My prediction for Derren Browns first event…

by endlesspsych

Derren Brown returns to our screens for a series of events in the first of which he claims he will predict the lottery numbers of Wednesdays draw correctly just minutes before the draw.

This post intends to look at some of the ways he could achieve this and some people, even though it is only idle speculation, may find reading on spoils their enjoyment of the show and the trick. It takes a special kind of person to enjoy working out how magic tricks are performed, magicians generally, so be warned and don’t read on if you are not the kind of person who likes that sort of thing…

This has prompted some lively discussion and debate over on the badscience forums with many people trying to guess how he is going to do it.  I think there are two or three probable ways to achieve this.

1.  The one next method. (As described by LesMTS, and also described by James Randi in his book Flim Flam.)

Get a mate to write down “the name of any animal” on a concealed piece of paper while you turn your back and write down “carrot” on your piece of paper. Ask them to put down their piece of paper face up on the table and put your (folded) paper next to it. Next ask them to write down “any number between one and one thousand”, while you turn your back and write down whatever they wrote down for the animal. Again, ask them to put their paper face up on the table while you put your folded entry next to it. Repeat this a few times (“draw a simple pattern”, “write down a man’s name”, “write down a random string of letters”), then ask the final question “write down a vegetable beginning with ‘C'”.

Then gather up all of your folded entries and hand them, as one, to the person whose mind you’re reading. Ask them to open them up. They (if they’ve had enough pints will be astonished at how you got either them all (or, occasionally, them all but the carrot question) correct.

As Derren is claiming that he will only predict 5 of 6 balls correctly this is an appealling solution to how he might achieve the trick. Although it does mean stretching the defintion of a “few minutes” before the draw… Essentially before the first number comes out Derren writes down a random number, then when the second one comes out makes a show of being correct in his guess and writes down on a piece of paper the first number … this continues for the whole draw. Then there will be some form of misdirection to divert the audiences attention while Derren performs a slight of hand and rearranges the numbers in the correct order.  Ta da! The lottery numbers, at least five of them are revealed.

2.  Derren writes down his prediction in separate envelopes and places these in various “secure” tamper proof locations before the draw to be revealed as the numbers are being called. This point is subtle but important as it will allow him to switch any incorrect guesses via sleight of hand with prepared envelopes with the numbers 1-49 contained within as everyone will be focusing on the display that shows what numbers are being drawn… If anyone has seen his life show “Something wicked this way comes” then think of this as “hiding the Gorilla”… This solves the minutes before problem and to my mind now seems the most likely method.

3. Derren has, placed around the set, a number of ambigrams which constitute his prediction and he reveals these at the end of the show using the power of suggestion to get people to see which number he has picked. Or perhaps something like those colour blindness test cards but with some means of switching colour filters so only certain numbers are seen by the audience?

My personal favourite is currently number two. Does anyone else have any idea?