The Drunkard’s Walk Review

The Drunkard’s walk is a massively insightful book about… luck!

Think you are on a streak of extreme bad luck and failure even though you have the talent to be a star?  You could be right.

Put your successful life down to your immense ability and good looks? You could just have been in the right place at the right time.

History of Randomness

The Greeks did not believe in randomness and thought things worked according to the will of the Gods.

In fact the Greeks didn’t even have a number 0, it wasn’t until the 9th century that the concept of 0 was introduced by an Indian mathematician.

The Romans made some progress but it wasn’t until the 16th century that the first book on uncertainty was published, written by an Italian gambler!

It was at this time in Italy that the scientific revolution was taking place and there were other advancements in the study of chance for example Galileo’s work.

Pascal’s triangle, Pascal’s wager, Principia by Newton, the Bernoulli principle, Bayesian theory, the Laplace distribution and String theory have all helped advance our understanding of probability.

Randomness Rules

Our ability matters but so does randomness…

A stock speculator predicted the outcome of the US stock exchange for 12 years using nothing but the Superbowl to make his predictions…

Bruce Willis would not have got his breakthrough if he hadn’t gone to see his girlfriend in LA and chanced upon an audition for Moonlighting.

Bill Gates happened on a lucky series of events and went on to be the richest man in the world.

An average type of baseball player called Merris beat Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961.

Understanding Randomness

First impressions count big time!

All of our perceptions are based on the initial information we receive about something and we don’t even realise we are doing it. This shortcut means we are prone to making mistakes and not looking at information objectively.

Many famous authors and moviemakers like George Lucas, JK Rowling and John Grisham had their work rejected countless times before they got a breakthrough.

If a sequence is long enough we will observe many unusual sequences. A sequence of good luck can be viewed as being influenced by skill, a phenomenon called the hot hand fallacy.

Derren Brown uses this principle in The System

A lack of control leads to anxiety so there is a fundamental clash between human nature and the true nature of things.

Conclusions

Do you think rich and successful people are the most gifted and hardest working? They may just have had all the lucky breaks. And take it easy on the beggar in the street, he might have had a serious streak of bad luck that could have happened to anyone.

In your own life remember that the more times you roll the dice the more chance you have of making it – so don’t give up and try lots of things!

Spend more time reflecting on the possibility that you might be wrong about something instead of presuming you are right…

If you really want to get into the spirit of things read Dice Man by Luke Rheinhart and get rolling that dice 😉

Rating:

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Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind Extracts. Audiobook Review

This audiobook is taken from the fantastic book Tricks of the Mind and teaches the basics of hypnosis, a couple of magic tricks and some powerful memory techniques.

Disk 1: Hypnosis

Derren says he thinks hypnosis is very safe but gives 7 rules to bear in mind just to be extra cautious:

  1. Don’t try to hypnotise someone who is clearly disturbed or has epilepsy
  2. Don’t attempt any therapeutic change unless you are suitably qualified
  3. Treat hypnosis as a gentle tool
  4. Everything you do contributes to the hypnosis. Don’t get flustered
  5. At end make sure person is completely out of belief that they are hypnotised
  6. Take it slowly and only try in a controlled environment
  7. Treat it first as a relaxation tool and move slowly into administering suggestions

What you learn:

  • In its simplest form hypnosis is pacing someone’s experience then leading them to behaviours you want.
  • Use presupposition. This means you presuppose something to be true eg. as your eyes get heavier/ you can wonder how deeply you are going into trance
  • Use double binds where the only options are 2 you have suggested.
  • Tone of voice – gentle and relaxed
  • Use imagery to involve all the senses
  • Don’t contradict yourself and don’t be specific

Framework:

  1. Prepare subject and induce light stages of trance, this may include eye closure
  2. Deepen the trance through a metaphor such as going down the stairs
  3. Carry out your hypnotic work
  4. Fully awaken the subject

Disk 2: Magic

Coin Trick – A Coin Slide

The trick involves sliding a coin off a table, pretending to pick it up and pulling it into your lap.

The trick is enhanced by using another coin for misdirection and placing the coins on the table in advance.

