"Primes"

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Bill Mullins
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"Primes"

Postby Bill Mullins » July 27th, 2020, 3:11 pm

Essentially, a psychological force and/or Wonder Words.

Never heard this word used this way before . . . .

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-07-psychologists-embedding-primes-person-speech.html

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Curtis Kam » July 27th, 2020, 5:31 pm

To be fair, “primes” were not mentioned much, as nouns, in the source article. Also interesting that the researcher not only performed Derren Brown’s Three of Diamonds force, but she asked the subjects afterwards about whether they felt their choices were free.

The only problem is, I think she only asked them after she revealed that it had been a force.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/07/magic-or-science-subtle-verbal-and-visual-cues-can-influence-card-choices/


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Re: "Primes"

Postby Max Maven » July 28th, 2020, 2:53 am

This useless survey is based on a false premise.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Bill Mullins » July 28th, 2020, 12:58 pm

Max Maven wrote:This useless survey is based on a false premise.


That very thought nags me most of the time when I read about academics and psychologists reporting on their newest insights about conjuring.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby MagicbyAlfred » July 28th, 2020, 9:13 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:
Max Maven wrote:This useless survey is based on a false premise.


That very thought nags me most of the time when I read about academics and psychologists reporting on their newest insights about conjuring.


Yep! i would venture to say that clever magicians know far more about psychology than psychologists know about conjuring - well, about applied psychology, anyway (which is the only kind that really matters).

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Jack Shalom » July 29th, 2020, 7:51 am

I see Max didn't even deign to call it an "experiment."
Really poorly designed with meaningless conclusions. And for what purposes...? She hints at it...for better false interrogations.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Gustav Kuhn » July 29th, 2020, 5:09 pm

I'm not sure where all this rather unfounded negativity comes from. As a magician and scientists I have been amazed by how well this force works, as it's not typically used by many magicians. Most importantly, the study provides insights into people's conscious awareness of the influence, something magicians rarely have the chance to measure. The findings may or may not be of use to the magic community, but I disagree with the claim that this study is useless and based on a false premise. That is quite a claim, and as the senior author of this paper I'm interested to hear why you think the premise is false.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Jack Shalom » July 29th, 2020, 9:48 pm

If the object of the study was to see if it can be done, we already had proof of that since at least 2002.

The way the experiment was designed, all it told it was about the ability of a particular person, Alice Pailhès, to influence some people. What possible generalizations could be made that could be used by anyone else that wasn't already clear from Derren Brown's work??

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Gustav Kuhn » July 30th, 2020, 3:41 pm

I’m not aware of any published data on Derren Brown force and I would be very grateful if you could let me know where I can find a report on the force.

With regards to the blanked criticisms, I wonder whether you have actually read the scientific paper. In the paper we report much more than simply testing whether the force work or not. It examines people’s awareness for the prime and also investigates whether the force relies on real social interactions. Turns out it is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live. The paper was published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals, and it has gone through a rigorous peer review process, which generally weeds out paper that have a poor premise. I fully accept that not all scientific papers are of interests or even relevant to magicians. I personally would encourage an open mind because any scientific knowledge about how and why some forces work will give you additional insights into your art. I fully accept that the paper may not be of interest to you and that’s ok. As with every scientific study, it leaves open many unanswered questions. However, I think it’s often better to fully read the published work before publicly criticise it.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby MagicbyAlfred » July 30th, 2020, 5:48 pm

I followed Dr. Kuhn's recommendation and read the article. Aside from the fact that the paper was published in prestigious scientific journals, after rigorous peer review (an exceedingly impressive accomplishment, in its own right) I must say that I am very impressed with the outcome of the experiment. The study had 90 participants. The "target" card (i.e., the card that was "primed") was the 3 of diamonds. 17.8% of participants "chose" the 3 of diamonds. That means that 16 people of the 90 chose the 3 of diamonds. That's amazing!

