Telekinesis Revealed on Science of Scams

In his new YouTube series Science of Scams, Derren Brown attempts to win our skeptical hearts back after all that NLP bullshit (and, as Sid reminds me, that really horribly pathetic lottery trick “explanation”*).

Personally, despite the occasional dumb explanation, I’m on Team Derren and I like that he’s using his talents to educate through YouTube.

*This link has the original lotto trick if you haven’t seen it, plus a few videos from people explaining how (they think) he did it. Here’s my favorite of them (don’t click if you don’t want the trick spoiled!).

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. @tomsalinsky: As far as I know, he hasn’t specifically said he uses “NLP.” The problem that I (and many other skeptics and scientists and magicians) had with a lot of his earlier work was his insistence that he used the power of suggestion and psychology to manipulate people. This is the cornerstone of NLP and the reason why his work leant NLPers so much credence. After a lot of criticism, he finally got around to very gently and quietly deriding NLP.

  2. To be fair, he is a magician and an entertainer first – NLP et al are his ‘cover’ for his tricks. Like any magician, any of his explanations should be taken with a pinch of salt. At the start of his shows he says ‘this program fuses magic, suggestion, psychology’ etc. If he was indicating the proportions of each he was using, he’d pretty much be shouting ‘magic’ and muttering the others.
    I’ll agree the lottery explanation show was disappointing, and a bit patronizing (so were all the shows in the series, to some extent – he should stick to magic imho).
    And shouldn’t it be spelt ‘telekinesis’?

  3. @Donald Sinclair: Thanks, fixed the spelling error!

    While I agree that any explanation should be taken with a pinch of salt, that doesn’t excuse shit explanations like continually falling back on pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. He’s since proven he’s a better magician than that, I think.

  4. @Rebecca: I’m with you on this. For many things – and the lottery “prediction” is one of them – no explanation is better than some bullshit explanation. One review of that show said that Brown instantly turned from the most intriguing man on TV into the most irritating, and I’d agree with that assessment.

    Brown is no doubt an incredibly talented person, and is very entertaining (most of the time). But he could do with cutting out the bullshit – or at least make it not smell so strong.

    To be fair to him though, at the end of the lottery explanation show he did say that it was just a trick!

  5. Couldn’t the telekinesis trick be done more easily by having someone off-camera blow on the straw?

    I’ve been a big Derren Brown fan for a while. I missed the lottery trick. Based on your comments I might be happier if I just don’t ever see it. Still, Trick or Treat was a pretty cool show, and the bank robbery one was awesome too.

  6. I’ve watched several Derren Brown clips on youtube and wondered how the tricks were done.

    Have any of you seen the trick where he pays people with blank pieces of paper? Or where he gets a marketing team to draw a picture by supposedly giving them visual hints during their travel to him? Or gets Simon Pegg to supposedly chose a pre-determined birthday gift?

    I assume these people are just playing along with him.

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