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You Are The Judge

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As a young man, producer Jesse Cox learned that his grandparents, Sydney and Lesley Piddington, had been enormously popular radio performers of the 1950’s. They were mentalists, wowing listeners with their uncanny ability to read each other’s minds. Sixty years later, a question remains: how did they do it? No matter how much Jesse asks his grandmother, his father, even other magicians, he can’t seem to find the answer. And soon another question presents itself: should he, should we open that black box and look inside, if that means losing the magic?


Jesse Cox and Penn Jillette

Comments [133]


one of the thoughts I had about listening to this was wondering if she was actually at these locations they said she was at or was she just in a backroom.

The trick itself seems rather straight forward.

Sep. 03 2017 07:16 PM
Rick Minnich from Pittsburgh, PA

Great show, really mesmerising. Thanks!

Sep. 02 2017 01:48 PM
Bella Sarah from Denver

I always enjoy Penn's interviews, I can't get bored with him. Just listened to an AoC podcast with him as a guest...two in a day!

Sep. 21 2016 07:22 AM
Will Hunt

The actual link to the explanation is:

Mar. 17 2016 12:56 AM

I went to the URL where teller was explaining the trick. I listened over and over and over again. The explanation did not make sense. I am going mad trying to still follow what they did but in the way it was explained, at least for me, to many short cuts were used where the host was "answering" tellers questions to somehow explain to us what they were doing. No matter how many times I listened, it still made no sense. Something about 2 choices, switching envelopes, having the BBC buy all the books used for the quotes, and some kind of algorythm that would get her the "receiver" to the proper book quote or envelope. I still do not understand how one can choose to read one or two sentences from an entire book and then somehow she would know which quote was read. Sorry guys, you did a very terrible job explaining how this trick worked. AM I the only one after listening to "theuglytruthyouwerewarned" still doesn't understand?

Feb. 04 2016 07:51 PM
Ranell from Tennessee

ok after reading the other comments I went to a windows computer instead of the mac i had been on. we have firefox on the windows computer and was able to listen with no problems. thanks everyone.

Oct. 07 2015 07:56 PM
Ranell from Tennessee

I have been trying to go to the url you provided to listen to how this trick was done but can't seem to get it to work. Do you really tell us the secret or is this just a way to further infuriate me?

Oct. 07 2015 04:42 PM

Loved this piece on the Piddingtons. When I was about 10 I did a lot of magic and ventriloquism and this brought back fond memories. I remembered I did a similar kind of mind-reading trick with a partner using line-of-sight communication in full view of the audience. It drove people crazy because they were sure I was giving him signals, but no one could ever discern how. I just walked around the room smiling. But I had a dental retainer with two false teeth on it. I could lower it with my tongue to make the teeth disappear, and if you looked at my smile at the right moment, you could see it. No one ever spotted it... There, now I've revealed my secret.

Jun. 29 2015 09:07 PM
Bob from Southfield MI

Thankfully the interview with Penn provides some humor and some information to the understanding of this relatively straightforward trick. I'm sure it was far more innovative in the '50s when it hadn't been done by hundreds of magicians and so-called psychics. Robert and Jad are apparently not into magicians or else they would have been very familiar with the performance. Today's magicians up the ante a little by eliminating the gathering of envelops from the crowd and solicit the response from the crowd member directly. This replaces the envelope switch (why get 2 envelops when you only need one? because with 2 the audience member can't object that the phrase is different than the one they wrote, they assume it was the other members phrase) with directed questioning to get to the response the grandmother already knows. I did like the other theory in the response thread that points out microphones can be used as speakers to allow the grandmother to listen to the answer and then feign ignorance when providing her response. This technique would have been easy to do in '50's and very few people in the listening audience would have been aware of the capability. However, this was likely not the case because then the grandfather would have had the audience member read the quote or the phrase from the book, no need for the swap or special book.

Jun. 28 2015 05:42 PM

Of course we're not gonna be told the secret. When the secret goes so goes all the money. No book, no paid interviews, etc. They are watching out for their families economic future. Can't say I blame them in these economic times.

Jun. 27 2015 01:26 PM
Yigal Rechtman from Brooklyn, NY

The story: Keep them Guessing

The "trick" that was recorded by the BBC is actually not a trick at all. It's a natural phenomena that can be done by people alive today. The reason that the grandmother couldn't speak is that SHE was the so-called magician. The grandfather was the receptor.

