Review: Calculated Risk by Michael Murray

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: John Teo”][vc_column_text]As the witty title as well as the illustration on the cover of this booklet suggest, this book is about the covert use of the calculator in an iPhone to perform some pretty amazing mental effects.

The author, Michael Murray, spent many hours prodding the various function keys of his iPhone’s calculator in order to discover its many strange effects and behaviors.

Performing magic with smart phones is topical as almost everyone owns a smart phone.  The following needs to be considered when performing effects from Calculated Risks:

  • The effects are meant for iPhones only.  Some of them are meant for newer models of iPhones, such as 5S onwards.
  • A motivation is needed for using the calculator function of the iPhone – Michael provides it in the booklet.
  • Some of the effects concerns the discovery of the spectator’s personal information.  Therefore, there is the need to treat the user with the necessary respect and ethical discretion.
  • You need to be able to secretly hit certain “buttons” in the iPhone while appearing to be merely holding the device.  You may need to mute your iPhone during the operation.

Here is the basic effect of Calculated Risk.  A spectator is asked to secretly key his 4-digit passcode into his iPhone’s calculator.  The iPhone is handed over to another spectator who adds in her own 4-digit passcode and totals up the 2 numbers.  The performer studies the total, clears it and switches off the iPhone.  He asks a few questions of the first spectator, switches on his iPhone and unlocks the screen, proving that he knows the 4-digit code of the first spectator!  He now borrows the second spectator’s iPhone and similarly unlocks her iPhone!

Other effects on the booklet include:

Perfect Opener – any spectator tries to guess the 4-digit passcode of the performer’s iPhone.  She names her 4-digit number, the performer keys in these 4 digits and they unlock the performer’s iPhone!

The Frosties Reveal – a variation of the basic routine in which the performer can reveal the spectator’s date of birth or star-sign.

Noted – a variation using the iPhone’s note application instead of the calculator.

iSwami – the performer is able to predict a spectator’s thought-of 2-digit number.

One In Tenthousand – similar in effect to Perfect Opener but totally different in method.

Feedback – a method of discovering a calculation after the spectator has hit the “clear” button of the calculator.

Phone-Clone – the spectator herself can unlock the performer’s iPhone by the performer apparently cloning his finger sensing ability onto the spectator’s finger, and the spectator using her own finger to unlock the performer’s iPhone.

Identity Thief – a reversal of Phone-Clone in which the performer unlocks the spectator’s iPhone by the spectator cloning her sensing finger onto the performer’s finger.

As mentioned, magic using iPhone is topical, and here are enough different effects and variations to ensure that you will be able to find at least one you can perform to wow your friends with a borrowed iPhone.

Magic is our passion but we are not a magic shop ? You can purchase this here!


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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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