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Derren Brown’s lottery trick: what did the explanation reveal?

After appearing to predict the National Lottery result, Derren Brown said he would enlighten us as to how he did it

Derren Brown: will he spill the beans tonight?

Derren Brown: will he spill the beans tonight?

Tonight Derren Brown will reveal how to win the lottery, according to Channel 4 – who have either been a little overambitious in their choice of programme title, or know that Brown is going to unveil something that blows all the laser-printed ball ideas out of the water.

I’ll be here from 9pm to discuss Brown’s explanations and compare them with the solutions put forward over the last couple of days. They have certainly been creative: but according to our poll, the most likely theory is that Brown used some split-screen camera trickery in order to pull off his stunt. There have even been YouTube videos showing how it was done, although admittedly, they weren’t broadcast live to a television audience of almost three million.

It’s unlikely, however, that Brown is going to spend an hour talking about how he had to stand very still in one spot while the footage flicked over, or how nervous the assistant changing the balls was – although, it is not of course not impossible. But if not that, then what? Will it simply be, as many suspect, misdirection intended to throw us off the scent – or has he got something special planned that nobody, not even the those who have been studying Brown’s stunt most closely, will have thought of? Could it even be that Debbie McGee, wearing a cloak of invisibility, writing on the balls, is actually the correct solution. Or is that too much to hope for?

Join me later this evening when we find out.

9.00pm
It’s started – with what some might see as a bit of a disclaimer about whether what he’s going to tell us is true or not. Showmanship, misdirection etc. Hmm.
Aha! See everyone. Those are your theories he’s talking about now. Feel proud people, feel proud .

9.08pm
Also – with apologies – can I just say at this point that due to a technical thing, you are all going to have refresh your pages yourselves, rather than the site automatically doing it for you. Sorry all.

8.58pm
Hello and welcome to tonight’s blog. Here’s how I hope it’s going to work. I’ll give you several updates during tonight’s show, but – given that this is probably going to be a bit more complex than, say, Big Brother – I’m not going to be giving minute-by-minute updates. Hope that sounds sensible to all. There is only so much misdirection and suggestion one woman can record after all. But do keep posting as the show progresses, and we work out what is going on. Or, perhaps more likely, we don’t .

9.13pm:
Right. Technical issue sorted. The blog should now refresh itself automatically.
The problem was to predict numbers randomly generated by a machine, Brown says – which he is now illustrating by making a perfectly nice woman feel around in boxes for a mouse. Poor lady.

9.24pm:
Ah, so this bit is all about how to predict people, and how fear can increase suggestability. Now Brown is getting a man called Matt to try and avoid stamping on a knife that is hidden under a cup. He’s apparently worked out which number Matt won’t stamp on. Matt has a 70% chance of getting a knife through his foot. I’m not sure I’d take those odds for £500,000 compensation if it goes wrong.

9.25pm:
Oooh. Good trick no. (Although I must have misheard the 70% thing, given that it couldn’t make sense at the time). Is it bad to wish that there was a knife actually under the cup? Also, my boyfriend is saying the mouse being there is some sleight-of-hand. Is that true anybody?

9.31pm:
Does willpower matter when it comes to tossing heads or tails? Surely not, or cricket captains would be selected on their ability to make the toss the coin, and that doesn’t make sense. Oh I see. The coin isn’t psychic – it’s deep maths. Hmm. Any mathmaticians here? Does this work.

Now we’re onto the wisdom of crowds – and the explainer to Wednesday. Brown got a group of people together to guess which lottery numbers would come up next, and then took the average of their guesses to find the pattern in a random event. I think

9.37pm:
So get 24 people together, get them to work out which numbers they think should be drawn, add their answers together and then divide by 24. And that’s the lottery numbers. But only if you don’t do it for profit. Conveniently – given that most people would be doing it for profit, one presumes.

9.46pm:
I think it’s probably fair to say that the maths explanation is not really gaining traction on this blog. Mainly because it doesn’t seem to make much sense. Like I think the laser-printed numbers thing probably makes more sense than this.

More dividing numbers going on. And automatic writing. And quite possibly misdirection.

9.52pm:
Presumably this is the bit where Brown says what really happened on Wednesday – or at least gives a more plausible explanation of it. Because – and I may be wrong – I’m really not sure that the answer is deep maths.

9.55pm:
I wouldn’t exactly say the blog is in revolt. But it’s getting a bit close to it isn’t it. That man who said “all of us believing we could do it has made it happen,” he’s sort of explaining the whole thing there isn’t he. That they believed it but it didn’t necessarily happen

Oh is he going to say he fixed the lottery machine? What? Oh no. It’s a theory.

9.58pm:
Sorry, is this some kind of textbook for fixing the lottery? Is this allowed? Camelot must be having kittens. Although the list of things seems to be quite long: weighted balls and hypnotism and inside man etc . I don’t fancy our chances.

