Monday, 9 March 2009

Derren Brown - The System

Derren Brown made a program called The System that illustrates a couple of things about reality very well.

He tossed a coin ten times and it landed the same side all ten times. No camera tricks, so it was magic! Well, no, he filmed himself for a day tossing a coin and finally managed to come up with a sequence of 10 the same.

He also did a similar thing where it *looked* like he was the world's best tipster, giving a girl the winner of a number of races in a row. She was so convinced of his powers she borrowed thousands of pounds to put on his next tip. I won't give the game away, in case someone wants to watch it, but if you think about it's quite easy to tip the winner of any number of races in a row.

I think it's a good illustration of two things:
1) The passage of time can give rise to some very unlikely *looking* arrangements, which might appear to be designed, but have actually arisen through the accumulation of very small changes, and from a different perspective are almost bound to happen, and not unlikely at all.
2) People can be very easily taken in by these unlikely events and ascribe a 'magical' quality to them; when in fact the explanation is very ordinary. From such prosaic events can myth and legend spring.


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