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Podcast > Tuesday, 29 May 2012 20:53:05 EST

Dumbass Podcast 12: Psychic Purgery

Keywords: psychics, paranormal

The episode where we learn how to fake psychic guessing powers!

End Of Segment 1 (Intro ):10:18

Links/Topics Mentioned In The Show
The Cognitive Dissonance Podcast
The Conspiracy Skeptic Podcast
The Skeprechauns Podcast
Stuart Robbins' Exposing Pseudoastronomy Podcast
The Dumbass Review Episode 1: Green Lantern TAS
The Dumbass Media Empire Website
Theme Music By Jonathan Coulton
Other Music By

Charles InSanDiego's Solution:
I see another pattern in the image If you classify the vehicles as "wheel" and "Non-wheel", and read across the lines, you get:


Seems pretty non-random to me.

Paranormal Fakery:

Enjoy the show!  Here's the transcript:

In today's episode of The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge, I will be answering some feedback, and telling you how you can trick friends and family into believing that youíre psychic for fun.... but hopefully not for profit.  Letís get started with episode 12, Psychic Purgery!

Hello everybody and welcome to the show!  Iím so glad you decided to download and listen to this episode.  Iíve been busy since the last episode working out ways to improve the podcast for my listeners.  Part of that has involved updating the website, which started out as just a blog, but for over a year now Iíve been having it do double duty hosting my podcast notes and transcripts as well.  So it was high time I made a few tweaks to improve the experience of visitors to the website.

For one thing, Iíve now made it very easy for you to find the show notes and transcript for this, or any of my other episodes.  If youíre listening right after I uploaded the file, this will likely be the very first post on the page when you visit - but if youíre looking for this episode in the future or just want an easy and direct link to the episode to share with people, just plug into your browser address bar - thatís p-o-d-one-two  That will bring you right to the episode page where you can see all the show notes and a transcript of everything I said.  And this does work for all my previous episodes as well, so for example if youíre looking for information about my analysis of the Ghost Cavalry of World War One, that would be at

And if youíre just looking for a list of all the podcast entries, thatís now just as easy to get to by typing into your browser address bar  This should help you if you just want to quickly look through my episode information without bothering to find the category link.

Iíve also been looking for ways to help people listen to my episodes more easily. As you know,

Iíve received a few complaints that people are having trouble downloading my episodes to their Apple devices.  Iíve found one possible cause of this problem in my research.  Apple products apparently donít want to let people download large files over a mobile network.  This problem can be solved by downloading through local WiFi, or a direct connection to a computer.  But thereís another way that some listeners might find more convenient.

The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge is now on Stitcher.  If you install the free Stitcher app to your mobile device, you will be able to hear all my episodes streaming to you quickly and easily.  Iím sure many of you will find it much more convenient to listen to me this way.  And the link to subscribe to me on Stitcher, as well as through RSS or through iTunes, are now at the top of my website at The iTunes link opens up the iTunes program directly to the show page where you can subscribe and write me a five star review.

Hopefully all those new changes should help you enjoy the show more easily.  Iím working on other ways to improve the show as well, and hopefully this will all lead to a more enjoyable listening experience.

Iíve also been working on plans to expand my Dumbass Media Empire.  Iím going to branch out a bit and work on some side projects that arenít specifically related to skepticism, but still could use some critical analysis.  For example, Iíve decided to try my hand at video editing in order to set up a new video podcast called The Dumbass Review.  In the Dumbass Review, I will be analyzing and making fun of any interesting media I come across such as computer games or TV shows. 

Iíve created the first episode, where I take a look at Green Lantern The Animated Series.  Just like the podcast youíre listening to right now, itís amateurish and fairly obvious that I have no idea what Iím doing, but it was fun and Iím planning to continue on with it.

Thereís a link to the first episode of The Dumbass Review at the top of the website at  Iím working on setting up a separate website for the show, so stay tuned if you enjoy it.  Iíve already showed it to some friends and got positive feedback.  Well, okay, I sent it to four people and two responded.  And one of them only bothered to watch like the first minute.  But the one guy who watched the whole thing said it was great!  And heís a good guyÖ you can trust his tasteÖ.