I am not a statistician, but I am a life-long Backgammon player and I've picked up a bit of nuts and bolts statistical knowledge from my experience playing the game and using the doubling cube. So I did some of my own -- I guess you could say -- common sense analysis, based on the data yielded by Dr. Kuhn's experiment. If asked to randomly name a card, the pure mathematical chances of a person choosing the 3 of diamonds are 1 in 52 or about a 2% chance. If there were 104 people, and everyone chose a card at random, the expected outcome, on the law of averages, would be that only two (2) people would choose the 3 of diamonds. Yet, with even significantly less of a sample than 104 people (in this case, 90 people) 16 people chose the 3 of diamonds. That's well more than 8 times the number of people in the group that would be expected to choose that particular card in random trials; in other words, over 800% more people chose the 3 of diamonds than the expected outcome under the law of averages and pure statistical probabilities. Furthermore, as the article points out, the normative data from another study showed that the 3 of diamonds is not a commonly chosen card. By contrast, we, as magicians, know that cards like the Ace of Spades and the Queen of Hearts are in the higher percentile of cards chosen by spectators when they are asked to name a card.

I think the results of the experiment provide exceptionally solid evidence supporting the thesis of Dr. Kuhn and his associate that choices people make, at least as to choice of a playing card, can be influenced by conversational primes to a highly significant extent. Great work, Dr. Kuhn!

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Max Maven » July 31st, 2020, 12:05 am

Here is one of the underlying problems: The probability figures you cite presume that the chance of a person naming the three of diamonds at random is 1/52. But most people do not name random cards. MagicbyAlfred acknowledges this when he repeats the claim that the three of diamonds is "not a commonly chosen card." But that citation is also questionable.

The quest to determine cards most frequently named has been ongoing, literally for centuries. The earliest reference I've found is from 1784. But a consistent list has never been established, although quite a few have been published...

Two things seem clear:

1. There is no such universal list. The best that can be determined is in the form of general rules (e.g., certain values are named more often than others), but by their very generality such rules are not dependable in the specific.

2. The results of asking a person to name a card are affected by many factors, ranging from the cultural setting, to the way in which the question is phrased, to what information may have preceded the question, to the identity of the person/performer doing the asking.

This study is interesting, but in my opinion it ignores too many factors.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Jack Shalom » July 31st, 2020, 1:13 am

Gustav Kuhn wrote:I’m not aware of any published data on Derren Brown force and I would be very grateful if you could let me know where I can find a report on the force.

With regards to the blanked criticisms, I wonder whether you have actually read the scientific paper. In the paper we report much more than simply testing whether the force work or not. It examines people’s awareness for the prime and also investigates whether the force relies on real social interactions. Turns out it is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live...


Yes, I read the paper before I commented. Your conclusion that the force "is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live," is incorrect. All the experiment proved was that the force is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live, when Alice Pailhès performs the force. Regarding the awareness for the prime, it only reports the levels of awareness when Alice Pailhès performs the force. The design of the experiment does not allow you to generalize your conclusions further than that. I'm sure your intentions were good, but you really have to re-think its design.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Paco Nagata » July 31st, 2020, 1:20 am

My personal most chosen cards:

From around 1998 to 2014 I have been writing down the name of the playing cards that any of my personal spectators have been naming along my card tricks performances at any time and any place I have been performing some card magic.

0 times named cards:
KC,10S, 6C, 6S, JC, 9S, 5C, 9C, 6D, 5S, 10D,10C, 8C

1 time named cards:
JH, 5H, KD, 9H, QC, 9D, 5D, 6H, 4D, JS, 2D, 10H

2 times named cards:
8D, 7S, 7H, 8S, QD, 2S, JD

3 times named cards:
QS, 3D, 7C, 2C, KS

4 times named cards:
3S, 4C, 3H, 3C, AD, KH, 7D

5 times named cards:
AC, 2H, 4S, 8H

7 times named cards:
QH, AH, 4H

11 times named cards:
AS

In total there are 121 card tricks performances in which a viewer named a card for any routine reason.