Card trick – A Sucker Trick

  1. Get someone to shuffle cards (need someone with basic overhand shuffle)
  2. Look at cardface then immediately turn away and spread the deck in your hands, showing everyone faces of deck
  3. Turn face down and place squared up on table
  4. Bottom card is key card
  5. Get person to cut deck in 2 and place top half to your right
  6. Turn away and remove card he cut to (top card of bottom half) and look at it
  7. Pick up bottom half
  8. Tell him to replace card
  9. Get person to shuffle cards again
  10. Say you will put cards face up on table and he is not to react if you see his card
  11. Turn over 1 at a time, card after key card is his card. Carry on after chosen card appears but make sure index of chosen card remains visible to you
  12. Stop then ask to bet that next card turned over will be the card
  13. Then reach for the card in pie and turn over

Magic tips:

  • Most of the magic is created after the trick
  • A state of amazement leaves spectators more open to suggestion
  • To make them look less foolish people will trick themselves eg. Think they definitely saw card in magicians hand
  • Magic is helped by people watching closely and using the off beat when both you and they relax
  • Conjurer creates false trail of events
  • Best to be simple and direct

Disk 3: Memory

No such thing as photographic memory. A few people have an idetic memory and can hold the image of a scene in their minds but it typically can’t be held for long and is prone to distortions. Individuals with great memories use rich mnemonic strategies.

Memory is a set of processes. We can remember 7 or so units after which point we instinctively want to break it down into smaller chunks.

Linking System:

  1. Use vivid images and attach strong emotions
  2. Elements should interact
  3. Picture should be unusual

Uses of linking system – shopping lists, tasks, speeches and for actors

Drawback – if stuck on 1 word system breaks down

Loci System:

  1. Use a route you know with locations on the way.
  2. Take a list of things and relate an item to each location.
  3. Place a strong visual representation at each location.
  • Memory palaces – Expand number of loci eg. In your house
  • Its better to have action take place inside something
  • You need to go through things in fixed order eg. Clockwise
  • You can use for permanent memory.
  • Expand loci – have a door from your house lead to another familiar building. Use places from real life eg. museums you have visited

Remembering Names

  1. When you meet with someone immediately think of someone you already know with the same name
  2. Imagine person in front of you has been made up to look at bit like the person you know

or

  1. Connect name with another image eg. Mike becomes a microphone stand, bill becomes an invoice
  2. Find something memorable about the person’s appearance. Better to be a physical feature
  3. Link the 2 together
  • Its best to make image as efficient as possible
  • Can put other info into scene
  • Importance of reviewing

Rating:

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Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin – Review

Your Inner Fish is all about human evolution.

By looking at fossil records, genes and life on earth today we can work out where we came from and its fascinating.

It is no exaggeration to say this book will change the way you look at the world.

Chapter 1: Finding Your Inner Fish

375 million years ago a fish called Tiktaalik appears in the fossil records in Greenland.

With its flat head and primitive limb-like fins the Tiktaalik fossil is a sea dwelling fish evolving to being a land living animal.

It was cleverly discovered by Shubin and his colleagues after studying the geology of the area and making precise predictions about the fossil record.

Chapter 2: Getting a Grip

By looking at animals with limbs scientists noticed animals as diverse as bats, horses and frogs all have a common design for their limbs, the only thing that changes is the shape and size of the bones.

Humans can rotate our hands relative to our elbows,using a pivot point. This lineage can be traced back to Tiktaalik who could also bend its elbow.

Life in and out of water is not that clearcut with some ancient and modern day fish having lungs.

It appears that fish began growing limbs to escape the water and the fierce predators that lived there.

Chapter 3: Handy Genes

Each cell in our body contains the genetic code to make the whole body.

Different genes are active in the different cell types and genetic switches help assemble us. Interestingly the gene responsible for limb and fin development is the same.

This points to the fact that the evolution of limbs from fins did not require any new genes.

Chapter 4: Teeth Everywhere

Looking at teeth gives us lots of clues about our genetic heritage.

Mammals have a single jaw bone and top and bottom teeth which match up. Reptiles have jaws with many bones and replace teeth continually. Primitive fish like Lampreys have no jaws and feed by attaching themselves to other fish and feeding on their body fluids.

Human teeth reveal that we are all purpose eaters, having incisors specialised to cut food, canines in the back and molars in extreme back to shear or mash food.

Our teeth are the hardest parts of our bodies, Hydroxyapatite giving them their hardness.

The primary purpose of teeth is to allow us to eat things that are bigger than our mouths.

Chapter 5: Getting Ahead

In this chapter we learn that the essence of our heads goes right back to worms.

