## Puzzle 3 – Can you solve it?

Here is today’s new puzzle…..

There are four suspects and one of them has committed a crime.  They make the following statements, but only one of them is telling the truth.  Who committed the crime?

Jon: James did it.
James: Bob did it.
Sid: I didn’t do it.
Bob: James is lying.

Yesterday I posted this puzzle…..

Your task is to identify the phrase indicated in the following types of words….

YOU JUST ME

In this instance the answer is ‘just between you and me’.

See you get on with these six:

1) SALE SALE SALE SALE

2) STAND
I

3) BRO KEN

4) R | E | A | D | I | N | G

5) TIMING TI-MING

6) THE GORILLAS MIST

If you haven’t tried to solve it, have a go now. For everyone else, the answers are below….

OK, here we go…..

1) FOR SALE

2) I UNDERSTAND

3) BROKEN IN HALF

5) SPLIT SECOND TIMING

6) GORILLAS IN THE MIST

Feel free to follow the blog for a free daily puzzle. See you tomorrow!

## Puzzle 2 – Can you solve it?

Welcome puzzle-fiends! Here is today’s puzzle…..

Your task is to identify the phrase indicated in the following types of words….

YOU JUST ME

In this instance the answer is ‘just between you and me’.

See you get on with these six:

1) SALE SALE SALE SALE

2) STAND
I

3) BRO KEN

4) R | E | A | D | I | N | G

5) TIMING TI-MING

6) THE GORILLAS MIST

Feel free to say if you think you have solved them, and even offer clues, but please don’t post the answer.

Yesterday I posted this puzzle….

What letter comes next in this sequence….

W, L, C, N, I, T,_

O, T, T, F, F, S,_

And finally, this one….

A, S, D, F, G, H,_

If you haven’t tried to solve it, have a go now. For everyone else, here are the answers…

W, L, C, N, I, T,_

These are the first letter of the first six words in the sentence….

What Letter Comes Next In These Sequences

and so the next letter is S

O, T, T, F, F, S,_

This the old classic, One, Two, Three. Four, etc., and so the next letter is S (for Seven)

A, S, D, F, G, H,_

And these are the order of the letters on the middle row of a keyboard, so the next letter is J.

Feel free to follow this blog for more daily puzzles. See you tomorrow!

## Puzzle 1 – Can you solve it?

I thought it would be a good time to revisit posting some puzzles. Each day I will post a puzzle and then post the answer the following day. So, here we go with our very first puzzle….

What letter comes next in this sequence….

W, L, C, N, I, T,_

O, T, T, F, F, S,_

And finally, this one….

A, S, D, F, G, H,_

Feel free to say if you think you have solved it, and even offer clues, but please don’t post the answer.

Oh, and feel free to subscribe to the blog to get a notification of each daily puzzle. See you tomorrow!

## Hocus Pocus – the comic that reads your mind!

I am delighted to announce the arrival of the first issue of Hocus Pocus!

I have teamed up with talented illustrator Jordan Collver, writer Rik Worth and colourist Owen Watts to create a comic about magic, mystery, science and the paranormal.

The comic allows you to travel back in time and discover the ‘strange but true’ stories of Victorian mind reader Irving Bishop, pioneering paranormal scientist J B Rhine and Alexander, the mysterious man who knows all. Along the way you will discover the secret science of psychic readings, test your extra-sensory perception and meet a talking horse. Entertaining and educational, it is beautifully printed on heavy card. Not only that, but if you are into magic, you can use the comic to perform several mind reading miracles.

Copies are onside from Travelling Man here

If you are a magician you can get a copy (including secret stuff) from PropDog here

And the magazines website is here.

“From the very first page, Hocus Pocus is a truly mind blowing read….one of the most inventive and gorgeous comics we have read this year”
Pipeline Comics. Full review here.

## Golden Grolla Award

I am delighted and honoured that the Masters Of Magic have announced that they will be giving me a Golden Grolla award for my work into psychology and illusion.