We can notice some basic interesting things; for instance:
1- Spectators seem to prefer low number cards when it comes to choose a card at will; Aces are the number most chosen, whereas 9 and 10 are the less chosen numbers.
2- Spectators seem to like the suit Heart much more than the others, followed by Spade, Diamonds and Clubs.
3- The Picture Cards less chosen are KC and JC (never been chosen).
4- After the Aces, 3 is the most chosen number, followed by the 4 and after that, the 2, 7, 8, 5, 6, 9, 10 regarding number cards.

Remember that this is only my personal experience, nevertheless it may show us something general about what cards tend to choose (lay) people.

I showed this list in The Magician's Forum a few months ago.
"The Passion of an Amateur Card Magician"
https://bit.ly/2lXdO2O
"La pasion de un cartómago aficionado"
https://bit.ly/2kkjpjn
Latest erratum corrections and improvements update, 16/06/2020.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Curtis Kam » July 31st, 2020, 1:23 am

The study read like what I would have liked my own practice sessions to be. The hit rate would have been encouraging and useful information, to someone interested in trying out the techniques.

However, as a scientific test, I’m troubled by the lack of a control. If she had delivered the same script, but with random gestures, or had tried to force some other card using the same gestures, we would have something to compare her successes to. Ditto, as Max points out, if she simply gestured and spoke without priming, and simply asked the same subjects to name a card, we would see what an “unprimed” subject would say.


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Re: "Primes"

Postby Gustav Kuhn » July 31st, 2020, 3:49 am

Jack Shalom wrote:
Gustav Kuhn wrote:I’m not aware of any published data on Derren Brown force and I would be very grateful if you could let me know where I can find a report on the force.

With regards to the blanked criticisms, I wonder whether you have actually read the scientific paper. In the paper we report much more than simply testing whether the force work or not. It examines people’s awareness for the prime and also investigates whether the force relies on real social interactions. Turns out it is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live...


Yes, I read the paper before I commented. Your conclusion that the force "is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live," is incorrect. All the experiment proved was that the force is as effective when viewed on video rather than performed live, when Alice Pailhès performs the force. Regarding the awareness for the prime, it only reports the levels of awareness when Alice Pailhès performs the force. The design of the experiment does not allow you to generalize your conclusions further than that. I'm sure your intentions were good, but you really have to re-think its design.

in.

I recommend you read the paper again. In the results section we clearly state that "Next, we examined whether the force relied on real social interaction (Figure 2). Contrary to our prediction, participants did not choose the target cards significantly more often during the live performance compared to the video one (X2 (1, N=90) 0.30, p=.581, φ =.058 for the three of Diamonds, X2 (1, N=90) 0.05, p=.829, φ =.023 for the three)." Likewise, contrary to your claim, awareness measure were taken in all of the conditions.

The paper is highly significant, because there has been much controversy surrounding implicit priming effects, and the current findings have been replicated using nearly 600 participants. There are always lots of ways in which an experimental design can be improved, and no single experiment will ever reveal the full story. This is why scientific conclusions must be based on a large amount of published data. Consecutive criticism is always useful, and it's what advances our knowledge. However, criticism should be consecutive and it needs to accurately reflect and represent the work that has been published. People are often very quick to criticise. Academic reviewers are experts in criticising experimental design, and this paper is based on 3 years of hard work, and the paper went through numerous revisions. Rather than simply criticising this work, I encourage you to focus your energy on seeing whether it can help you improve your magic. Only time will tell whether it does.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Gustav Kuhn » July 31st, 2020, 3:59 am

Max Maven wrote:Here is one of the underlying problems: The probability figures you cite presume that the chance of a person naming the three of diamonds at random is 1/52. But most people do not name random cards. MagicbyAlfred acknowledges this when he repeats the claim that the three of diamonds is "not a commonly chosen card." But that citation is also questionable.

The quest to determine cards most frequently named has been ongoing, literally for centuries. The earliest reference I've found is from 1784. But a consistent list has never been established, although quite a few have been published...

Two things seem clear:

1. There is no such universal list. The best that can be determined is in the form of general rules (e.g., certain values are named more often than others), but by their very generality such rules are not dependable in the specific.

2. The results of asking a person to name a card are affected by many factors, ranging from the cultural setting, to the way in which the question is phrased, to what information may have preceded the question, to the identity of the person/performer doing the asking.