The muscles in the head are attached to the brain and organs. The nerves in the head look very much like the wiring in an old building, not making logical sense. They have evolved that way to accommodate other features eg. giraffes neck.

Chapter 6: The Best Laid (Body) Plans

The plans for our bodies goes back to fish and if you think about it that’s quite logical. Their bodies are lined up like ours, they have heads and spines.

Animals in other lineages such as sponges and jellyfish have fundamentally different body plans.

Chapter 7: Adventures in Bodybuilding

In experiments using bacteria, predation has been shown to produce multi cellular organisms from single celled ones over a number of generations.

Around 1 bn years ago bacteria began eating each other and at the same time oxygen levels increased in the atmosphere which allowed for multi cellular organisms to survive.

We evolved from these multi cellular organisms, with cells specialising and eventually leading to skeletons and limbs.

Chapter 8: Making Scents

Our sense of smell goes back to being a fish.

Lampreys and Hagfish have single nostril and extract odours from water. Lungfish have 2 kinds of nostrils, external and internal which is similar to the structure we have.

Mammals developed a much greater sense of smell and in fact a whole 3% of the human genome is devoted to smell.

Humans though, like other primates with colour vision, have a diminished sense of smell. Apparently there was an evolutionary trade off between the 2.

Dolphins have no sense of smell and use what was their noses as blow holes to blow out water.

Chapter 9: Vision

The eyes capture light and transmit it to the brain where it is processed.

An amazing 70% of our sensory cells are used for vision.

Fascinatingly, the origin of the eye can be traced right back to bacteria!

There is a single gene which triggers the formation of the eye called pac 6 and this is the same in many creatures with eyes.

Chapter 10: Ears

The history of the inner ear can be traced to ancient fish and the neurons even further.

Mammals’ middle ears are different to other species, having 3 bones.

Interestingly one jelly fish, the Box Jelly fish has 20 eyes, though no other type of jellyfish has eyes.

Chapter 11: The Meaning Of It All

Looking at a human is like looking back in time through our evolutionary heritage. Some of our features started with bacteria, some with fish, others as mammals.

If we look at other animals it becomes apparent which parts are similar. We have many similarities to a Polar Bear, fewer with a Turtle and fewer still with a regular fish.

Many human illnesses are a result of our sedentary lifestyle when our bodies are built for an active one.

Epilogue

We should embrace scientific study without fear.

Maybe it will give us a deeper understanding of human nature and help us cure illnesses

Rating:

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Mentalist Profile: Derren Brown

Derren Brown is the best mentalist of his generation.

He is constantly advancing his skills, innovating with his performances and calling out fake psychics and other frauds too.

Seeing Derren Brown perform it can be hard not to believe he possesses psychic abilities.

This guy knows what is going on in your mind, often because he has created the thoughts himself!

Early Career and TV

Brown started out at university as a hypnotist then started learning and performing close up magic in the cafe’s of Bristol.

Developing his skills over the next 7 years in Bristol Brown hit television in 1999 with 3 specials which later became the ground breaking series Mind Control. >>Derren Brown – Inside Your Mind [DVD]

Derren Brown Trick of The Mind 1 [DVD] [2004] followed on from Mind Control and the 3 series were very much a natural progression.

Trick or Treat (2007 – 2008) surprised applicants with Derren appearing out of the blue to give people a trick or treat. He hypnotised one guy and dropped him of in Marrakesh and dropped one girl, tied up, in a sack into a lake!

In The Events (2009) Brown stuck people watching at home to their seats using sublimnal messaging and bet £5,000 of a viewers money on the spin of a roulette wheel, and lost :(

Also on TV we had Derren Brown Investigates (2010) and The Experiments in 2011. In one episode of In The Experiments Derren got someone to ‘assassinate’ Stephen Fry and in another got someone to admit to a murder they didn’t commit.

TV Specials: Russian Roulette, Seance, Messiah, The Gathering, The Heist, The System, Hero at 30,000 ft, Miracles for Sale.

Live Shows

Watch some of Derren’s live shows and see his masterful control of the audience. 2011-12 he is touring Svengali.

Some of his other live shows include: Derren Brown Live (2003-04), Something Wicked This Way Comes (2005-06), Mind Reader – An Evening of Wonders (2007-08), Enigma (2009-10)

Skills

Derren Brown uses “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”

He is a master reader of people’s body language, he uses NLP to put thoughts in peoples minds, he uses lots of psychological tricks like perception without awareness and his memory techniques are something to behold!

He is a master of conjuring and hypnosis and teaches some of his tricks in his books.

Derren Brown emphasises the importance of showmanship and involving the audience.

 

 

What Every Body Is Saying, Joe Navarro – Review

What Every Body is Saying is a detailed book on body language by one of the world’s leading experts.

Joe Navarro has dedicated his life to studying body language, a passion which began aged 8 and led him to a 25 year career in the FBI.

A mix of theory, scientific facts and careful observations fill the book with revealing insights.

Chapter 1: Mastering the Secrets of Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication constitutes 65% of all interpersonal communication and if your not already you should start paying attention because our body language tells the truth!

Joe has 10 commandments of body language which include conscious and continuous observation, establishing baselines, looking out for changes, discomfort and not staring at people 😉

Chapter 2: Living Our Limbic Legacy

Think you’re clever – well you should be, you have 3 brains!

Your mammalian ‘limbic’ brain controls your body language and works on a freeze, fight then flight basis.

This survival mechanism evolved millenia ago and is still useful in our survival today. When we are comfortable we demonstrate high confidence and when not comfortable we show low confidence behaviours.

If we are uncomfortable we use pacifying behaviours to stimulate our brains into feeling better. There are differences between men and women but in general these behaviours take the form of  touching our necks, our faces, whistling, yawning, touching our legs and hugging ourselves.

Chapter 3: Getting a Leg Up on Body Language

Forget eye contact and hugs, if you want to know what someone is feeling take a closer look at their legs!

Peoples’ legs give away uncensored information about their inner most thoughts.

Look out for happy feet, which way feet are pointing, the knee clasp and leg splay to gauge what someone is thinking.

If we are comfortable we will cross our legs, and lovers will mirror each others legs. Significant changes in leg movement, foot freeze and the foot lock and leave indicate a lack of comfort.

If you want to know if someone likes you when you meet them when you have shaken their hand see if they stay still or move towards or away from you.

People walk in 40 different ways!

Chapter 4: Torso Tips

People turn towards things they like and away from things they don’t. If we can’t turn away from something we dislike we use our arms as a shield.

When trying to assert dominance people may puff up their chests or splay their torso.

Like the legs, the torso is honest, partly because it contains all our organs!

Chapter 5: Knowledge Within Reach

Arms are used to display dominance for example arms akimbo and the hooding effect, we throw our arms in the air when we are happy and hug people we like. Touching someone’s arm is one of the best ways to instantly gain rapport.

We also put jewellery on our arms to demonstrate wealth.

Chapter 6: Getting a Grip

Our human hands are unique amongst the animals and by using them correctly we can become more persuasive, likeable and credible :)

You can offend people with your hands by pointing, snapping your fingers or flipping the ‘bird’.

Look out for steepling, thumb displays, genital framing, frozen hands, hand wringing, neck touching, microexpressions as all give away our subconscious thouhts.

When shaking hands, don’t try to assert dominance it doesn’t work, giving a good firm handshake is the best bet!

Chapter 7: The Minds’s Canvas

Our facial expressions are a universal language. Humans are capable of more than 10,000 different facial expressions.

Because we can control our facial expressions we can mask emotions but faces are still useful for gauging emotion.

Look out for eye blocking behaviours like squinting and pupil constriction. People do this when they don’t like what they see. Likewise, if what they say is agreeable we see pupil dilation, eyebrow arching and flashbulb eyes.

Contempt is shown by the rolling of the eyes and sneering. The lips, nose, forehead, cheeks all give information away and If the face is sending mixed signals, the negative emotion is more honest.

Interestingly eye contact does not indicate honesty and is often used by psychopaths!

Chapter 8: Detecting Deception

Despite the inherent honesty of our body language, when the body lies, its still hard to tell. Even the most gifted body language readers can only detect deception 60% of the time. Polygraphs are only 60-80% accurate. That’s because lying is a survival tool.

When trying to detect deception make sure you know the base level of body language when comfortable. Look out for blocking using objects, pacifying behaviour, clusters of behaviours, synchrony and emphasis.

Pay attention and get a good view!

Chapter 9: Final Thouhts

We are taught to listen to what people say, see what peoples bodies are telling you and a whole new world of communication will open up!

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