powerful and encouraging about group reasoning.

      Transcripts of groups reasoning about the selection task show that in the process of discussion groups manage to construct arguments in favor of the correct answer, i.e. the answer that is in line with the logic of hypothesis testing. Other work on group reasoning, this time using mathematical problems, has shown that often it is enough for a single member of group to realize the correct answer for the group to submit this as their final decision. This “Truth Wins” scenario is in total contrast to what psychologists will normally tell you about group function. In most domains, from creativity to tug-of-war, a phenomenon called “social loafing” holds, whereby the performance of the group is less than the sum of expected effect of individuals acting alone.

      This encouraging story about the power of reason needs to be put in the context of the research on persuasion. The groups in these experiments have a common goal and, we must assume, trust each other and are committed to the task. Furthermore the solutions can be demonstrated to be correct. In these circumstances rational argument is productive.

      Prove Me Wrong

      Can Rational Arguments Actually Change People’s Minds?

      Another result that comes from analyzing transcripts of the these types of experiments is that people are only persuaded when they can be shown that the answer they are currently advocating is wrong. Insight into how to do this comes from experiments on the so-called “Illusion of Explanatory Depth.” The illusion concerns our beliefs about how well we understand complex systems—ranging from the forces driving global terrorism to how a flush toilet works. The original research which framed the phenomenon asked people to self-rate their understanding of how things work. Examples for this experiment were taken from the classic children’s book The Way Things Work. The volunteers were asked to rate how well they understood things like “How a speedometer works,” “How a helicopter flies” or “How a cylinder lock opens with a key.” After they give these ratings, the participants were asked to write out a full explanation of how the items worked. They then answered test questions about their understanding. They then rated their original understanding again. After the trying to provide explanations, participant’s ratings of understanding dropped. After the test questions they dropped even further, revealing that most people have a far less confident understanding of these things than they initially believe.

      There is a lesson here for all of us about over confidence. The authors of the study, Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil from Yale University, ascribe the effect to the ease with which we interact with these systems, allowing us to directly appreciate their effects (e.g. we make the car go faster, and the speedometer shows the new speed). We, they argue, then mistake this sampling of the environment for our own knowledge. Without the working system in front of us, we’re actually pretty ignorant of its internal operation.

      But for me the interesting lesson is that the study participants came to realize they were wrong in their original assessments. Although full of confidence initially, they moved to re-rating their understanding as dramatically lower—they were, in other words, persuaded to change their minds about something (in this case, about how much they knew). How did this happen?

      Follow up work published last year confirms that asking people to provide mechanistic explanations can play a vital role in persuading them they are mistaken. Philip Fernbach, of the University of Colorado, and colleagues asked participants in an experiment to provide opinions on policies which are generally contentious in the US, things like healthcare, social security and tax. So, for example, they indicated their support for polities such as transitioning to a single-payer health care system. Whether they were for or against the policy, the average participant was a long way from neutral. Half were then asked to give reasons why they felt like they did, and the other half asked to give an explanations of how the policy would have effects. Both groups then re-rated their position for or against the policy and these “after” scores were compared with the “before” scores. The “reasons” group didn’t shift their views at all, remaining just as entrenched in their positions, for or against, as when they started the experiment. The “explanations” group did change, on average becoming more moderate in their positions. The authors conclude that the illusion of explanatory depth supports political extremism, and that when we are asked to provide explanations for how we think the world works, some of that illusion evaporates, undermining our previous certainty.

      This research goes some way to explaining why causal reasons have been found to be more persuasive than statistical ones (in this case arguing that you cannot catch AIDS from touching someone with AIDS, because transmission occurs via HIV in bodily fluids, compared to arguing that you cannot catch AIDS from touching someone with it because no one ever has).


