The Pointer Anomaly
(An Unexplored Paul Harris Discovery, and a Contest)
Pauls pointer anomaly has been patiently sitting in his weird-wonders-to-develop shoe box but in a moment of weakness PH agreed to let the loyal Genii readers take the first crack at it themselves. And to help motivate the creative juices, Genii is throwing in a free nine-DVD boxed set collectors edition of Pauls True Astonishments for the very best idea of the bunch (or maybe a year subscription to Genii if you already have the set).
First a bit of anomalous history. Paul was working on another effect using the Ace of Spades as a secret pointer. The pointy end of the big Spade was positioned to tell him which way to spread a deck, depending on how a spectator tabled it. Paul would casually turn the pointer Spade face up. If it pointed to the left, hed know to spread the deck from left to right. If it pointed to the right, hed know to spread the deck from right to left. This pointer Spade was a minor but necessary tool to move the effect forward.
And heres where the weird anomaly crept in. Every time Paul turned the pointer card face up, it would point the same way, which was clearly not something the pointer card was supposed to do. At first he thought it was just luck or lack of sleep. But after hitting it 10 times in a row he figured it had to be something else. He checked out the deck handling procedure, finger placements, changed seats with the spectator, etc. And yet the anomaly persisted.
PH then went the next logical step and started with the pointer card face up. From here it worked as expected. The point of the Spade started at one end. He grabbed one end of the card to turn it down and the pointer was now at the other end. But then, when he started with the card face down and turned it face up end for end, it still ended up pointing in the same direction that it started in. No matter which end of the card was turned over, the Spade would end up pointing in the same direction!
Thus was discovered the Pointer Anomaly. It may seem to be an amusing yet minor discovery. But Paul suspects it may give you some pretty serious leverage when used in the right way maybe something on par with the Curry Swindle or maybe not! Thats a question that will only be decided by the Genii think tank.
So to be extra clear on the creative challenge before us, get out an Ace of Spades so you can personally experience the Pointer Anomaly. And if you want to get creative right off the bat you can draw an arrow or any other pointy image on the printed side of a business card instead.
Put the face up Ace of Spades on the table so the pointy end of the big Spade points away from you. Turn the face up card face down by grabbing it at the right long side and flip the card over from right to left (sideways), like turning the page of a book. Remember, the pointy end is still pointing away from you. Now grab the outer end of the card and flip the card face up, turning the card end-over-end so the front end is now toward you. No surprise here, the Spade has been turned so it now points toward you.
Grasp the face-up card by a long side and turn it face down sideways again (still pointing toward you) then grasp the inner end of the card and flip the card end-over-end, openly turning the arrow face up so it now points away from you.
This non-anomalous moment is probably how you would want to begin your routine, by showing your audience the basic pointer system. This is obviously how a turned-around pointer would work. Its something a small child would understand. Its your basic turn something around so it points the other direction moment. This is something so simple and basic to human understanding that it hardly needs to be pointed out. But you should probably point it out as its the crux of the whole deal.
So now turn the pointer Spade face down sideways so it points away from you. Always grab the card by the long side and turn from side to side when turning it face down. This way everyone is clear where the pointy end is pointing. In this case away from you.
Now for the anomaly. When you grasp either end of the card, and turn the card face up end-over-end, the pointer will always point toward you. If you turn the front end of the card toward you, the Spade will point toward you. If you turn the inner end of the card away from you, the Spade will still point toward you. Unless you really pay close attention to the topology of the thing, it doesnt make sense. But as soon as you focus and follow whats going where, you can see where the trap door is.
To take this a tiny step further, use Andrew Gerards idea of marking the back of the card with a pencil dot, or a nail nick, so you can always tell which end the pointers at. You can now spin the face down card on the table and youll always know at which end the pointer lies. This means youll know in advance which way the pointer will point before your spectator turns the card over. So your spectator can now spin the face down card to shuffle the pointer, turn the card face up from either end (so its apparently her complete choice as to which way the pointer points) and youll know before she turns the card over which direction it will be pointing in.
So thats the basic thing. In essence you have an extremely fair looking, completely automatic forcing device. It could be used for a living and dead test, a lie detector routine, a moment for Out of this World for a red-black separation, maybe a mini Ouija Board to spell out a word? Thats Pauls Pointer Anomaly challenge: To come up with the coolest, sweetest use for this undeveloped piece of strange.
A few PH ponderings. He suspects that youll want to limit the number of card-turns to about three; at a certain point the anomaly might be discovered by a sharp spectator. You will also be on more solid ground by not revealing the pointer pay-offs until the end. So all the pointer turns happen first, then you reveal your prediction, etc. That way theres no heat on the action. Your spectator is simply turning the pointer to indicate a choice. If you had a magical reveal after each turn, then you may draw too much attention to the procedure.
These are just passing ponderings. None of this is etched in stone. All of this can be true or false, good or bad, brilliant or dopey depending on which way your mind spins.
Good luck to you all. The prize set of True Astonishment has already been put aside, waiting to find its new owner.
Entries to the contest will be accepted until March 1. You may submit your idea in written form, or on videotape or DVD, along with your address, phone number, and e-mail address. Richard Kaufman will be the sole judge and the winner will be notified by March 14. Please send your entries to: Paul's Pointer Anomaly Challenge c/o Genii, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 106-384, Washington DC 20016, or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org