You should look into a man in Israel, who does this "trick" all the time. His name is Ronny Marcus. Just google his videos. He has done a very similar reading from books, poems, etc just as described in your story.

I will gladly put him in touch with you. He's my uncle.

Jun. 27 2015 12:45 PM
Martin Hart from London

Piddington's Methods can be found via the official website - Piidington's Secrets is released December 2014.

Nov. 14 2014 09:11 AM
Robert from Pasadena, CA

is the link still working. all I get is a white page.

I've tried it on different browsers too.


Sep. 29 2014 05:23 PM
Kelly from Napa, CA

I heard the story today, and adored every bit of it. Lesley Piddington kept the romance of the trick need for us to know, we're the judge...

Sep. 22 2014 11:07 PM
Marlin from Lowell, MA

Exposing how the trick was done does far, far more than shine a light inside the black box of a bit of misdirection. Examining how illusions (optical and otherwise), stage magic, and similar perceptual tricks work shines a light into the black boxes of our minds. It gives us information about how we come to, or jump to, conclusions. It exposes how readily we strive for closure when given the barest amount of information. The real, key, important nugget at the heart of the story isn't how they did it, it is why we believe they did it.

Weirdly enough, given how many stories RadioLab has done on perception, neuroscience, consciousness, etc, etc, etc. they totally missed this. They were the judge, and totally botched the case.

Aug. 12 2014 11:25 PM

I'm surprised Radiolab made such a big deal out of revealing how Penn Jillette thinks they did the trick. First of all, there have been many (popular, successfu, big Hollywood) movies about con artists and magicians that use exactly this kind of trick and reveal how it's done, so this is not some big secret for the general public. I was already assuming that somehow they switched the envelopes, etc., to "extract" from the audience a predetermined line.

In any case, the real pleasure is in hearing Jillette explain the trick, because he's such an interesting and entertaining person. Interviews like that are supposed to be what the show is about. Keeping that out of the podcost was the real mistake. Why not just tell people who don't want to hear the answer to stop listening. This did not need to be made into such a big deal (unless you were just trying to drive traffic to your website--damn maybe I was tricked?).

Lastly, the most magical part of this, which you can't tell by not revealing the trick in the show, is how it is possible that the grandmother really never knew how it was done. If that was true, that means she was as much an audience for the magic as the studio and listening audience.

Every week, the grandmother reads some line from a plane or the tower in London or a diving bell and every time somehow magically it's the right line, matching somethig seemingly selected at random from the audience. It's interesting to think that she was in awe and wonder at the trick the whole time as much as everyone. And so by not telling the part of it that she does know, she really chooses to have everyone share her own experience, one of magic, that's she's wanted to keep alive for herself all these years. That's an interesting story, which Radiolab weirdly precludes itself from telling.

Aug. 07 2014 08:05 PM

There's enough stuff in the universe to baffle us. I can deal with learning how these two people did a particular trick.

Aug. 01 2014 09:49 AM
Scott from nz

Obviously I went to the page with the answer. I really don't see why anyone wouldn't. I don't enjoy a sense of "mystery and wonder" at not knowing how a trick works, I only feel frustrated and annoyed. It's like an itch I want to scratch before I get on with my life. If I want mystery and wonder I'll contemplate the big bang, or hang out with my beautiful kids. You know - things that are actually important.

Jul. 27 2014 02:32 AM
Mark from Houston

So I'm getting on this very late, but I just listened to the episode. I love the imaginative misdirection described, and I am amazed at the craft behind the trick.

To my good friend Major Lee Weird: someone who does not understand the basics of English, such as comma splices, shouldn't be casting disparaging remarks at whole nations.

Just sayin'.

Jun. 08 2014 09:08 PM
Richard from Rock Falls, IL

Any microphone plugged into a two way switch becomes a microphone or speaker. A simple toggle switch on the transmitter would toggle the microphone input jack from input to monitor output of the radio program. She was listening to the show through the microphone prior to her mind reading act. She heard all the answers ahead of time. Fumbling through was part of the act. To prove this plug any microphone into a headphone output jack. The microphone becomes a mini speaker. She was secluded so no one could hear the program being broadcast through the microphone.

