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Charlyn Wee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Spooky Science Behind Ouija Boards

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Charlyn Wee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Since the 19th century, the Ouija board has been viewed as both a dangerous instrument of the occult and a kitschy game to break out at parties. To use it, a group of people must place their fingers on the pointer, or planchette, and watch as the "spirits” glide it over the letters and numbers on the board, effectively spelling out their message. Some attribute this phenomenon to supernatural forces, while others point to deceptive pranksters. The real answer, however, is as spooky as it is scientific. 

The ideomotor effect occurs when someone moves themself or an object without being conscious of their actions. This combined with a strong subconscious need for an answer, like what one might feel when using a Ouija board, leads to players moving the planchette without any knowledge of doing so. 

A 2012 study from the University of British Columbia investigated this effect by having test subjects answer factual yes or no questions both verbally and with a Ouija board. For the Ouija board portion of the experiment, participants were blindfolded and told they’d be answering with another person, but when the experiment began their partner quickly removed their hands from the planchette. For questions they were unsure about, participants using the Ouija answered correctly 65 percent of the time compared to just 50 percent of the time when responding verbally.

The results of the study suggest people have a "second intelligence" buried in their subconscious mind that can only be accessed under the right conditions. "Ask someone ...'What's the capital of Cambodia?' and they might say, 'I have no idea,'" said Docky Duncan, one of the researchers from UBC's Visual Cognition Lab who furthered their research on the subject in 2014. "But they might have heard it somewhere, and it may actually be inside your brain."

The fact that Ouija board games are more of a psychological experiment than a communion with the dead makes them no less creepy. Feel free to share this scientific tidbit at your next impromptu seance, or keep it to yourself and use the knowledge to extract secrets from the minds of your friends.

[h/t: Nerdist]

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The World’s First Minecraft Play Debuts in Northern Ireland
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The Playhouse Theatre

There are a lot of replicas of real-world locations in Minecraft, but there are few replicas of real-life performances. The latest show to premiere at the Playhouse Theatre in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, though, takes place both on stage and online. In what the theater is billing as the world’s first live play inside Minecraft, actors will perform both in real life and through digital avatars.

Playcraft Live is adapted from a series of young adult sci-fi novels called TimeRiders, which follows a group of teens as they work to stop future time travelers from changing history—in the case of this story, in the Neolithic Age. While the play was written by TimeRiders author Alex Scarrow, Minecraft users were involved in producing it, helping professional video game designers build out one of the virtual sets as part of a Minecraft buildathon in late September.

Three Minecraft renderings of Times Square
The Playhouse Theatre

The performance will be split between the actors live on stage and puppeteers controlling the avatars in the game. “Audiences within the theater, and online, will experience the production as a single live-stream, and neither audience needs to own Minecraft in order to view the stream,” according to a press release from the theater.

The play debuts on October 14 in Northern Ireland, and you can also watch it online via livestream.

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The Seemingly Simple ‘Math’ Problem That Stumped the Internet
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If you’re a regular Mental Floss reader, you know that we love a good brain teaser. And the one below, which originated on Facebook and has been shared more than 150,000 times, is a great one to test just how sharp you are on a Friday evening at the end of a long workweek.

It’s a seemingly simple enough task: spot the error. Your time starts now…

We’ll give you a minute …

And a little space for you to scroll down to find the answer …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you figure it out?

The “mistake” is that the word “mistake” is misspelled on the instruction sheet on the left. If you missed that completely, you’re not alone: the grid of numbers is what immediately grabs your attention.

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