This study is interesting, but in my opinion it ignores too many factors.



Finding the perfect baseline is always tricky and there is no one perfect solution to this. There are indeed large variations in the probability by which playing cards are named, and Jay Olson and colleagues published an interesting paper that also reveals how different forms of questioning will influence the probability of different. Alice tested nearly 600 people on this force, and she run lots of control conditions. Indeed, as you will see in the paper, she did run a condition in which participants were simply asked to name a card but where she did not use any form of priming. Here, none of the participants named the 3 of Diamonds. It’s impossible to control for all individual and cultural differences, but I struggle to see how this undermines the significance of the current findings.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Jack Shalom » July 31st, 2020, 10:21 am

I recommend you read the paper again. In the results section we clearly state that "Next, we examined whether the force relied on real social interaction (Figure 2). Contrary to our prediction, participants did not choose the target cards significantly more often during the live performance compared to the video one (X2 (1, N=90) 0.30, p=.581, φ =.058 for the three of Diamonds, X2 (1, N=90) 0.05, p=.829, φ =.023 for the three)." Likewise, contrary to your claim, awareness measure were taken in all of the conditions.


? I understood and was quoting your words about the conclusion. I was a math teacher for lots of years, I'm very familiar with the reporting of experimental results. And again the conclusion is misstated. You want to claim significance to the conclusion that "participants did not choose the target cards significantly more often during the live performance compared to the video one." But that is not what you tested, nor what you discovered. What you tested is how participants responded to the force as performed by Alice P.

The effect of the force--and thus the response of the participants-- is not independent of who performs it. It's a strong variable that needs to be taken into account. Even if you're testing for something as simple as the effectiveness of a Cross Cut force, the performer is a variable, but much less so than in this case.

Look, imagine if you had been able to get Derren Brown to do the force. And suppose he had been 90% effective live and 80% effective on video. In both cases he would have done much better than Alice, but you would have had to come to the opposite conclusion--video is less effective than live.

Or conversely, suppose you had Nervous Nellie performing the force, who performs great for the mirror, but messes up all the time in person. (This person, as magic hobbyists know, is quite representative of many involved with magic, not a figment of my imagination.) Nellie may have matched Alice's numbers on video, but in person, she gets nervous and tends to overact. In that case you would have reported that video is more effective than live.

Until you find a way to account for the skill of the performer, your results will not have meaning in the wider world. Alice found out a lot about her abilities; it is not necessarily generalizable to anyone else, or anyone else's audience.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Gustav Kuhn » July 31st, 2020, 5:54 pm

This will be my last reply as I’m currently on holiday with my family so I will make it more general. Science is a wonderful tool that allows us to empirically test a hypothesis, and in many situations the findings will generalize to lots of other contexts. The objective nature of this discipline does however mean that there are lots of other variables that we cannot test. In the current study we were not interested in testing whether individual differences in the performer have an impact on the force. This was not the focus of the study, and we don’t make any claims about this. In some of our past research we have shown that people rate magic tricks they think are performed by male rather than female magician as more impressive (https://spb.psychopen.eu/index.php/spb/ ... /view/2579), but this was not the focus here. Moreover, off the record, I can reveal that Alice’s force was more effective than when it’s performed by Derren (sorry Derren, you are still great, and you are much a better magician than either of us!). But again, this was not the focus of the current study.

I am often surprised by the way in which magicians criticise scientific papers. My advice to junior academic reviewers is to focus on what people did in the study, rather than what they didn’t do, and the same is true for knowledge more generally. When I read Max Maven’s books and articles, I don’t simply focus on what Max did not write. I try to pick out the parts that will add to my knowledge. I will focus on his great ideas and inspirations and I will try to incorporate this into my own performance. I suggest you do the same with scientific findings. There are lots of things that will be irrelevant to the magic community, because the studies are not intended to advance magic. They are intended to tell us more about the human mind. In the case here, it was intendent to examine how consciously presented primes in the form of hand gestures, can unconsciously influence people’s decision making. Its purpose is not to make you a better magician or tell you what you have done wrong. Its purpose was to discover more about the ease by which decisions can be influences and our lack of awareness of this influence.