Jun. 04 2014 10:06 PM

Did it occur to anyone there was no trick and the couple's ability was genuine? Perhaps that's why they never revealed how it was done -- because no one would believe it

Jun. 03 2014 05:00 PM
Christine Here is the link for everyone.

Jun. 01 2014 05:34 PM
Anand E. Holtham-Keathley from Eugene, OR

It is most likely some version of the "forced choice" trick where the audience member is made to choose an already known phrase. There was no need to tell Lesley what the choice was because she already knew. The real trick was making the audience member choose the right one.

Jun. 01 2014 01:51 PM
Randy Abrams from Missouri

Did Mr. Cox say he "discovered" that his grandmother was still alive? How does one NOT know that? I find that more fascinating than how the grandparents did their tricks.

May. 31 2014 07:30 PM
bob cleary from new orleans

the poem quote trick is easy. doesn't matter what anyone writes, the usher who picks up the two envelopes swaps and palms one and hands his own to be read by the judge. you use two to pick from because each will think the other's envelope got chosen. 150 in the audience, they probably wont compare notes after the performance or even recognize each other. the book trick - harder. same two-four pages reprinted en masse and set in different bindings. I also like the stutter as morse code for keywords to lines.

May. 31 2014 05:48 PM
Ema Zee from USA

sometimes, in setting up a trick of this sort, everything has to be in place well in advance of the trick even starting.

The rest is showmanship

May. 31 2014 04:09 PM

What is the name of the brazilian song?

May. 19 2014 01:09 AM
karl from NZ

So Lesley is in a remote location connected to the studio via some kinds of wire/radio link. Isn't it likely that when the line is read from the book, she hears it over the micrpohone? They tell us that the shortwave link to the airplane was not established until the lines from the envelope are read. But maybe that is just not the case. Maybe she just hears it all.

Apr. 22 2014 11:57 PM
Rex Williams

The best part about this; the grandson may have been told the 'family secret' and be giving grandma one last spin around the floor.

Apr. 10 2014 04:19 PM

> Why on earth would this seem like a good trick, were 20 million Aussies so
> gullible?

First of all, not Aussies per se. The Piddingtons were Australian but they broadcast on BBC from London. In any case, 20 million is about twice the entire population of Australia in the 1950s.

As to how they were so gullible, you must remember that it was the 50s and the audiences were not exposed to magic as we are today.
And even today many people fall for the likes of John Edward.

Mar. 08 2014 10:19 AM

Everyone, the answer about the song is in this thread posted by FlickeringBrain. I'll quote them

"Love that Teta Lando song- thanks for including it on the show! For the person that asked about the meaning, it's about an Angolan guy looking back at his childhood, half wistfully and half regretfully. He recalls how his mother used to beat him because he didn't like quinine (presumably taken for malaria?), but her blows didn't hurt. The title "Fugei na escola pra jogar a bola" refers to how he would play hooky from school to play soccer. Fun, but he regrets that he didn't amount to much because of it."

Mar. 02 2014 11:17 AM
maidbloke from Maidenhead

I downloaded this "black box" podcast because I'm an aviation geek and wanted to hear all about how aircraft black boxes work. :D

In the end, though, I enjoyed the story of the Piddington radio show even more. And like any magic trick, when you find out how it was (probably) done it seems very obvious.

Like all the other RadioLab podcasts I have listened to, it was extremely well produced. Great job!

Feb. 24 2014 11:09 AM

My favorite line was Penn's joke to Robert at the end about how he will come back next time and spoil Santa Claus as well. He didn't know how perfectly he hit that mark without the long back-history of Robert clutching for the supernatural on this show.

Feb. 24 2014 09:11 AM
Manipulatist from London UK

GOOD NEWS - The Piddington's secret is the title of a new book coming out later this year (2014). Inside are the actual methods used by Sydney Piddington exposing - over 60 years later - how they DID do it. I was surprised to hear PENN's theories about the 150 envelopes and the book test, because although the methods he suggests could have worked, this is NOT how Sydney Piddington achieved the effect. The new book offers no theories only facts and is a testament to the genius who was Sydney Piddington, a man who was simply way ahead of his time in creating his methods.

