The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I sense some skepticism

A couple of days ago I wrote about so-called psychics and what I think is the reality behind the ones that seem genuine. I'd like to expand on that today.

As we grow up, we learn skills which we use throughout our lives. Some of them are obvious: language, manners (table and social), walking, running, jumping. And so on. But we also absorb skills subconsciously.

Sports. Baseball. You learn to throw a ball before you even know anything about the game. But there is so much more to throwing a ball than the simple mechanics of gripping the ball, set, arm extension, and follow through. How hard to throw it to go a certain distance and aiming for a moving target have to be learned. We start with stationary ones, don't we? Then we advance to moving ones so we can hit that baseman as he moves toward the bag to tag out the runner. Throwing a ball toward a person standing still seems simple (though it takes you a while to master it well enough). Throwing a ball to a moving person requires complex calculations translated to muscle movement. But we do it, some better than others. Some way better. Some never really get the hang of it.

Take the game of pocket billiards (pool). Striking the cue ball with just the right amount of force to propel it into the object ball in order to move that ball in a specific direction and speed to sink it is difficult enough. Now add to it the concept of positioning that cue ball as a result of that shot so you have another opportunity to sink another object ball. I can tell you how to strike the cue ball to make it move certain ways such as draw (backspin) or follow (add roll) and I can tell you how that might affect the object ball and how that can affect the object ball's path. You, however, will have to teach yourself just how to compensate, how hard to strike the cue ball, and how to take advantage of the physics involved. Physics that you may have no clue you are learning or why they work.

I play golf. Some of you may also. Did you ever consider just how many complex calculations you make when putting? Without touching the surface with anything other than your feet (inside shoes), you determine the speed needed to go a certain distance, you eyeball the contours your ball will traverse and determine how to take advantage of them, and your brain turns this into instructions to your muscles in order to execute the putt. (I would add “and then it misses by a mile and rolls way past the hole” but that goes without saying)

Most of the above is not actually taught, it is learned by the brain however. And the brain performs the calculations without you consciously being aware of it.

Apply all the above to what a “psychic” does. He absorbs information without realizing it, his brain uses that information to make a prediction or determine something about the person in front of him. It seems amazing, magical, but I suspect it is no more magical than playing baseball, pool, or golf.


Charlotte Ann said...

I watched one of them explain his craft. He mentioned something and watched closely for an affimative movement of the clients head..a widening of the eyes and other clues and if none of these were noted he quickly moved to anohter statement and did this moving so quickly that the conned one never noticed any of it. Eventually he would hit on something that was true and again he would follow that path...
Amazing..the person never knew what hit em!
The good ones are GOOD ...shilling....what fun!

Douglas said...

Charlotte Ann, those are the frauds. They know they aren't psychic and they have learned the skills needed to "read" people. The ones who believe they have some psychic power are the ones I am addressing. They have learned the skills without realizing it. And some are picking up information the vast majority would never realize is there.