Established in 1953, this is one of the oldest awards in the entertainment world, with previous recipients including Federico Fellini, David Copperfield, Paul Daniels, Dynamo, David Blaine, David Berglas, Arturo Brachetti and Silvan.

This year the other recipient is the multi-talented actor, director and magician, Andy Nyman. Andy co-created the hit stage show ‘Ghost Stories’, has directed several Derren Brown shows, and recently took the lead role in the West-End musical, ‘Fiddler On The Roof’. The two of us met over 20 years ago when we created and performed a Victorian seance show together, and so I am delighted that he is a fellow awardee.

Both awards will be presented at a ceremony in May, and if you are into magic please come along for four days of shows, lectures and talks.

## Monkey Cage and Laughlab

I recently appeared on Radio 4’s ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’, to chat about the psychology of comedy alongside Frank Skinner, Prof Sophie Scott, Robin Ince and Brian Cox. Fun was had and you can listen to the recording here.

I spoke about a project that I conducted a few years ago called ‘Laughlab’. Billed as ‘the scientific search for the world’s funniest joke’, this online experiment ran for a year and was reported across the globe.

The project website had two sections.  In one part, people could input their favourite joke and submit it to an archive.  In the second section, people could answer a few simple questions about themselves (such as their sex, age, and nationality), and then rate how funny they found five randomly selected jokes on a five-point scale ranging from ‘not very funny’ to ‘very funny’.

During the project, we approached some of Britain’s best-known scientists and science writers, and ask them to submit their favourite jokes into LaughLab.   The joke that went on to win the ‘best joke submitted by a well-known scientist’ category, was submitted by Nobel laureate, and professor of chemistry, Sir Harry Kroto:

A man walking down the street sees another man with a very big dog.  The man says: “Does your dog bite?” The other man replies: “No, my dog doesn’t bite”.  The first man then pats the dog, has his hand bitten off, and shouts; “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite”. The other man replies: “That’s not my dog”.

The comedy K
Early in the experiment, we received the following submission:

There were two cows in a field. One said: “Moo.” The other one said: “I was going to say that!”

We decided to use the joke as a basis for a little experiment, and re-entered the joke into archive several times, using a different animal and noise.  We had two tigers going ‘Gruurrr’, two birds going ‘Cheep’, two mice going ‘Eeek’, two dogs going ‘Woof’, and so on.  At the end of the study, we examined what effect the different animals had had on how funny people found the joke.

The winning animal noise joke was:

Two ducks were sitting in a pond, one of the ducks said: “Quack.” The other duck said: “I was going to say that!”

Interestingly, the ‘k’ sound (as in the ‘hard c’) is associated with both the word ‘Quack’ and ‘duck’, has long been seen by comedians and comedy writers as being especially funny.  The idea of the comedy ‘k’ has certainly made it into popular culture.  There was also an episode of The Simpsons, in which Krusty The Clown (note the ‘k’s) visits a faith healer because he has paralysed his vocal chords trying to cram too many ‘comedy k’s’ into his routines.  After being healed, Krusty exclaims that he is overjoyed to get his comedy k’s back, celebrates by shouting out ‘King Kong’, ‘cold-cock’, ‘Kato Kaelin’, and kisses the faith healer as a sign of gratitude.

By the end of the project the project had received 40,000 jokes, and had them rated by more than 350,000 people from 70 countries.  They were awarded a Guinness World Record for conducting one of the largest experiments in history, and made the cover story of The New Yorker.

We carefully went through the huge archive and found our top joke:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.  The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services.  He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”.  The operator says “Calm down.  I can help.  First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”  There is a silence, then a shot is heard.  Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”

Five years after the study, we came across a documentary about Spike Milligan (‘ I Told You I Was Ill’) that contained a brief clip from a 1951 BBC programme called London Entertains with the following early Goon sketch:

Michael Bentine: I just came in and found him lying on the carpet there.
Peter Sellers: Oh, is he dead?
Michael Bentine: I think so.
Peter Sellers: Hadn’t you better make sure?
Michael Bentine: Alright. Just a minute.
Sound of two gun shots.

