Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Deduction #4

This deduction marks an important milestone for this blog.

I learned quite a few things from this picture. Most of them were not facts about the owner of the bookshelf, but creative ways of finding information and, more importantly, confirming it.

For starters, I am a huge Dan Brown fan. In fact, I own all of his novels. The thing is, I didn't recognize the ones on your shelf - at least I didn't at first. That's not the American cover art. Based on that, and the AA driving manual/practice book, I feel same in assuming that you are the first non-American to submit a picture to my blog, and for that I am immensely grateful. Add the interesting fact that the picture arrived on the submission page approximately 7 hours after it was taken (time zone difference), and I deduce that you live in the UK (the Doctor Who books helped too).

Next, let's narrow down physically who you are. I'm operating under the assumption that you are male based on your interest in role-playing games (bottom shelf on the left), your music (metal, if I'm not mistaken), and your ownership of lighter fluid and accessories for a bee-bee gun. That being said, you could also be a statistically uncommon female, but the balance of probability says otherwise. You are almost certainly Caucasian (30 SPF sunblock in the UK), and you are a swimmer( although whether it's for a club, your school, etc. - I cannot be sure).

Based on your literary interests and the books referencing eating on a budget, student cooking, etc., I'm placing your age somewhere in the university range. It's likely that you live in a small apartment/flat (terminology is fun) for two reasons: The first is that, while I am unfamiliar with dorm living over there, I would assume that bringing your own bookshelf is hard to do. The second is your bike pump. There are many places where a person with a lot of space to work with could keep a bike pump - the top of a bookshelf doesn't seem like one of them.

You are interested in computers (potentially a university major), puzzle solving, and different methods of thinking (explaining your participation in the blog). You enjoy mysteries, and figuring things out firsthand. 

Finally, I have some questions. Are you a magician? That seems to be a lot of decks of cards, even for someone who plays table-games. What in the world is that green slime-looking stuff in the small bucket?

Thanks for submitting! I await your response!

Mind Palace - Introduction

Okay, it's time - I've been putting this off for a while because quite frankly, I'm terrified of underselling such a valuable concept. In this three-part set of posts, we're going to discuss the Holmesian (actually ancient Greek) technique of remembering absolutely anything, for any length of time, limited only by the power of your imagination.

But before we do that, I have to tell you a story:

Stop what you are doing. Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing at your front door. Yes, of your house. I don't care which house, where it is, or when you lived there - it just has to be a place you remember well. I'm serious. In order for this to work, you have to trust me a little bit.

Now, standing between you and your front door, I want you to imagine a dollhouse. It can be whatever color, size, shape, or level of decadence you desire. But a dollhouse. Don't laugh, just imagine it. Right there on your doormat. See it.

Now, open your front door, and imagine walking two steps into whatever room is there, when you come face to face with a giant playing card - I mean huge. Whatever card you like, just make it gigantic - floor to ceiling. On this card, there's a ton of what looks like graffiti. You can see paint dripping - it's fresh. You can smell it as it dries. Upon closer inspection, you notice that the graffiti is actually words and numbers (names, definitions, phone numbers, somebody's social security #). Got it, good.

Next, move to the next room, which is now completely full of computers - maybe wall-to-wall WWII machines, all feeding into a massive flash-drive which sits at the end of the banks of computers.

Keep walking. Next room. You could be in your kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc. Just be sure it's set up as though you're actually walking through your house. You don't want to be teleporting between rooms. If you are out of space, walk back and go another way (no need to change what we've already done). That being said, in the next room, put a stack of books. In keeping with our theme, make this a massive stack of books. Not just ordinary books - old books. Ancient, dusty tomes as thick as your head. Something you'd see in some thousand-year-old library.

And finally, walk into what will be the final room on your walk through your house. In it, be sure to imagine a giant brain. Maybe in a glass tank, hooked up to a bunch of electrodes, even perhaps floating in some mysterious liquid.

Now, what I'd like you to do is walk back. Take the little walk that we've just taken in reverse. Go from the brain, back to the giant stack of giant books, through the room with the computers, back to graffiti-covered  playing card, and finally out your front door, almost tripping over the dollhouse on the doormat. Then walk it again. This time, walk through as though you're seeing the house for the first time. Be sure to notice the large and strange things that you've placed in the different rooms. You should find it pretty easy to remember which things you placed in which room as long as you see them as opposed to just trying to recall them.

That example may not make a ton of sense right this second, but for now, suffice it to say that you've just stored some very specific information in a mind palace.