      This raises the general topic of how we react to arguments. More recent research has shown that even children as young as three prefer an argument that uses reasons to a circular argument

      So it seems that, despite all the biases we’re subject to, we are sensitive to reason—we discriminate better arguments from worse ones, often recognize the truth when it can be demonstrated, and adjust the strength of our beliefs when we discover we can’t justify them as fully as we thought. Other work has shown that the skill of recognizing and developing arguments can be taught.

      A movement called deliberative polling uses group discussion as a way of measuring people’s opinions (rather than the “stop them in the street and get a knee-jerk reaction” strategy). Typically, this approach gathers less extreme views— for example, people’s opinions on the value of prisons as way of treating crime are more moderate, less in favor—as well as leaving participants better informed, more willing to compromise and more aware of nuances in the issue debated.

      Can Rational Arguments Actually Change People’s Minds?

      These successes of group reason are in stark contrast to the known weaknesses of individual reasoning, which is beset with a susceptibility to logical fallacies (as we saw in the Wason selection task), and biases such as confirmation bias.

      So striking is the success of reason when deployed in the service of argument that two cognitive scientists, Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier, have even proposed that this is what reason evolved to do —convince other people in arguments, a legacy of our biological nature to live in social groups. This explains the success of groups on problems that confound individuals, and also explains why we are so good at thinking up reasons why we’re right, even when we’re wrong. If the purpose of reason is to persuade others that we’re right, rather than find the truth directly, then this is just what you’d expect.

      This theory connects with that of another important theorist of rationality, Jonathan Haidt. In his book The Righteous Mind, Haidt argues that intuitions come before reasons in arguments about moral issues, and that our social natures means that it is next to impossible to persuade someone under conditions of group competition (such as the current conditions of US politics).

      Haidt isn’t saying that we can’t persuade other people about in arguments about moral issues, just that reason and argument are less important than group membership and intuition.

      If you’re interested in irrationality in persuasion then the very first place to start is the book Influence by social psychologist Robert Cialdini. This classic work looks at six major factors which can help persuade other people. For example, one major factor is “reciprocity,” whereby we feel compelled to give something back when people have given something to us (for example when a car salesperson has agreed to cut the price by 10%, maybe we feel we should raise the amount we’re willing to pay in return). There’s no need to labor the opportunities for the unscrupulous to take advantage of this kind of habit of mind. None of Cialdini’s important persuasion factors are rational argument, so at first glance it looks as if Cialdini’s manual of persuasion is coming firmly from the “we’re irrational” side. But a second look might give us pause. Much of the evidence on which the power of these factors to aid persuasion is based assumes a situation where you have an at least half-way rational argument to begin with. A closer look at the factors Cialdini highlights shows that some of them are things we would expect to be possessed by someone whose thinking was generally rational. For example, one of Cialdini’s principles is the need for people to appear consistent, so that if people first say they support protecting the environment, for example, they are then far more likely to agree to donate money to a green charity. But although our desire to be consistent can tie us in knots, for a reasoning person it is far preferable to the alternative which is to revel in inconsistency and to feel no compulsion to avoid contradiction.

      Other persuasion factors highlighted by Cialdini are things which, you could argue, naturally accrue to someone who is more rational: they are more likeable, have more authority, are more like to gather social proof (lots of people will agree with them). Maybe relying on these factors to judge whether you should be persuaded can lead to irrational mistakes, but in the long term they might help distinguish more rational from less rational arguments.

      Paul Bloom is a proponent of the power of reasoning in moral persuasion, arguing that we have direct evidence of the power of reasoning in cases where morality has changed —over time, people have been persuaded to accept gay marriage, for example, or to reject slavery. Reasoning may not be as fast as intuition, as Haidt claims, but it can play a role in where those intuitions come from.