This is clearly an early version of our winning joke. It is highly unusual to be able to track down the source of a joke, because their origins tend to become lost in the mists of time.  Spike Milligan had died in 2002, but I contacted his daughter Sile, and she confirmed that it was highly likely that her father would have written the material.

LaughLab has now finished but is described in my book, Quirkology.

And you can download over 1000 of the LaughLab jokes (all clean!) here.

## The Life Scientific

I recently joined Jim Al-Khalili on BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific to chat about my work. I have known Jim for many years and so it was lovely to talk about my thoughts on magic, lying and luck. The talk was recorded at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and managed to get quite a bit of attention online. I hope that you enjoy it!

You can listen to the interview here.

## New video

The paperback version of my book, Shoot For The Moon, is just out and we have made a video to celebrate the magic of the Moon landings. I worked with magician Will Houstoun to tell the Apollo story through the medium of sleight of hand – hope you enjoy it!

## Shoot For The Moon!

My latest book, Shoot For The Moon, has just been published, and presents a radically new look at the science of success.

In July 1969, Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, one of humanity’s greatest achievements. A few years ago I was chatting to comedian and space enthusiast Helen Keen about the Apollo landings. I knew that the technology used during the missions has been extremely well documented, and asked whether anyone had explored the psychology behind this remarkable achievement. Helen didn’t think that it had, and kindly put me in touch with her friend, Craig Scott. Craig is another space enthusiast and, over the years, has become friends with many of the people who populated NASA’s Mission Control during the Apollo era. He kindly put me in touch with this remarkable bunch and they were kind enough to agreed to be interviewed them about their historic work.

I discovered that most of the controllers came from modest, working-class, backgrounds, and that they were often the first in their families to go to college. Perhaps most surprising of all, they were astonishingly young. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, the average age of the mission controllers was just twenty-six years old.

After extensive interviewing and research, I eventually identified the eight principles that I believe make-up the Apollo mindset. ‘Shoot For The Moon’ describes these principles, including how the seeds of success were sewn in the President Kenndy’s charismatic speeches, how pessimism was crucial to progress, and how fear and tragedy were transformed into hope and optimism. The book also describes techniques that allow you to incorporate these principles into your own life. Whether you want to start a new business venture, change careers, get promoted, escape the rat race or pursue a lifelong passion, these techniques will help you to reach your own Moon.

Books on success usually focus on genetically gifted Olympians, hardheaded CEOs and risk taking entrepreneurs. This book presents a radically different perspective on how to achieve your aims and ambitions. It tells the inspirational story of a group of ordinary people who did something extraordinary. Perhaps most important of all, once you understand how they did what they did, you can follow in their footsteps and achieve the extraordinary in your own life.

Shoot For The Moon is available in the UK here, and in the US here.

## Theatre of Science!

Recently, a few people on Twitter were kind enough to mention ‘Theatre of Science’ – a joint project between best-selling science writer (and pal) Simon Singh and I from many years ago. I thought it might be fun to turn back the hands of time and share some more information and photos about the project……

In 2001 Simon suggested that the two of us create, and present, a live science-based show at a West End theatre. I knew that this type of entertainment had been popular around the turn of the last century, but was initially sceptical about it working for a modern-day audience. However, Simon won me over and I agreed to give it a go. Simon then persuaded The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to fund the project and The Soho Theatre to stage the show.

In the first half, Simon used mathematics to ‘prove’ that the Teletubbies are evil, undermined The Bible Code, and illustrated probability theory via gambling scams and bets. After the interval, I explored the psychology of deception with the help of magic tricks, optical illusions and a live lie detector. It was all decidedly low-tech and mostly depended on an overhead projector, a few acetates, and some marker pens!  We opened in March 2002 and quickly sold-out. The reviewers were very kind, with The Evening Standard describing the show as ‘… a unique masterclass on the mind’ and What’s On saying that it was “…uplifting, thought-provoking and frequently hilarious.” In 2002 we also took the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

In 2005 we staged a far more ambitious version of the show at the Soho Theatre.

