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

The Spooky Science Behind Ouija Boards

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

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Amazon
arrow
fun
Bob Ross’s Happy Little Menagerie Is Getting the Funko Treatment, Too
Amazon
Amazon

Back in August, the pop culture-loving toy fiends at Funko introduced a happy little Pop! Vinyl figurine of beloved painter/television icon Bob Ross, decked out in his trademark jeans and button-down shirt with a painter’s palette in his hand and his legendary perm (which he hated) atop his tiny little vinyl head. This Joy of Painting-themed addition to the Funko lineup proved to be an instant hit, so the company added a couple of additional toys to its roster—this time incorporating members of Ross’s happy little menagerie of pets, who were almost as integral to the long-running series as the painter himself.


Amazon

If you’re looking to score one of these toys before Christmas, it’s going to have to be a limited edition one—and it’s going to cost you. In collaboration with Target, Funko paired Ross with his favorite pocket squirrel, Pea Pod, which will set you back about $40. For just a few dollars more, you can opt to have the happy accident-prone painter come with Hoot the owl.


Amazon

On Friday, December 8, the company will release a Funko two-pack that includes Ross with a paintbrush and Ross with an adorable little raccoon.


Amazon

If you’d prefer to save a few dollars, and are willing to wait out the holiday season, you can pre-order Ross with just the raccoon for delivery around December 29.

So many happy little options, so little time.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
See How to Grow Snowflakes Inside a Soda Bottle
iStock
iStock

While it's too soon to know what the real chances are of having a white Christmas, even if it's 70 degrees and sunny, there’s still a way to experience the seasonal beauty of snow without ever having to put on a winter coat.

In a video for Science Friday, Caltech physicist and snowflake expert Ken Libbrecht illustrated how to grow snowflake-like ice crystals inside a two-liter soda bottle. To start, you need to assemble your materials. Most of the items—including a plastic bottle, bucket, sponge, fishing line, paper clip, and pins—can be easily found around your home. The most important component, though, is dry ice—which also happens to be the hardest one to find (Libbrecht recommends checking your local grocery store).

The dry ice goes around the outside of the bottle, which is outfitted with a string hanging from a wet sponge on the inside. The warm air around the top of the bottle, where the sponge is, creates water vapor, which crystallizes around the string. Within an hour, you'll have cultivated a large, feathery crystal in the center of your makeshift snowflake machine.

Even though the final product resembles a snowflake, it's technically frost (snowflakes form in clouds from thousands of water droplets, not from vapor). Libbrecht has been growing his own snowflakes for years, though the system he uses in his lab is slightly more sophisticated. After learning how to grow a snowflake at home, be sure to check out some of Libbrecht’s own exquisite creations on his website.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios