The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 18 September 2009


How did Derren Brown predict the lottery? My guess? All that stuff about it being difficult to negotiate with Camelot was misdirection. And so was all the talk about there being a delay in the broadcast; it was included delibately to make the audience suspicious about the wrong thing.

All he would have to do would be to get Camelot to run the lottery about ten minutes earlier than normal, to let him know what the result was, and for the broadcast on the BBC to then follow after he has had time to put the correct balls on the podium.

No split screen or fake camera-shaking required. Just playing on audience’s presumptions – we think the Derren Brown show is ‘live’ because he’s got a TV feed showing what’s on BBC 1, but how do we know what was on BBC 1 was being broadcast live? The lottery show has been time-delayed before...

Of course, it would require the co-operation of Camelot and the BBC, but I’d put that down as ‘not impossible’. Given the amount of posiitve publicity they received, I’d even put it down as ‘quite surprising if it were not true’.

That was all fun. What was kind of reprehensible – and entirely at odds with Derren Brown’s normal approach – was the follow-up show that tried to explain how the trick was done in terms of ‘deep maths’ and ‘wisdom of crowds’. The ‘deep maths’ of the coin toss trick was not remotely ‘deep’ – no strange attractors at work, just knowing that if someone’s trying to get, say, head-head-head, someone who is trying to get tails-head-head is probably going to get there first. See Penney’s Game.

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