      Bloom cites an idea Peter Singer describes in his book The Expanding Circle. This is that when you decide to make a moral argument—i.e. an argument about what is right or wrong—you must to some extent step outside of your self and adopt an impartial perspective. If you want to persuade another that you should have more of the share of the food, you need to advance a rule that the other people can agree to. “I should get more because I’m me” won’t persuade anyone, but “I should get more because I did more work, and people who did more work should get more” might. But once you employ an impartial perspective to persuade you lend force to a general rule, which may take on a life of its own. Maybe tomorrow you slack off, so your own rule will work against you. In order to persuade you struck a bargain with the group’s shared understanding of what’s reasonable. Once you’ve done this, Singer argues, you breathe life into the internal logic of argument. The “impartial perspective” develops its own dynamic, driving reason forward quite apart from the external influences of emotion, prejudice and environment. Not only can the arguments you advance come back to bite you, but they might even lead you to conclusions you didn’t expect when you first formulated them.

      Are We Rational or Not?

      So where does this leave us?

      Are we a rational animal, or as Robert Heinlein said, merely a rationalizing one? Sure, there’s no shortage of evidence that our intuitions, emotions, prejudices and motivations can push reason around. Good luck to you if you want to use only argument to persuade, unless you’ve got people who already like you or trust you (ideally both) you’re going to have a hard time, but amidst the storm and shouting of psychological factors, reason has a quiet power. People do change each other’s minds, and if you can demonstrate the truth of your point of view, or help someone come to realize the short-comings of theirs, maybe you can shift them along. But beware Singer’s warning: logic has its own dynamic. If you open yourself to sincerely engage in argument then it is as likely that your interlocutor will persuade you as the other way around, after all, none of us has sole claim on what it means to be rational.

      What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?

    3. Hi Sheldon Cooper. Are you Tom Stafford, or is this an impressive (and albeit very interesting) piece of plagiarism? …Or spam maybe?

    4. So, Sheldon, you didn’t have time to write a short post, so you wrote a long one.

  23. Hush, little adzcliff.

    If you cannot understand basic thoughts about rational cognition please remain silent while the adults converse. You may learn much.

  24. @adzcliff

    It is the height of poor manners and ill breeding to accuse a fellow poster of plagiarism.

    We maintain a high level of civility and kindness and courteous dialogue here on this blog. You would do well to remember that and desist from your ad hominid attacks on others.

    I know you must feel inadequate surrounded by the high intellectual level of the conversations here and that you do not feel able to discuss ideas and reality with the same depth of experience and insight as some of us can do. Yet to descend to name calling merely simply shows your limitations to all the world.

    You have surely in your own analysis let yourself down – not to speak of the rest of us and everyone else.

    Please be a like a mirror and reflect more before you lash out.

    1. Actually Barry Goddard, you may do well to read my posts again.

      Firstly, I think you’ll struggle to find any incidence of ‘name calling’. Secondly, you’ll notice that I didn’t accuse Sheldon Cooper of plagiarism; I asked the question, and gave him/her the benefit of the doubt that he/she was the original author of an essay that exists in at least two other locations on the Internet (this one being cut-and-pasted from an incomplete re-posting of the original). I also considered whether the post had been generated by a computer. The author (who ever that maybe) has since suggested the post is justified, as they were 15 years ahead of the essay’s original author (even though many of the cited studies would not have existed).

      This all leads me to ask what the correct response should be to someone who passes off someone else’s work as their own, within which they claim to be a cognitive psychologist. If we can’t call it plagiarism (if that’s what it turns out to be), what should we call it? You talk about etiquette, but surely unapologetic plagiarism is the height of intellectual indecency??

    2. And does your high level of civility, kindness and courteous dialogue stretch to denigrating the genetic compatibility of another commentator’s parentage?

  25. Ah @adzcliff, so you little trickster you were only asking questions?

    You were only asking questions in the same way that the Nazi’s were only obeying orders maybe?

    Do you realise that “only asking questions” is a standard school yard bullying tactic? (“Didn’t say he was fat sir – just asking if he was”).

    Do you know how that reveals your true character? Would you be happy to learn that your true character is that of a very childish bully who uses words in the same way that a sadist might use a kitten?

    Would you prefer to be the one asking the questions? Does that give the inner sociopath in you a better sense of power over others who (you then think) are forced to dance to your tune and answer your endless bullying questions?

    Are you familiar with the idea that “a fool can ask more questions that a wise man can answer”?

    Please would you desist from your babyish attempts to understand the universe and listen to those of us who have repeatedly tried to help you despite you spitting verbal venom at us?

    Surely you would like to be a better person than you know you are now?

    1. Thank you for this Barry Goddard. I particularly loved this:

      “You were only asking questions in the same way that the Nazi’s were only obeying orders maybe?”

      Good to know Godwin’s Law is alive and well in such impressive form on the Internet. I think you may have forgotten for a moment there that we were only discussing whether another commentator had posted someone else’s work as their own, and what the correct response to that should be. I won’t seek further clarification about this for risk you will analogise me to a wife-beater or paedophile (given that Nazi and kitten-abuser are already spent), such is your wild abandon for throwing about such impressively offensive insults. It will instead just conclude with a statement.

      I don’t think Sheldon Cooper is Tom Stafford, a cognitive psychologist and/or the original author of the essay he/she posted. Because he/she didn’t reference the original author, it is more than reasonable to define this as plagiarism (and as it turns out, unapologetic and defended plagiarism). I think the reason Barry Goddard is refusing to acknowledge this, is because it was identified by one of his critics. I think if I had posted someone else’s work without acknowledging the original author, Barry Goddard would have been all over it like a rash, (humbly, …always ‘humbly’) calling me a plagiarist, low-grade, and/or genocidal maniac (or insults of that calibre). I think Barry Goddard likes to set the questions, and can lash out around disobedience.

  26. @adzcliff

    It is sad that none of your friends are here to defend you. No Steve or Edie or Huge or DAve. They can all see what we can all see. Your sad lonely negativeness has edged you into a hermit like existence creeping out only to be negative – or solve puzzle equations.

    I feel I remain your only friend. Humble though I am I am willing to do whatever is necessary to help you. Yes chastise when needed. Also offer words of support and encouragement when you show slight signs of progress. And always willing to help turn your depths towards what is of true value in the universe: insight enlightenment spiritual nourishment and cosmic harmony.

    For surely though your words deny it your heart and conscience both tell you that I embody much which is of value in this universe while you have little to show for your years of failed growth.

    I say this to be kind. For truly though you are a grumpy hermit – in your own words “a wife-beater or paedophile” – there is still much hope for you.

    Learn to look upwards with an open heart rather than a clenched mind. And then surely you too will begin to see the greater potential voyage your life’s journey could embark upon.

    For in all humbleness and kindness help is at hand if only you drop the ego-clinging long enough to cry out for it

    1. Nasty, nasty, disturbing stuff.

      Best I go away for while in case this isn’t you at your worst…

    2. Just been on a nice holiday in Lake Balaton, Hungary.

      What’s been happening while I’ve been away? Hope you’ve all been nice and magnanimous with eachother.

    3. @Edie

      Welcome back from your break.

      Adzcliff seems to have come to some insight about his/her personal behaviour and the way it has been disruptive to this blog. Thus she/him has decided to withdraw for a time to perhaps quietly meditate and repair character flaws.

      For this move we should congratulate adzcliff. It takes personal courage to admit that one was so wrong so publicly.

      I am by nature a humble person so I cannot accept any praise for helping adzcliff reach that position. Yet the record shows I posted several times to help adzcliff – and my posts were despite many sad and negative responses from others (adzcliff included) who made many allusions to what they saw as failings in me. Alas for them; they were holding a mirror to themselves for the world to see them all.

      I hope too that you Edie will be able to gain some crumb of insight into your actions here – and that will make both here and you a better place.

      All said of course with my usual innate kindness and concern for the well being of others.