This brings me to my second point about the nature of criticism. I have spent the last 15 years or more writing and reviewing papers on cognitive science, and feel fairly confident in pointing out methodological and statistical problems in such papers. At times I’m asked to review papers that use methodologies that I am less familiar with, such as neuroimaging, or computational modelling. Here I’m less confident in pointing out flaws. However, I would never review a paper where I lack sufficient expertise, since I simply unable to make an informed judgement. The peer review process is far from perfect, but it does ensure that most papers that have been published in respected journals have passed some form of quality control in terms of methodology and statistical analysis. If the sample size is too small, or not sufficiently representative, the paper simply won’t be accepted for publication. It does not mean the paper is relevant to you, but it does ensure the methodology has been checked by experts. All papers have some methodological weaknesses, but these are often addressed in the discussion section or in some cases a special limitation section. I personally would discourage people from publicly criticising a person’s methodology unless they fully understand the paper and it’s methodology.

Misinformed criticism can misinform others about the nature of the work and disrespect the creators. I struggle understand why magicians so often take a confrontational and rather defensive take on scientific studies published on magic. I understand that not all scientific finding will be of significance to the art of magic practitioners, but what motivates the need for much of the unfounded methodological criticism. Why not focus your energy on what magicians do best - take the science and use it to create new illusions? Rather than thinking of ways in which you can criticise the methodology, think about how to use these findings to create new effects. If it’s possible to prime the 3 of Diamonds what other primes could be used for other cards, or concepts? The force was only successful 20% of the times, but it might be possible to change the context to enhance its efficacy. Focus your energy on the things that really matter – advancing the art of magic.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby MagicbyAlfred » July 31st, 2020, 6:00 pm

I'm a magician, and I didn't criticize it; quite the opposite, actually.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Bob Coyne » July 31st, 2020, 6:26 pm

I didn't read the full paper, but from the writeup, it seems like a very interesting study. My sense is that some of the criticisms here wanted it to be more than it claimed to be, since there is so much more that can be tested and explored, such as what types of priming works on what types of subjects as presented in different ways, etc. But that can come later. For now, this study makes an important first step by establishing that there is in fact a statistically significant effect that can be measured in a relatively controlled setting with one set of fixed variables. I imagine that the experimenters have ideas on any number of followups that could be made to shed further light on the phenomenon and its potential applications to magic and other things.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Jack Shalom » July 31st, 2020, 8:17 pm

Gustav Kuhn wrote: Rather than thinking of ways in which you can criticise the methodology, think about how to use these findings to create new effects. If it’s possible to prime the 3 of Diamonds what other primes could be used for other cards, or concepts? The force was only successful 20% of the times, but it might be possible to change the context to enhance its efficacy. Focus your energy on the things that really matter – advancing the art of magic.


What a condescending reply. I have been considering the meaning of that particular piece of priming since 2002.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 1st, 2020, 11:39 am

I just want to add two more cents to this. I defended Dr. Kuhn's article/study, but rather than extend the courtesy of even acknowledging that, he went all super-defensive on the magicians who offered their honest critiques, labeling it as "blanket" criticism. The criticisms I read were not "blanket" but quite individualistic, by some damn smart, experienced, and knowledgeable people, with each person offering their well-articulated opinion of the deficiencies of the study, or how it could be improved. Dr. Kuhn stated on here (among many other things) that "I am often surprised by the way in which magicians criticise [sic] scientific papers." To my way of thinking, if you are going to do a study involving the force of a card and then, based on the results, opine that the conversational prime technique may have useful practical applications for magicians, you are not exclusively within the realm of science, but now squarely within our realm, as well, and we have every right to offer our opinions. I believe that Dr. Kuhn should be grateful for the perspective and comments that were rendered here by magicians, instead of treating them as, essentially, an attack.
Last edited by MagicbyAlfred on August 1st, 2020, 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 1st, 2020, 11:41 am

Any scientists here aside from Dr. Kuhn? No hands? I thought so.
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Re: "Primes"

Postby Brad Henderson » August 1st, 2020, 12:38 pm

Appeal to authority.

