## Friday, July 27, 2012

### Red Lights Puzzle

Does it ever happen to you - a week with no inspiration? Your baby is sick, your older kids are on vacation and require entertainment and it is very hot and humid outside. Well, this is my excuse for skipping last week's puzzle. But just as the week ended I went to see a movie with my husband, and here it was - a puzzle in a movie. The movie, Red Lights, is masterfully done and acted, and keeps you in a constant suspense. But then, just as you expect an original resolution, it flops and disappointingly ends leaving some ends loose.

You can skip the movie, but solve this movie's puzzle:

Robert DeNiro's character is a legendary blind psychic that agrees to be subjected to scientific tests verifying his paranormal capabilities. In one of the tests he has to guess random numbers picked up by an independent person behind the wall by reading his mind.  The person picks a number between 1 and 12 and signals the psychic that a number is chosen.  The psychic attempts to guess what number it is. Then the experiment repeated in the same manner.  The psychic was able to guess those numbers with a very high success rate, much higher than chance. Is he really capable of mind reading? When we and the scientists view experiment's videotapes we can see that psychic makes a key comment about his watch and asks scientists (that are inspecting the watch for fraud) to be very careful with its gentle hands. How can the watch be used by the psychic to fool everyone in this experiment without any obvious fraud?

Your answers are accepted any time until midnight Eastern Time on Sunday, on our Family Puzzle Marathon.

Ilya said...

I have to assume that "handles" in the question actually meant to say "hands". Here is my guess as to how the watch is used. It must not be running (unwound or just broken) and the blind psychic knows exactly what time it was set to (let's say 9:05:30). By suggesting the hands are fragile, he makes the examiners look at the hands and thus the numbers they are pointed to (in this case 9, 1 and 6 respectively). The examiners being unaware of this "subliminal" suggestion then become more likely to use these numbers in their "random" selection. If I were them, I would go to random.org instead! :-)

Wang said...

Only a guess but when the person randomly chooses a number, it isn't truly random. Perhaps Robert DeNiro uses his watch to influence the number chosen (1 - 12 is exactly the numbers on the clock face).

Anonymous said...

I am just guessing. The psychic can pick his or her number when the second hand is at one of the 12 numbers for hours.

Gurubandhu

Jerome said...

Looking at a plot summary in imdb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1748179/reviews?start=10

we find out that deNiro is returning after a 30 year abscence from the stage. Whatever the technology of the watch, it had to be good for 30 years. The watch could not be used for survalience purposes -- the technology was just not that good 30 years ago. Apple II's were just making their way onto the stage and they had no where near the power of today's computers. The same with electronic cameras.

The one thing I can come up with is the watch was an ordinary watch, not meant for blind people at all. Blind owners have watches whose hands are very sturdy because they must be felt many times a day. Here is a place where watches of this kind can be purchased.

http://www.worldtempus.com/en/encyclopedia/index-encyclopedia/watches-and-clocks/special-watches/watches-for-the-blind/

Look at the third watch down. Look at the sturdy hands which are typical of this kind watch. They are meant to be felt.

Without seeing the film, we cannot tell if the watch has a glass beezel or not. If it does then it has to flip open. If it does not, then the hands have to be much sturdier.

I would say that the point of this scene reveals something about the blindness of the character under investigation. He likely is not blind.

Jerome said...

Looking at a plot summary in imdb

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1748179/reviews?start=10

we find out that de Niro is returning after a 30 year abscence from the stage. Whatever the technology of the watch, it had to be good for 30 years. The watch could not be used for survalience purposes -- the technology was just not that good 30 years ago. Apple II's were just making their way onto the stage and they had no where near the power of today's computers. The same with electronic cameras.

The one thing I can come up with is the watch was an ordinary watch, not meant for blind people at all. Blind owners have watches whose hands are very sturdy because they must be felt many times a day. His is a place where watches of this kind can be purchased.

http://www.worldtempus.com/en/encyclopedia/index-encyclopedia/watches-and-clocks/special-watches/watches-for-the-blind/

Look at the third watch down. Look at the sturdy hands which are typical of this kind watch. They are meant to be felt.

Without seeing the film, we cannot tell if the watch has a glass beezel or not. If it does then it has to flip open. If it does not, then the hands have to be much sturdier.

I would say that the point of this scene reveals something about the blindness of the character under investigation.

Maria said...

I see that I made it a bit too complex. The key word here is: synchronization. Also, the independent person is not so independent any more...

anne-marie said...

Thanks Maria. Nina will certainly be pleased to be a part of the next cup project!

I thought about a random event generator experiments. The person who gave the signal should be a part of the experiment. I am not an expert on this subject but I found an interesting article and at one point the author explains it.

Jerome said...

Another alternativeis that the psychic has helpers. They can transmit (somehow) the number to the watch and the second hand can immediately stop at the number.

It's impossible with the technology of 30 years ago, but then so was Dick Tracey's wrist radio in the 40's and 50's.

Anonymous said...

In order to be able for the blind "psychic" (BP)'s 2nd guess of the independent person (IP) selection of a random number between 1 and 12 to have more success than would be expected by straight probability (the psychic choosing correctly 1/12 of the time), the BP must be somehow influencing the IP in their number selection.

One method that could work is that the BP asks the IP to choose the random number based on the second hand of the IP's watch. When the IP tells the BP that they have selected a number, the BP mentally records the second hand of his own watch.

If the psychic fails to guess the IP's selected number the first time, he then asks the IP to tell him which number they had selected. When the BP learns that number, he knows the difference between the time of the second hand on his watch and on the IP's watch.

The BP then asks the IP to choose a new random number using the same method (the second hand of the IP's watch). Since from the earlier guess, the BP now knows the difference in the second hand's time between his watch and the IP's, the BP should not be able to "guess" the IP's second select number fairly easily.

This method would only work if the IP has a watch or access to a watch (beside the BP's) for the experiment that has a second hand.

I'm intersted to see what other answers people come up with this ... i'm not so confident of mine.

TracyZ

Maria said...

Many of you sensed that the blind psychic may not be so blind after all. If he is blind, how can he see the time on his watch? If it is special watch for blind people where they can feel the handles, then the handles would not be fragile and he would not be warning the scientists to be careful with the handles.

Yes, as some of you suggested he is using his watch's handles to guess the random number picked by the independent tester.

How is it possible?

The key hint that I left out of the puzzle being afraid that it will make it too easy is that scientists are shocked to discover that second handles in the DeNiro's watch and independent tester's watch are perfectly synchronized.

They divide the time circle into 12 parts and independent tester picks a number based on the position of the second's handle. When he signals, the psychic looks at his watch and knows what number is selected.
He then adds occasional mistakes to make it more realistic.

A puzzle point for everyone who played!

Next week - a puzzle from the Bank of America.