    4. Dear Barry Goddard

      It had been my intention never to post here again for both of our sakes. I am reminded from a previous post that you are the same Barry Goddard of the Astrotabletalk blog. As such, you should by now be aware that someone has posted a short provocative comment under my screen name; and I have since posted to disassociate myself from this comment and request it be deleted. Whilst I take full responsibility for all of our disagreements here, it had never been my intention to extend our conversations elsewhere on the Internet – especially your personal astrology blog. I think we can safely assume that this is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent me for reasons I do not understand. I can also confirm that I have never posted here or anywhere else as anyone but myself. It has been a few hours now, so I would please like to repeat my polite request that you remove any trace of my screen name from your blog. (A quick sweep shows that you do remove comments on occasion.) I am not suggesting that the fake-post has anything to do with you or anyone associated with your blog. I trust you think this is a reasonable request, and would like to thank you in advance for your cooperation. I now hope to resume my break from commenting on this blog.

    5. I don’t have anything sensible to say [no change there then] but thought you would all [all? all two of you] like to see my new title.

    1. Back by popular demand!!!!!!!!!!

      I like to approximate conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit (F = 9C/5 + 32) by the following relationship F = 2C + 30. At what temperature is the approximation spot on?

      Barry, please keep your complaint to 4 paragraphs at most.

    2. The solution is valid when 9C/5+32 = 2C +30, so it’s a sample case of solving for C.

      = 10

  27. @Edie

    You enquire after my well being – which is most kind and shows that some of what I have striven to impart to you has had a small effect.

    Yet can you not see that your very actions are once again being destructive of this blog. Indeed your behaviour is perhaps a far bigger puzzle than the ones you would have us look at on your behalf.

    This blog is for the discussion of deeper matters of cosmic significance. Discussions of life and consciousness and human depths and all that is holy and just. Yet once more you attempt to publish a puzzle.

    I say attempt because you have failed. It is regrettably like watching a tipsy teenage at a cocktail party trying to impress the real adults with their tawdry insights into life based mainly on tedious song lyrics.

    For you have not even published a puzzle! You have simply asked us to solve a similtaneous equation (your equation and the more traditionally accurate one where we multiply by five and divide by eight to get the metric equivalent).

    “Solve my very clever equations” you are saying while the adults smile condescendingly and wait for you to get bored and go watch the TV.

    Yet perhaps today is your lucky day for I have taken the time and the pains to humbly and kindly (and with considerable good humour) chide you and provide you with a better wider more human perspective that can help you drop your limited ego worldview and embrace the higher values to which we all aspire.

    Thus please read and deeply reflect upon this. Accept it as my gift to you on this fine summers’ day of today,

  28. @DAve

    Thank you for your well wishes.

    Voayaging in astral realms is not something a gentleman would speak of in a blog of this nature.

    To be one with reality means that we do in our minds at least have the capability to journey everywhere. And as our minds are as much a part of reality as mountains or colours or love then we do truly have that ability.

    Many would deny that – and speak up to try to deny it to others too – perhaps because they wish to limit themselves to their limited belief structures rather that to the totally open dimensions of being that reality inhabits.

    I choose not to be a reality denier. And thus I inherit and inhabit the freedoms that many volunteer to forgo.

    I will when the time is right say more on this. And for now @DAve I just say that you have this infinite innate potential and thus you need not limit yourself to this earth – or alpha centauri – or any part of the mundane plane.

    It is as simple as letting go of the ties that hold you down.

    And as a first step: study the stars. They are already free and they beckon silently to you.

    Be free and be at peace.

    1. hard to answer this puzzle in ascii.

      the trick is to tilt the M over by 45 degrees, so that the divot in the M forms one of the corners of the +. arrange the other M so that it’s the mirror image of the first, and touch the tips of the legs of the Ms together. like this:


      but tilted 45 degrees. from there, the arrangement of the four triangles should be obvious.