Anyway, Iíve set up a website as a hub to keep you informed of all the latest activity in my Dumbass Media Empire.  Right now itís just something very simple and thrown together, but Iíve been working on doing more with the site, and you keep checking there to see all the latest that Iíve got going on.  The address is

Iíve got links there to all the entertainment options under the banner of the Dumbass Media Empire, including The Exquisite Truth podcast, which you may remember I decided to rescue from extinction so that more people could have the opportunity to listen to past episodes.  Iíve also decided to do the same for another podcast youíve heard me mention before, Doug Delongís Planet Japan podcast.  Since his website has disappeared from the web, his episodes are no longer available anywhere else.  But you can now find the link to all 200 episodes on, and I would encourage you to give them a listen.

So as you can see I havenít just been idle since the last time I spoke to you.  Many of you have asked me when the next episode is coming out, and I love the fact that people are actually looking forward to hearing more from me.  Thank you to everybody who wrote in to me, and if I didnít respond, your email may have gotten lost down in my list but Iíve read and appreciated every email Iíve gotten.

Anyway, letís move on with the content for this episode.  Many of you will already be aware of this, but for those that arenít, I was recently a guest on the Cognitive Dissonance podcast.  Well, I say recently but by the time this gets out it will have been a few weeks.  As you know, Iíve mentioned Cecil and Tom of Cognitive Dissonance before, and they were nice, and foolish, enough to invite me on for their 40th episode on March 25th.  I say foolish because I certainly dragged the show down.  One guy even wrote in about how the interview with me at the end was unlistenable because of how I stumbled all over myself.  Iím usually able to perform a little better if I have time to prepare what Iím going to say, but I was expecting more of a general interview about my shows, so I guessed wrong and had to think on the spot.  Something I should work on I guess. I donít think it turned out that bad, but some people have a low tolerance for things like that.

Those of you who donít mind listening to me in the Invisible Sky Monster podcast will probably be okay with my interview on Cognitive Dissonance.  Check it out at, Iíll put a direct link to the episode on the show page at

Anyway I had a great time, and I personally think it turned out well.  But the very best part, and Iím still a little giddy over this, the best part is that they described our relationship as a ďbromanceĒ.  Oh, be still my heart! A bromance! Do you know what this means?  This means that theyíve actually been listening to my episodes! They heard my little creepy love soliloquy from episode 9 ( - I love how easy it is to refer people to my old episodes now!) Anyway, theyíve responded to my feelings in kind!  Iím over the moon!  Hold on, I need to fan myself....

Okay, Iím back... sorry, itís just that this caught me off guard.  I fully expected that they had listened to one or two of my episodes and then forgot about me.  I figured that joke would be a cute bit for my listeners, but I didnít expect it to actually reach their ears.  I mean, they never answer their emails, and I know that other podcasters I mention arenít taking the time to listen to my new episodes when they come out. For example, I know that Karl Mamer doesnít pay attention when I talk about him on this podcast, and Rebecca OíNeill admitted to me when she was last on Invisible Sky Monster that she hadnít heard that bit I did about her in episode 7 ( 

Now, both Karl and Rebecca are friends of the show, each having been on my other podcast, so Iíve forgiven them for this.  But a relationship is a two way street and I canít in good conscience promote either of their podcasts on this show if theyíre not willing to put in their part.  So I will not be telling you to listen to Karl Mamerís Conspiracy Skeptic podcast at, nor will I be advocating listening to Rebecca OíNeillís Skeprechauns podcast at  Donít get me wrong, theyíre both great shows, and if you find links to them in other places then I think you should check them out.

But whatever you do, DO NOT check out those shows as a result of anything I say in this episode.  Do not click on the links to their shows on my show page at which I have put in there to illustrate where you should NOT click.  So just so weíre clear, do NOT check out Karl Mamerís Conspiracy Skeptic podcast at, and do not check out Rebecca OíNeillís Skeprechauns podcast at  Not unless you hear about them from somewhere else. And donít think I wonít find out about it if you disregard my instructions here.  Iím a man of means! I own a media empire! You donít want to cross me!

But, of course, DO keep my bromantic relationship strong by checking out the Cognitive Dissonance podcast at  Also, I know Stuart Robbins of the Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast listens, because he privately thanked me for plugging his show in my last episode.  So do check out his show at

And now a quote from the book ďLegends, Lies, And Cherished Myths Of World HistoryĒ by Richard Shenkman:

How do you know you can trust me to tell you the truth? Actually, you shouldn't trust me. Indeed you shouldn't trust anybody who writes history. We are all full of it. Despite the work of thousands of PH.D's, truth in history is as difficult to ascertain today as it ever was.  This is a fact.  That's why this book is so valuable. For the author of this book, me, admits what you have here is MY version of the truth.  It is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as I see it.  Truth, in short, is relative.  It's in the eye of the beholder.  But in saying this I'm not saying that there are no facts in history.  There are.  The Holocaust is a fact.  The Americans who said in a recent poll that it's possible that the holocaust did not take place, are wrong.  According to a 1993 poll conducted by the Roeper organization, 22% of the American people believe it's possible the Holocaust never happened.  Another 12% said they did not know if it did.

Not what you were expecting, eh?  While figuring out ways to improve and grow my Dumbass Media Empire, I realized that I didnít have to just make fun of silly quotes.  I could also highlight awesome and interesting quotes.  That quote was cool because it makes the distinction between the facts, and the way we interpret the facts into some sort of ďtruthĒ that fits our narratives.  The facts are the facts, but how we interpret those facts is where thereís a lot of wiggle room.  I think thatís an important distinction to keep in mind.

This quote really resonated with me back when I first read it.  I canít help but really appreciate it when people are willing to admit that theyíre fallible, and that you should be encouraged to think for yourself rather than just taking their word for anything.  Those of you who have listened to all my episode know thatís basically the reason I call myself The Dumbass. Because I am just another dumbass on the Internet, nobody should ever feel hesitant to challenge anything I say.

Though it would be nice if some of them actually read what I wrote before challenging me about it.

Anyway, letís move on.  Last episode I asked you to tell me what was strange about a group of randomly generated images from a test of psychic powers.  You can see these images by going to  Each square features one of four object, in this case either a train, a car, a boat, or an airplane. Looking at the grid, f you understand how randomness works, you should be able to notice the problem.  None of the images ever repeat themselves in subsequent squares.  Thatís the tip off that these images, in fact, werenít randomly generated.

You see, most people think that randomness is even.  But itís not.  Randomness is clumpy.  If these images were really generated at random, you would expect to see instances where two, three, or four squares repeated the same image.  There are nine of these test grids, each with 20 squares where youíre supposed to guess from a choice of four images.  Thatís 180 guesses, and in none of them are any images repeated. Thatís not random, thatís somebody purposely picking the answers and making a conscious attempt to avoid repetition.

And thatís the way people generally tend to do things when theyíre asked to do a random distribution.  Instead of emulating actual randomness, they generate a more even distribution, which is a little more predictable.  Fortunately, as long as nobody peeks, that doesnít make any real difference to the test. But under certain conditions, this tendency can be exploited, and Iíll get to that in a second.

The first person to write in with the correct answer was Chew, which isnít much of a surprise because he pretty much wins every such test on every podcast.  Chew declined his prize,  he just wants us to know that heís the skeptic supreme and he pwns us all (not his words, Iím paraphrasing here). 

So congratulations go to the second person who wrote in, Navelfluff.  Thanks for participating Navelfluff, your prize will take a while to get to you because Iím sending it by the cheapest option to Norway, but I hope you enjoy it!  Iíll be announcing what the prizes were when I give them all away.

Honourable mentions go to Chris and Charles InSanDiego.  Chris noticed a pattern in the images that almost, but not quite, fit.  Charles took it a step further, and by putting each image into one of two categories, ďwheeledĒ or ďnot wheeledĒ, was able to show a very distinct pattern which looks very much like it was done on purpose.  But, of course, we can be fairly confident that the author of this test never intended to create such a pattern.  This is just a very cool example of how brilliant humans can be when they want to find patterns even where no inherent pattern was intended. I will repost their responses on the show page at

Now, I mentioned a minute ago that this human misunderstanding of randomness can be exploited, let me tell you what I mean.  If a person generally generates these kinds of images in this way, the reason itís not random is because thereís a pattern.  The pattern is simply that the next item in the sequence will not be the same as the previous one.  If you know that, then you can have a little fun.

Hereís how to do it: get a friend or family member, somebody whoís not versed in randomness or skepticism, and tell them that you can demonstrate that you have psychic abilities. Ask them to randomly draw either a square, circle, or triangle on a piece of paper, and to repeat that about 200 times.  That should only take a few minutes. Make sure they donít show you the results.

Once theyíve done that, you can start your guessing.  Your first guess can be any of the three shapes.  The important part is after each guess you need to ask your partner ďwas that right?Ē, and if not get them to tell you what the correct answer was.  They shouldnít have any problem with that, after all you already made your guess so you canít go back on it.  Youíre just asking so that you can keep track of your hit rate.  Or so you say.

And do keep track of your hit rate on your paper, mark off which guesses were right and which were wrong. Your partner can do the same to make sure youíre being honest.  Just make sure to ask after every guess what the correct answer was.  The reason youíre asking is so that you can pick your next guess.  Because if the current answer is ďsquareĒ, what you know is that ďsquareĒ is exactly what the next answer wonít be.  This narrows your choice down to two, rather than three answers, and that will increase your hit rate.

So by the end of the little test, you will have a hit rate close to 50%, but from purely random guessing youíd expect to have a hit rate of around 33%.  Thatís pretty impressive.  By now the other person will be looking at you with a newfound respect.  You might even get lucky depending on your gender preference.  Try not to let it go to your head.

Of course, itís not foolproof.  Some people may be more comfortable repeating an entry every once in a while, and that will decrease your hit rate.  And some people may understand randomness and go out of their way to make sure there are plenty of repeats to thwart your plans. But most people are just like the person who prepared this ESP test, and theyíll consciously avoid duplicating their entries.

Now, what Iím hoping is that if you manage to fool somebody with this little trick, that you turn this into a teachable moment.  Once youíve convinced them that you have these psychic powers, reveal the trick to them, and hammer home the fact that smart people can be fooled by clever tricks, and that just because they didnít understand how it was done doesnít mean that there was anything really paranormal going on there.

Anyway, I would like to give away more prizes, so letís get to the next prize contest.  I got an email from Leonard who thinks that the way I chose the winner for this last contest was unfair.  He says that since this is a podcast that people will be listening to at different times, itís not really including a fair chunk of my listeners as possible winners.

Leonard, you have a point.  Although I must tell you upfront that the prize is actually cheap and useless, so youíre really not missing out on much.  But I do want to be fair, and Iíve thought up a solution that I think youíll all like.

I think this challenge will be fun.  I want you to create me a fake paranormal picture.  I will pick the pictures that I think are the most clever.  Especially if you use some sort of simple technique that produces an interesting effect.

For example, if you drive to some sort of scenic location, tape a quarter to the front windshield of your car, and take a picture of that quarter Ė it will look like a UFO hovering over the scenery.  Or if you turn off your lights, and shine a laser pointer out your window at night, it will look like a mysterious light in the sky.  Even very simple photoshop tricks can have interesting effects.  Just spraypainting white into a photo can make a fuzzy white spirit ball kind of effect.  Iíll put an example in the show notes.

It doesnít have to be your own original idea, but I want your own original photos.  So have fun with it, and I will choose the winner based on the quality of the submission, so thereís no race for time.

Thereís one more thing that I want to get to in todayís episode.  If you listen to my Invisible Sky Monster podcast, youíll know that Iím looking to help people get involved with skeptical podcasting.  One thing that might be holding people back is that they have no idea how to put a website together or how to host their files.  They may also be concerned about being short on cash.

Well, I can help there.  If you want to start a podcast but are concerned about any of those things, send me an email at EMAIL and I can help you set yourself up with a podcast for free if thatís the route you need to go.  This is one of the other aspects that Iíve been working on for my Dumbass Media Empire.  I can give you a page on my domain where you can post your episodes, and I can show you where to get some free file hosting.  All Iíd expect is that you declare your podcast to be a member of the Dumbass Media Empire, and ask your listeners to visit my websites every once in a while.

I could also help you if you just want to go it on your own.  I could even sell you my services in designing your site for you and setting everything up if you have some money.  But I want to build relationships with new, amateur skeptical podcasters, and I would love to play a part in helping set them up.

The thing is that I think many of you have interesting things to say, and you should get a chance to say it in this kind of format where you have peopleís attention in a way that you donít get with just blogging or posting in forums.

And if youíre worried that youíre going to make a fool of yourself, donít worry about that.  Of course youíre going to make a fool of yourself! Letís not pretend that Iím doing anything but making a fool of myself right now.  But hey, youíre listening to me and enjoying what I have to say, right?  Turns out that making a fool of yourself is often a fun and worthwhile thing to do.

Anyway, that brings me to the end of todayís episode.  Visit the show page at and check out my new video podcast The Dumbass Review. Check out my Invisible Sky Monster podcast at, and send me an email at EMAIL if you have any comments, or if youíre interested in starting up a skeptical podcast and want my help. Follow me on twitter where my handle is @DumbassMedia.  My theme music is My Monkey by Jonathan Coulton, you can find his music online at  Thanks for listening to The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge!


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