It was obvious from the start that Derren Brown wouldn’t predict the lottery, and the failure to reveal the balls before the draw just made the whole situation blindingly obvious. As soon as he did that, the whole situation boiled down to little more than a glorified card trick.
Now, I’ll be first to admit I don’t know how he did it. That’s not any indication that the trick was difficult, but rather the fact it was so sodding easy. While Paul Daniels claims that he knew 99 ways of achieving it was probably a slight exaggeration, several possible solutions occurred to me both during and following the show. Personally I favour the ‘split screen’ argument, having used a similar technique myself I know how trivially easy such things are. (Even if I was thwarted by an ill-placed mirror)
The split screen idea is also supported by movements seen within the balls as the results are read out, although a similar effect could also have been seen with other suggestions, such as those of a mechanical ball printer. Other possibilities include an augmented reality approach, digitally projecting the numbers onto the balls, although if such an effect had been achieved, it was remarkably effective.
The general point being however that there are a number of ways the trick could have been achieved, not even taking into consideration sleight of hand, which admittedly would have been difficult if we are to assume that the camera feed was genuine. No prediction, or fixing, was required.
Now originally I dismissed simple camera trickery, it seemed too much of a cheat, and seemed unlikely to take up a whole hour show. Then again, I couldn’t see how any plausible explanation could take a few minutes; therefore Brown was going to bullshit us. The trick and misdirection would continue into the explanation, as Derren led us on a merry goose chase. Unfortunately it appears that I only bothered to tweet this at the beginning of today’s show, which is still a darnsight better than Brown’s after the fact ‘prediction.’
It was obvious from the start that Derren was aiming to misdirect, firstly by implying that there was any psychology involved, and then by progressively misleading bouts of mathematics. While I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the lottery is truly random (such as some quantum events appear to be) any biases are going to be so minor, and external factors far more significant that any attempt at prediction will be impossible. To imply that crowd-sourcing would be ow any use in determining a random set of numbers is entirely misleading.
Which brings us from the impossible, to the improbable. The fixing. I don’t know if Derren hoped to convince his sceptic audience with this spiel, but we are fed a series of unlikely events which would be both illegal and unethical. While people indeed commit illegal and unethical deeds, they rarely do so publicly on national television. Furthermore, to suspect that Camelot’s security is lack enough that a breach made in August could subvert a draw made in September is laughable. Furthermore, there are 14 sets of balls, so I find it hard to imagine that this was the first time one of the alleged six was used since the claimed breach. Not to mention, I’m far from convinced that a 20g difference would be sufficient to entirely bias the draw.
While I’ve happily excluded the impossible maths explanation, leaving the improbable fix explanation, I’m sadly still left with a considerable set of downright more probable explanations. Had Derren’s numbers been revealed before the draw, then things would be different, and I’d probably be checking into exactly how long the broadcast delay is from lottery HQ. However just because Derren has given an answer, doesn’t mean I’m going to believe it.
Unfortunately Brown’s attempts at an explanation did little to endear me to him during the show, despite the fact I’m usually a fan. The fact he was spouting nonsense was obvious, which made me hope more and more for a strong pay-off. Derren Brown likes to market himself as a sceptic, and thus I hoped he’d build up to a clear crescendo, which illustrated his audience had been duped. Parallels between the earlier practice ‘draws’ and the final draw (mainly that the result was revealed after the draw) made me hope that these factors would tie themselves into the great reveal, that we’d get a clear mention of why two camera-men were present when only one was necessary. Instead though we got yet another, albeit a marginally more plausible, shaggy dog story. Not only do I feel that Derren Brown did not reveal his trick, but he ultimately failed to demonstrate anything in the hour long show. Only in his last words, “I’ll tell them it was just a trick” did he bother to give any nod to the truth, a matter which probably passed by anyone who wasn’t already sceptical.
Ultimately I was disappointed with not only the trick itself, but with the explanation, which demonstrated little more than Derren’s ability to string people along.