Tune in soon  for Part 2, where we'll discuss exactly HOW this works. I'll show you as best I can the techniques that make the above story make sense, and allow you to construct your own mind palace and fill it with whatever you need to know.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Deduction #3

We're getting a two-for-one today, children.

Okay, step one - how do we know these pictures were taken by the same person? Well, a fun little computer trick tells us that these pictures were not only taken within the same 3 minutes of each other, but by the same model phone (Samsung Galaxy, and if I'm not mistaken, the AT&T version).

Step two - let's take a look at this bookshelf. Almost all of the books are about psychology in some shape or form, but let's go a bit further. Too many books for a hobby, or even a college major. This is a career. This person does psychology for a living - most likely a psychotherapist specializing in attachment based on the really official-looking books near the bottom of the shelf. Moreover, this person is interested in getting multiple perspectives on the mind from a wide variety of sources. Many of the books on the upper part of the shelf were written by philosophers of the mind, investigating everything from how the brain processes time to self-awareness and mindfulness. Our subject is not unwilling to go to the eastern hemisphere for another perspective, bringing a nice balance to their field of study - ironic, considering the symbolic significance of the statue of the Nataraja (Shiva in the form of the Cosmic Dancer) on the upper left part of the shelf. Do you meditate? The above details would suggest feelings that the current view of psychology is very incomplete, and also a level of curiosity not bounded by conventional thought patterns. We have a thinker in our midst, ladies and gentlemen.

Okay, so now we know what this person does for a living, and a little bit about their feelings on their field of study. Now onto...

Step three - The living room. Right off the bat, I think our subject has a dog based on the couch cover and the large wall-mounted picture. They are also remarkably aware of world-culture for the typical American (If you're not sure how we know the subject is in America, check their wall socket.). Over on the mantle, we see a few artifacts including what appears to be a bronze Buddha. She (for I think the subject is female based on the patterned couch pillows) may likely be shorter than average, as all of the tables, even the running table on the wall are what I, at 5'11'', would consider fairly low. We also see that the books from earlier aren't just for show - there are lamps everywhere. She reads a lot, and she reads for fun. Finally, I'd say the house was built circa the 1980's, judging by the painted brick fireplace.

Parting questions - What sort of work were you doing on the wall? Did you paint the picture? How about the light switch hidden amongst your many books?

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Fun Little Computer Trick...

This one's for those of you who are looking at the previous deductions and thinking, "Man, I got just about everything on there EXCEPT I have no idea how he figured out what camera he used."

I'll tell you, but I guarantee you - it's not as cool as you think.

Picture files contain quite a bit of information - besides the visual information, that is. As it turns out, some of that information pertains to the origins of the picture. In other words, in most cases, a picture file KNOWS where it came from. So all a curious person has to do is save the picture, right click on it, and find that wonderful little tab called "properties."

Now, its' a fairly simple matter to scroll down to the part that contains information about the camera which took the picture.

But that's not all. Play around with it yourself. You may be surprised at what you find.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Deduction #2

Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado...

The green box catches my attention first - computer parts - computer savvy. That's along with the multiple World of Warcraft and Halo books says that you are a gamer (and most likely male). You won multiple awards in high school, which by the way was Claudia Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson High in San Antonio, Texas, where you were in the JROTC program (and probably still are through your college, which is probably U of A, but I'm not positive). You enjoy manga and sci-fi, are/were enrolled in what could be considered an "upper-level" math class (your TI-83 manual), and you performed above average on the SAT's (You have the test-prep book, AND you kept it, meaning it was either useful or valuable to you.) You are used to wearing nice clothes based on the hanger hanging on your closet door (further evidence for the college ROTC theory). You used your phone to take this picture, and you are most likely a customer of AT&T, or at least were at the time this picture was taken, which if I'm not mistaken was August 2013.

My only real question to you is: "Why do you own a gavel?"

As with before, if this is your picture, be sure to comment and let me know how accurate these were. It really helps!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

And so it begins...

Since I'm not exactly sure of the format I'd like to use, I'm going to just kind of free write and see where it goes.

Okay, here we go. *Cracks knuckles*

The first thing I noticed was the tissues. Sadly, that's the item that gave me the least information. Moving clockwise, we get to the remote, suggesting you have a television in the room, probably either to the right or directly behind where the picture was taken based on the placement of the bed. Moving farther counterclockwise takes us to the black CFL light bulb, which begs the question, "Where is your blacklight"?

But we're just getting warmed up. You took quite a while to upload this picture based on the fact that your watch says 3:55, and coupling this with the wallet, we can determine that you are most likely male. You also most likely live East of the U of A campus based on what appears to be a Good Egg coupon to the far right of the table (or perhaps you just really like their food). You are, as your CatCard would suggest, a student at the University of Arizona, but are most likely in your third or fourth year (that style was not available to students starting in the 2013 school year, which would mean you are at least a junior). Now back to the dance shoes. It's a moderately priced brand. You probably got them for 20-30 dollars, suggesting that you are new to the art. Combine that with the information from the CatCard (and a little digging on UAccess) and I arrive at the conclusion that you are most likely enrolled in either Dance 144A or 144B at the U.

Oh, but wait, there's more. Your phone is conspicuously absent from the picture (not plugged into the charger on the ground) suggesting that you may have used it to take the picture. But I think I know better. I think the phone was in your pocket at the time, and that you used an actual camera to take the photo based on the resolution. On a hunch, I would hazard a guess that you used a Cannon Powershot SX280HS.

Finally, I would like to know if you have a CD player in your room, because it seems odd that you would be transporting that ripped Keith Urban album back and forth from there to your car. Also, are you going to Country Thunder?


Hope you enjoyed the first of many deduction sessions. Feel free to comment with any other observations that I may have missed, or questions about the thought process involved. And don't forget, if this is your picture, be sure to let me know how I did!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Real World Practice

These techniques are great to practice, but wouldn't it be great to get something "real" up here? So, by way of an idea that was shown to me via another deduction-themed blog, I'm going to ask for some input.

Send me a snapshot of your life. Whether that's a picture of the top of your desk, your room, or even your garage (anonymously of course).

I'll use the techniques I've been practicing to deduce (/induce?) as much as possible about whoever sends me a picture. If I get really cool examples, I'll post them on the blog so that anyone else reading can practice too.

Here's the link to a place where you can post snapshots:    Click Here

No one will know who's pictures belong to whom, but like I said earlier, any really cool examples will be posted on the blog for practice.

P.S. If your picture ends up on the blog, I encourage you to let me know how accurate my (and other readers') deductions are, so that we can all benefit from it.

Happy Sleuthing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

New Practice Game - Targeted Intuition

In addition to my existing mental training regimen, I have decided to add a new training game in order to home in on one of my favorite things about perception - judgment. We judge people. It happens. Everything you think about someone else's thoughts, emotions, or reasons for what they do comes down to judgment. It's not a bad thing, as long as you understand what's happening, which through this blog, I intend to do.

WARNING : If you decide to follow my mental training regimen, please don't add this game in until you are comfortable playing the first ones. This exercise is all about directing your intuitions in order to better understand how your brain processes information subconsciously. Without a conscious thought a process to compare to, you are doing something so horrible, so grossly shocking, that any true Sherlock Holmes fan would be humiliated to be caught in the act of - guessing.

With that in mind, here is the Targeted Intuition Training Game:

1) Observe a person. Before consciously ingesting any details, try to allow your brain to give you an intuitive profile, a "first a impression without justification." (In reality, your brain will have some sort of justification, but the idea is for you to be unaware of the subconscious calculations involved.)

2) Once you have your intuition, break it down. Isolate the individual elements, and highlight any unusual ones. (Let's say a woman walks by - Your intuition goes something like, "She's a nervous mother." Okay, fine. Why a mother? Why nervous?)
3) Now take another look. Play the other games. Find details. Make deductions/inductions. See if you can arrive at any specific conclusions. Form a second profile about the person.

4) Compare your two profiles. See if any of the intuitions you formed were justified. Try to find out WHY your brain arrived at your intuition (Try to figure out what your subconscious mind was 'thinking' during step number 1. If you were way off, find out why. If you were dead on, find out why.

The point of this game is to begin to break down what we perceive as intuition, and display it for what it really is - a cumulative sum of countless calculations being made by your brain on your behalf, in order to better prepare you for dealing with the world. My theory, which this blog is a crucial part of, is that by slowing down the process, by training your intuition to see what is relevant, we can gain a better understanding of how we think, and what we can really see when we are watching closely. In addition, with a little extra effort, we can train our conscious mind to see things that were previously unavailable to us.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Formalities (Part 2)

Doing alright so far? Good. We've got a long ways to go.

Some more food for thought:
-What is induction?
-How is it different from deduction?
-Which is better?
-How does Holmes REALLY get his answers?

Essentially, induction is a form of logic not as bound by 100% truth and falsity, but rather makes use of what's called the Balance of Probability in order to determine a probable answer. For a side-by-side comparison, we'll head back to the white-house example from the last post:

Let's say I've done a fair amount of walking about my neighborhood. Let's also say that I, being a very observant fellow, notice something strange - every single house that I pass is white. Mind you, I haven't seen every house in the neighborhood, but I have seen quite a few.