And now he’s saying that it was a trick? What? This isn’t cleverness, it’s just not making sense. I’m disappointed. And back to that old split-screen theory too.

10.03pm:
So that was the explanation: some deep maths harnessing the power of the crowd. With an odd bit about how you could fix the lottery if you had a lot of kit and an inside man, tacked on the end.
Given the hype, I think Brown possibly had to do better than that. A mathematician might be able to correct us (if you’re out there, and you think this works, do please come and say), but the general feeling on this blog is that it doesn’t stand up. Boo!
But thanks everyone in for joining us in any case. And keep developing those theories.

<p><strong>Vicky Frost:</strong> After appearing to predict the National Lottery result, Derren Brown said he will enlighten us as to how he did it. What did you think of his explanation</p>

Did Derren Brown really predict the lottery? All of the illusionist’s best stunts

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Derren Brown returns to Channel 4 tonight to celebrate 20 years as one of the most controversial, successful and well-known illusionists in the game.

The award-winning trickster will surprise one unsuspecting viewer as part of Derren Brown, 20 Years of Mind Control: Live tonight (16 August), a dedicated night honouring some of his most jaw-dropping moments on TV.

One of Derren Brown’s greatest achievements is correctly predicting all the six national lottery numbers in September 2009.

He wrote his predictions on six balls and they all turned out to be correct. But what was the truth behind the stunt? Did he really predict the lottery?

Let’s take a look back at this and other famous Derren Brown stunts ahead of his new show airing tonight…

Did Derren Brown predict the lottery?

In a 2009 special titled How to Win the Lottery, Brown appeared to have correctly predicted the lottery.

The stunt was conducted by having a set of white balls lined up, facing a wall, next to a television displaying a live feed from BBC One as they aired the live lottery draw.

After the draw, Brown wrote the results on a piece of card prior to turning the white balls around, facing the camera, to reveal that both the numbers on the balls and the numbers on the card were the same.

The winning numbers were 2, 11, 23, 28, 35 and 39.

The bonus was number 15, however, his predictions did not include the bonus ball.

Brown, in a follow-up episode, suggested that he may have predicted numbers using a phenomenon known as the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ which, in simplified terms, involved Brown taking a group of people , asking them to guess lottery numbers, and then taking the average of their guesses to find the pattern in a random event.

There were many sceptics, and the Guardian poll after the episode aired found most readers thought the trick was achieved using split-screen camera trickery.

There are also other YouTube videos showing ways in which this trick can be carried out – Derren has obviously not given away any of his secrets fully, so it’s really anyone’s guess.

Derren Brown’s other stunts – from faking an apocalypse to controlling the nation

Ahead of tonight’s live show, we take a look at Brown’s other top stunts.

Derren Brown: Pushed to the Edge

Pushed To The Edge, filmed in 2016, was one of Brown’s most extreme events to date.

It was shocking from the jump, starting with an eerie cold open where he and a fake policeman he has co-opted persuade a man over the phone to steal a stranger’s baby from the café where the man works.

Brown used mind control techniques throughout the show as a look at ‘social compliance’ – how to persuade people to do anything and the willingness to obey orders from figures of authority.

The show also featured a moment where Brown tried to persuade his subject to try to push someone else off a roof.

Derren Brown Apocalypse

Brown went for one of his most audacious, grandiose plans in 2012, trying to convince someone that the planet had been devastated by a catastrophic meteorite strike.

Not only that, but the illusionist also tried to convince someone that zombies now roam the land and he is one of a mere handful of survivors.

There was some controversy when it emerged the victim of the stunt was reportedly an actor, however, Channel 4 at the time released a statement saying: ‘Steven is not and never has been a professional actor. He was chosen purely because he fitted the characteristics needed for the show.’

Derren Brown: Sacrifice

In 2018’s Netflix special, titled Sacrifice, an unsuspecting participant took part in a faked medical experiment to increase his bravery and empathy.

He is then tricked and put in a situation where he must decide whether to take a bullet for a stranger or save his own life.

Derren Brown: Séance

One of Derren Brown’s earliest stunts to grip the nation was his séance in 2004.

He brought 12 students for a live séance at a location which he claimed had a history of paranormal activity after 12 people killed themselves there in a suicide pact in 1974.

Photographs of the 12 members of the suicide pact were shown on screen in a grid.

Brown instructed the participants to choose one of the images that they ‘felt a connection with’ before directing movements around the grid, which caused them to finish on the picture of a woman named Jane.

Ten of the students also chose Jane. During the following ouija board scene, the ‘spirit’ guided the students to spell the name Jane. The final scene, the séance itself, saw the group contact Jane.

Brown explained some of the manipulations which had occurred, such as unconscious fraud and the ideomotor effect. The suicide pact had not actually taken place and ‘Jane’ was introduced alive and well to the students at the end of the show.

Brown later revealed it was a hoax designed to show how susceptible people could be convinced seances were real.

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A look back at some of Derren Brown's famous stunts, and asking whether he really predicted the lottery in 2009.