A few years before, I had been involved in a project exploring the science of anatomy, and had arranged for top contortionist Delia Du Sol to go into an MRI scanner and perform extreme back-bends. During Theatre of Science, we showed these scans to the audience as Delia bent her body into seemingly impossible shapes and then squeezed into a tiny perspex box.

In addition, musician Sarah Angliss demonstrated the science behind various weird electronic instruments, and performed songs on a saw and a theremin!

We wanted to end the show on a genuinely dangerous, science-based, stunt. HVFX – a company that makes high voltage electricity equipment – kindly supplied two huge Tesla coils capable of generating six-foot bolts of million-volt lightning across the stage. At the end of each show, either Simon or I entered a coffin-shaped cage and hoped that it would protect us against the force of the million-volt strikes. The stunt attracted lots of media attention and once again we quickly sold out.

In 2006 we staged it at an arts and science festival in New York (co-sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry).

Nowadays we are used to people enjoying an evening of science and comedy in the theatre, but back then lots of people were deeply skeptical about the idea. If we proved anything, it was that it’s possible attract a mainstream audience to a show about science.

Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed reading about it all and huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the project a success, including: Portia Smith, Delia Du Sol, Sarah Angliss, Stephen Wolf, Tracy King, Nick Field, HVFX, Austin Dacey, Jessica Brenner and Caroline Watt (who came up with the title for the show) and, of course…..Simon Singh!

## How to be more productive

I have teamed up with the folks at Business Insider to make this short video containing science-based tips on how to be more productive and a better leader. Enjoy!

## How to remember everything

My new book on how to remember everything is out today!

I have a terrible memory and so went in search of all of the quick and easy mind tricks that will allow you to remember names, faces, your PIN, and other important information.  It even has a super magic trick built into it.

You can buy the book here and I have created this new Quirkology video with 10 amazing memory hacks…

## Interview with Richard Dawkins

In October last year I was invited to CSICON in Las Vegas to interview Professor Richard Dawkins.  The video has just been posted on Youtube, and here’s the two of us chatting about evolution, The God Delusion, and my aunty Jean.

## New Quirkology Video!

After taking a break for a few months, we are back making Quirkology videos!  Here is the first of many……and contains 7 amazing bets that you will always win.  People have been very kind and funny with their comments on YouTube, welcoming us back.  I hope you enjoy it…….

## LaughLab

I am frequently asked about the 2001 LaughLab project, so I thought I would present a brief outline of what we did and what we found……..

In June 2001, I teamed up with the British Science Association to carry out ‘LaughLab’ – the scientific search for the world’s funniest joke.

The project website had two sections.  In one part, people could input their favourite joke and submit it to an archive.  In the second section, people could answer a few simple questions about themselves (such as their sex, age, and nationality), and then rate how funny they found five randomly selected jokes on a five-point scale ranging from ‘not very funny’ to ‘very funny’.

Early findings
We took our first in-depth look at our data three months into the project.  The top joke at that early stage had been submitted by Geoff Anandappa, from Blackpool in the northwest of England, and involved the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his long-suffering sidekick, Dr Watson:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping.  They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep.  Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied: “I see millions and millions of stars.”
Holmes said: “and what do you deduce from that?”
Watson replied: “Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like earth out there.  And if there are a few planets like earth out there, there might also be life.”
And Holmes said: “Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent.”

Science and humour
During the project, we approached some of Britain’s best-known scientists and science writers, and ask them to submit their favourite jokes into LaughLab.   The joke that went on to win the ‘best joke submitted by a well-known scientist’ category, was submitted by Nobel laureate, and professor of chemistry, Sir Harry Kroto:

A man walking down the street sees another man with a very big dog.  The man says: “Does your dog bite?” The other man replies: “No, my dog doesn’t bite”.  The first man then pats the dog, has his hand bitten off, and shouts; “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite”. The other man replies: “That’s not my dog”.

Computers and jokes

We also examined another source of humour – computers.  LaughLab attracted lots of jokes about this topic (‘The software said it needed Windows 98 or better, so I bought a Mac’).  However, it also contained a few jokes actually written by a computer.

A few years ago, Dr Graham Ritchie and Dr Kim Binsted created a computer programme that could produce jokes .  We were keen to discover if computers were funnier than humans, and so entered several of the computer’s best jokes into LaughLab.  The majority of them received some of the lowest ratings in the archive.

However, one example of computer comedy was surprisingly successful, and beat about 250 human jokes:  “What kind of murderer has fibre?  A cereal killer.”

Weasels
In January 2002, we started receiving lots of jokes ending with the same punchline: ‘There’s a weasel chomping on my privates’.  Unbeknown to us, the internationally syndicated American humorist Dave Barry had just devoted an entire column to our work in The International Herald Tribune .

In a previous column, Barry claimed that any sentence can be made much funnier by the insertion of the word ‘weasel’ . In his column concerned with LaughLab, Barry repeated his theory, and urged his readers to submit jokes to our experiment that ended with the punchline ‘There’s a weasel chomping on my privates’.   Within just a few days we had received over 1,500 ‘weasel chomping’ jokes.

The comedy K
Early in the experiment, we received the following submission:

There were two cows in a field. One said: “Moo.” The other one said: “I was going to say that!”

We decided to use the joke as a basis for a little experiment.  We re-entered the joke into archive several times, using a different animal and noise.   We had two tigers going ‘Gruurrr’, two birds going ‘Cheep’, two mice going ‘Eeek’, two dogs going ‘Woof’, and so on.  At the end of the study, we examined what effect the different animals had had on how funny people found the joke.

In third place came the original cow joke, second were two cats going ‘Meow, but the winning animal noise joke was:

Two ducks were sitting in a pond, one of the ducks said: “Quack.” The other duck said: “I was going to say that!”

Interestingly, the ‘k’ sound (as in the ‘hard c’) is associated with both the word ‘Quack’ and ‘duck’, has long been seen by comedians and comedy writers as being especially funny.  The idea of the comedy ‘k’ has certainly made it into popular culture.  There was also an episode of The Simpsons, in which Krusty The Clown (note the ‘k’s) visits a faith healer because he has paralysed his vocal chords trying to cram too many ‘comedy k’s’ into his routines.  After being healed, Krusty exclaims that he is overjoyed to get his comedy k’s back, celebrates by shouting out ‘King Kong’, ‘cold-cock’, ‘Kato Kaelin’, and kisses the faith healer as a sign of gratitude.

Our findings
By the end of the project we had received 40,000 jokes, and had them rated by more than 350,000 people from 70 countries.  We were awarded a Guinness World Record for conducting one of the largest experiments in history, and made the cover story of The New Yorker.

The top joke, as voted by Americans, was as follows:

At the parade, the Colonel noticed something unusual going on and asked the Major: “Major Barry, what the devil’s wrong with Sergeant Jones’ platoon? They seem to be all twitching and jumping about.” “Well sir,” says Major Barry after a moment of observation. “There seems to be a weasel chomping on his privates.”

Dave Barry had been successful, and managed to make the top American joke weasel-oriented.  He had less influence over the votes cast by those outside of America.   We carefully went through the huge archive and found our top joke:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.  The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services.  He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”.  The operator says “Calm down.  I can help.  First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”  There is a silence, then a shot is heard.  Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”

The database told us that the winning joke had been submitted by a psychiatrist from Manchester in Britain named Gurpal Gosall.  We contacted Gurpal and he explained how he sometimes told the joke to cheer up his patients, noting that: ‘…it makes people feel better, because it reminds them that there is always someone out there who is doing something more stupid than themselves’.

Spike

Five years after the study, I was watching a documentary film about Spike Milligan, comedian and co-founder of the Goons, and that the programme contained a very early version of our winning joke.  The documentary (the title of which, I Told You I Was Ill, was based on Spike’s epitaph) contained a brief clip from a 1951 BBC programme called London Entertains with the following early Goon sketch:

Michael Bentine: I just came in and found him lying on the carpet there.
Peter Sellers: Oh, is he dead?
Michael Bentine: I think so.
Peter Sellers: Hadn’t you better make sure?
Michael Bentine: Alright. Just a minute.
Sound of two gun shots.