  29. @Edie

    I am disappointed that despite all our conversations and the support of so many other posters that you still persist in asking “puzzles”.

    In this very week we have celestial visitors to inspire awe in any properly feeling human being – the Perseids are upon us once more and to stay indoors and pollute our minds with puzzles when we could be sat out all night welcoming our celestial visitors – well this is hard to understand and most disappointing.

    Thus I say to you Edie – please desist from wasting your life and start living to the full in the moment as so many of us do. Even if you have never wondered at the sight of the Perseids before today – this very night – could be the first evening of the rest of your life.

    Please take my plea in the kindly spirit with which it is shaped. To squander a human life is a sad indeed thing. There is a seat beside me if you wish to look up in awe and friendship.

  30. Once again someone (or someone else) has posted a comment using my name when it was not a comment I had either made or would wish to make. I would certainly not wish to have it made anonymously by someone pretending to be me.

    I cannot even begin to speculate why someone (or other) should wish to do so. Their motives must perchance remain always impenetrable unless they come forward and volunteer to explain. And even then they may not have access to sufficient personal insight and psychological depth to be able to explain themselves clearly.

    Yet it remains obvious that they have done so perhaps out of a desire to be thought (even if only by those who read this blog) to be me.

    Why they would wish that is a mystery.

    Yet it is apparent that this is their agenda and they are doing so because they respect by abilities and wisdom and wish to emulate them.

    This I find humbling yet also puzzling. If one wishes to emulate me then I would say emulate my journey to wisdom and kindness and insight. It is not through labelling your words that you will become like me but by gaining deep insight through prolonged spiritual exercises and emotional growth.

    Thus though I am disheartened that they do so I am also encouraged that they are seeking to be on the path to higher knowledge. Such a path is ofttimes strewn with false beginnings – yet at least they are beginnings.

    Still further though for clarity let us all be simply ourselves when we post. This is not the Royal Theatre Company where grown adults are paid to wear strange clothes and make-up and pretend to be fictional beings invented by playwrights. Let us be content with who we are for now, And thus we will grow into what we can be,

    1. @ArseTrollOgre

      I feel your mother had a sharp eye when she named you as you seem to live up to your name by being unneedlessly impolite to others who are simply trying to share their lifes’ experience on this blog.

      Edie may be a twat as you suggest. But it is not the done thing in polite society – not even on something as modern and iconoclastic as the Internet – to say so in such a blunt and uncompromising way.

      Clearly you have no decency filters on your emotions and thus your darkness spills out of your heart and onto the pages of the internet in ways that perhaps your mother foresaw even as it was breaking her heart.

      @Edie – please do not be disheartened by ArseTrollOgre’s comment. Though the truth can hurt it can also help free us from the limited prisms of our egos by helping us see the wider cosmos outside of and beyond our mere limits and likes and dislikes.

      If you have been affected by anything you have read on this blog the please do Edie contact me. My clarity in these issues may help be a comfort to you in your troubled times.

    2. I find it even more humbling that you have responded to my post.
      Needless to say I have read what you have written

    3. Now I am truly humbled
      I meant to write – “needless to say I haven’t read what you have written”

  31. Consider a square of 5 by 5 smaller squares. The task is to divide the square into four pieces along the lines of the smaller squares, in such a way that you can make two smaller squares with these four pieces, without needing to rotate the pieces.

    1. Got it – took some time and pretty patterns in Excel.
      Spoiler follows…

      …a 3×3 square in the corner and three other pieces being a 4 (2×2 square) plus 7 (b shape) and 5 (p shape) joining to making a 4×4 square – all without rotation.

      I don’t see this as a scientific endeavour – but a metaphor for true religion: there are many different ways of viewing the whole but only one that truly fits the creator’s purpose; it may take a little struggle to get there but once you see the solution it is beautifully clear.