Is it logical to suggest that any given house in the neighborhood is white based on the above data?

Through deduction, absolutely not. We have no True/False statements to deal with, and we can't stretch the existing data to encompass the whole neighborhood. The fact is, there are still some houses we know nothing about, so we cannot "deduce" anything about the color of a random house.

Through induction... maybe. Inductive reasoning is built around the idea that if one's premises are true and/or acceptable, then the conclusion is likely to be true or acceptable. Not nearly as powerful as deduction, but much more far-reaching.

If it doesn't sound impressive, it's because it's actually not. Inductive reasoning is something that most people do without thinking about it, and therefore don't put any real thought into how logical/illogical their intuitions are. To give you a better idea of what I mean, try reading the question another way:

If so far on my walk, I have only seen white houses, what then, should I expect the color of the next house to be?

Which is Better?
Short answer - neither. Holmes answer - they are both invaluable to good detective work. The secret to Sherlock's success as a consulting detective lies in using the different techniques effectively.

To maximize the effect of deductive reasoning, one must break down a situation into simple propositions (facts), and find as many logical connections between them as possible. Don't just guess as to what has happened - find out what MUST have happened. This takes a lot of work, and you will almost always be able to find alternate explanations for the facts you have at your disposal - the trick is using what you've got to narrow down what logically could NOT have occurred, and what you are left with, as Holmes famously puts it, will be the truth.

In order to get the most out of induction, you'll want to be asking lots of questions. In fact, simply asking why something happened the way it did is sometimes enough to unravel even the strangest of situations. You'll want to bear in mind that induction is only going to point you in the direction of a solution, not hand it to you. To work with this restriction, you'll want to be as aware as possible of the likelihood of every action taking place in your investigation. With very few exceptions, the more support you can find for a particular theory, the higher the Balance of Probability  on that option. Don't forget - the beauty of induction is that you aren't forced to make a choice. If a few theories are competing for your attention, try them all. Then go back and think it over. The truth will typically make itself known upon sufficient examination.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Formalities (Part 1)

Before I really get into an analysis of what the incredibly logical Holmesian thought process looks like, I thought I'd take a moment to break down exactly what logic is, in the formal sense, just to get a feel for the techniques used to draw inferences and arrive at logical conclusions.

Questions to answer:
What is deduction?
What makes an argument valid?
What is soundness?

This is the type of thought we usually associate with Sherlock Holmes - taking logical premises and applying rational thought to draw out necessary conclusions. For example:

1) Every house in my neighborhood is white.    [ A logical premise, but kind of bleak. ]
2) My house is in my neighborhood.                 [  Makes a good amount of sense. ]
3) My house is white.                                      [If we believe the first two, we are committed to this one.]

A more Holmesian example of deduction:

1) A man is killed from a blow to the head.
2) His skull has been shattered, which would cause profuse bleeding. 
3) The crime scene had very little blood.
4) The crime scene has not been altered in any way following the mans' death.
5) If 1-4 is true, then the man was killed elsewhere.
6) The man was killed elsewhere, then must have been placed at the scene later.

As long as your premises are true, and your conclusion follows from the premises (we'll get there), then your deductions (the conclusions you arrive at) can be said to be 100% true. The reason we associate this type of thinking with Holmes is because... well... he's almost never wrong.

Valid v. Invalid:
So why is Holmes right all the time? It's due in large part to the fact that his arguments are always what logicians would call valid. A valid argument is one that is constructed in such a way that if the premises are true, then the conclusion HAS TO BE TRUE. In other words, there is no way for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. If this is the case, we say that the conclusion follows from the premises.

Makes sense, right? But there's another aspect of this that we're missing:

So let's take the argument from earlier about my house:

1) Every house in my neighborhood is white. 
2) My house is in my neighborhood.              
3) My house is white.                                      

It's definitely valid, right? But hold on. Doesn't it seem silly that every house in my neighborhood is white? What if it wasn't true? Would my conclusion still be true? Not necessarily.

If not all of my premises were true, my argument would lose it's soundness. An argument is sound if it is valid (see above) AND all of the premises are true. So if all of the houses in my neighborhood really ARE white, then my argument is valid and sound.

Note to Future Detectives:  KNOW THESE THINGS!!! Your conclusions are only good if your arguments have both validity and soundness. Otherwise, they are worth next to nothing. In fact, a lot of the comedy in the Holmes adventures stems from the fact that the Scotland Yard Detectives' arguments are often either invalid or unsound, which Sherlock demonstrates rather easily either through providing counterexamples or by presenting a correct argument that ACTUALLY explains what happened.

continued in Part 2...