You know who wrote every scientific paper that was later found to be incorrect?

A scientist.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Smurf » August 1st, 2020, 1:04 pm

I would think a commentary by a uninvolved mathematician who specializes in probability/statistics would be the authority that would offer the most helpful analysis of a study like this.

While I was not technically a scientist, I worked with them everyday for 34-years as a laboratory technician in R&D in the chemical industry. Most of the investigators were PhD's in their field and generally sharp in mathematics.

Even still, the company had mathematicians on the R&D campus to help researchers out with advanced subjects. One common function of the mathematicians was to help in the design of experiments. This pre-experimental analysis can make the difference between a definitive result and one that is inconclusive. They mathematicians would also analyze the data collected during the experiments to make sure the conclusions were mathematically sound.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_of_experiments

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Gustav Kuhn » August 1st, 2020, 3:53 pm

I just wanted to apologize for sounding condescending and unappreciative of the insights magicians provide on this. This was not my intention and after re-reading my post I see that it was extremely defensive. The post was not intended as a blanket criticism. It was intended to refocus the debate to look at how scientific findings about the inner working of the human mind can hopefully inspire magicians to create new effects. I realize that my post has done the opposite and I apologize for this. Science and magic can both learn so much form each other, and but I think it’s important for both sides to understand their strengths and weaknesses.. Science tries to be objective and precise, but in doing so, it’s focus can be rather narrow. I guess what I am trying to say, is that for practitioners to make the most of the work, I encourage you to think about whether the findings are relevant to what you are doing. Some of the findings will be relevant others not, and that’s ok. Just because you cannot apply the findings to your work does not mean the experiments are badly designed, or that the science is wrong. My irritation came from claims that the useless survey was based on a false premise, and I apologize if I have irritated some of you. Let us find a way in which we can all work together…

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Re: "Primes"

Postby MagicbyAlfred » August 1st, 2020, 6:29 pm

Thank you for that post, Gustav. You are a very bright and dedicated scientist, but sincerity and humility in a person are even more admirable, and you clearly have that in great measure. I hope you are enjoying your holiday with your family.

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Re: "Primes"

Postby Bill Mullins » August 3rd, 2020, 12:11 am

I've been offline a couple of days, and I'm sorry that a link to a paper that I thought might be of interest has blown up so, and that a comment I made may have contributed to that.

I've corresponded with him about a Flushtration Count paper of his that was mentioned here on the Forum not too long ago, and got along with him fine then.

The academic paradigm and that of magicians are so fundamentally different from each other. Things one group finds to be important are irrelevant to the other, and when you are told that something important to you is irrelevant, it is difficult not to take offense. That process goes both ways.

Richard Kaufman wrote:Any scientists here aside from Dr. Kuhn? No hands? I thought so.


I believe Bob Coyne is a computer scientist at Columbia Univ.

Gustav Kuhn wrote:The paper was published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals, and it has gone through a rigorous peer review process,

Were any of the peers magicians?

Dave Le Fevre
Posts: 155
Joined: December 24th, 2015, 10:29 am
Favorite Magician: Paul Megram

Re: "Primes"

Postby Dave Le Fevre » August 3rd, 2020, 4:46 am

Bill Mullins wrote:Things one group finds to be important are irrelevant to the other, and when you are told that something important to you is irrelevant, it is difficult not to take offense. That process goes both ways.
You make an excellent point. Which is relevant not only here but also in many other situations. Thank you for that.

Edward Pungot
Posts: 586
Joined: May 18th, 2011, 1:55 am

Re: "Primes"

Postby Edward Pungot » August 3rd, 2020, 9:16 am

Bill Mullins wrote:The academic paradigm and that of magicians are so fundamentally different from each other.


Analog (continuous) vs Digital (discrete)
Magic Rainbow vs Unweaving the Rainbow
Waves vs 0110010

It's like the old saying about comedy:
When you dissect it, the magic dies.
But there is also magic to be found in the details.


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