      And there are some that try and bend the rules: using 5 pieces perhaps, or rotating or flipping a piece; they think they’ve got the answer but are not there.

      Of course, using symmetry there are a number of equivalent solutions but those are just flavours of the one true Way.

  32. @Edie

    I feel your attempt to add another reductionist puzzle to this blog has fizzled out as indeed it should.

    For the blog is not for scientific endevours and especially not those that see the universe as boxes that can be understood by cutting them up and reassembling them.

    True scientists look to the past for the truth of reality, We see this in archeology and paleontology and geology and especially in cosmological sciences such as astrology and quantum astronomy. This is simply because the past is all we have ever known and all we can become is what emerges from the eternally present past.

    Thus to find wisdom look to the past – as all the most forward-looking scientists do. The potentiality of the future is literally written in the night sky.

    Please now put down your burden of reductionistical puzzling and look to to the freedom of wisdom that comes from understanding the depths of true science.

    This is indeed what Mr Wiseman is attempting and what I will continue to support with enthusiasm and candour and all the intellectual rigour I may assemble.

    You will be happier for this and the blog will become once more a place for fruitful discussion and harmony of thought.

  33. Anyone see the good professor last nightvon ‘Exposed: Magicians, Psychics and Frauds – Storyville’ featuring the amazing James Randi? Thought Barry would be on it.

    1. @Edie I was not on that programme with Mr Wiseman as I have been engaged in activities of considerable importance to the cosmic wellbeing of everyone and so would have had no time if asked.

      However I believe humbly I could have ably assisted Mr Wiseman in revealing those who misuse their claims to psychic abilities in ways that mislead and shortchange the public and others. Sadly these people exist and are common.

      That is simply an extension of my wish to reveal those who mislead others with their claims of “rationality” and ability to solve genuine problems using mathematics – or similtaneous equations as some call it. These people are at least just as dangerous and perhaps more so.

      Perhaps it is time for us all – Edie and Mr Wiseman included – to stand firm with our shoulders to the grindstone in pursuit of the eternal truths that lay spread before us in our own depths.

      That at least would make compelling televisual entertainment of an elevated educational kind.

    2. Mr Goddard, I think you need to get a sense of perspective

      World hunger, civil war, terrorism, poverty, labour exploitation, etc. These are far more worrying aspects of the world we live in. Yet you insist that simultaneous equations (note the correct spelling) are a force for evil. If you indeed are of this view, I would welcome sight of hard evidence that supports your argument.

      Am I correct that mathematics plays some role in Astrolergy in precisely determining the position and alignments of the planets. (Cue “Uranus” joke) So why are you dissing it?

      Incidentally, I caught the most recent episode of the Sky at Night, which firmly put Astroligy in its it place – file under “Fiction”

      I fear that your brain has been permanently addled by spending too much time on Alpha Centauri.

      Get a grip on reality.

    3. @Gabby Bollard

      No matter how much you rant and rail or quote obscure TV entertainments as authoritative sources or misspell easy English words you know in your heart the truth even if you cannot admit to even to yourself.

      We are – and all your science will agree – creatures of the stars. Every atom and electron in our body and beyond has been baked in the heart of previous generations of stars which died to allow our birth.

      Why would those stars and our heritage not have an enduring influence upon us? You sound like the evolution denier who denies the whole course of evolution because she does does not like to think we are emerged from animals.

      And yet we have. We have emerged from animals in just the same way as we have emerged from stars. Both are observably valid sciences and to deny one is to belittle all the others.

      You know this Gabby so why keep on with the science denial? It is not clever nor is it accurate and everyone can see that you are just hiding from reality for some personal emotional reasons.

      I have humbly offered help before in the past when this topic has triggered your previous outbursts. I will continue to be not downhearted and will offer you help now and in the future. I may only be a teacher yet you have much to learn and together perhaps we can literally change the way the world is seen by such as yourself. That alone makes the effort to try worthwhile.

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