Feb. 23 2014 09:59 PM
Tony Cooper from az

Don't click this clip did not play!!!!

Feb. 22 2014 04:40 PM
Nicholas Mitchell from Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Couldn't get the URL to work on the iMac via Safari, but downloading the MP3 via the direct link works.

Feb. 21 2014 02:08 AM
Tim Plumer from Gorham, ME

I think, by calling it banal, Penn was using misdirection. Who *wouldn't* want to find out after that. Clearly it wasn't magic. How they both pulled it off AND got people to focus so completely on the wrong thing is pure genius. Making good and sure that we come to the RadioLab web site to get the answer was ALSO genius. Thanks Robert, Jad, and of course Penn. This was the best episode I've heard in a long time.

Feb. 20 2014 07:48 PM
Bob Smith from South Carolina

P.S. In response to Major Lee Weird's comment -- "Were 20 million Aussies so gullible?" I'm curious whether you thought this before or after hearing the solution, or what you would've thought if you'd actually been in the audience that night.

I've been, I guess you could call me a "student" of magic, for over a decade, and it was fairly easy to figure out the possible mechanics behind this trick. However, the mechanics are really only a small part of it. It's the presentation, the showmanship that really makes it. That's why it's potentially such a downer when you find out how a trick works. It turns a great presentation, something that makes you scratch your head and wonder how someone could possibly pull it off, into something so simple you wonder how someone could possibly fall for it.

Feb. 18 2014 08:28 AM
Bob Smith from South Carolina

In reference to the differentiation between the "aha!" and the banal reveal -- in a sense (or maybe it's just to some people), it DOES matter what the clever bit of stagecraft is. It's one thing to be "fooled" by some great or unusual (though obviously not supernatural) bit of skill. It's quite another to be "tricked" by something utterly mundane. Part of it is disappointment in yourself, that you could be tricked by something so simplistic. Part of it is disappointment in the performer himself/herself.

If I showed you one of my favorite card tricks, you may enjoy it and think I'd mastered some great skill or something. If I told you 90% of it relied on using a very simple gimmick, you'd probably be disappointed that this pretty cool feat had been reduced to something so basic.

Feb. 17 2014 09:52 PM

I don't really understand Penn's differentiation between the "aha!" and the banal reveal. Either the Piddington's had supernatural powers or they pulled off some clever bit of stagecraft. It doesn't matter what the stagecraft was, they obviously didn't have supernatural powers!

Feb. 17 2014 01:26 PM
Major Lee Weird from EEARTH

Why on earth would this seem like a good trick, were 20 million Aussies so gullible?

Feb. 16 2014 05:40 PM
Robert from Florida

hermes and Bryce,
you got the link wrong, it's

Feb. 16 2014 12:11 PM
John from Maryland

Another fascinating show! I guessed the trick wrong, but loved various explanations shared by one of my favorite Magicians.

Feb. 15 2014 04:09 PM
Katie H from Columbia, MO

I love radiolab so very very much! It is truly one of my favorite things and I only wish I had something interesting enough to talk about so I could be part of it too.

Anyway, very cool episode and I'm so glad you shared the answer (I had totally guessed it, but wanted to know if it was right.) I actulally laughed so loud that I claped my hand over my mouth when you brought Penn Jillette on, because the whole time through the grandson's segment I was exclaiming to my iPad "call Penn Jillette he loves exposing magic secrets; he'll totally tell you how it's done!!"

Feb. 14 2014 09:53 PM
Aimé Alvarado from Geneva, Switzerland

I could not get it to work, and it's just annoying at this point.
I tried Chrome, Firefox, IE, IE compatibility mode. Seriously it is amazing this show in particular has so many compatibility issues.

Feb. 13 2014 04:26 PM

Am I the only one who though the answer to the magic trick was extremely obvious? i.e. basically the way almost every audience participation trick is done?

Feb. 12 2014 11:51 AM

Argh the link didn't work on Chrome or IE on my PC. I had to listen on my Android in Chrome.

Feb. 10 2014 05:12 PM

Really?!! I feel like a fish.

Feb. 08 2014 11:11 PM
Susan from Maryland

I agree with a number of other commenters that I didn't find the "ugly truth" ugly at all, but rather satisfying and slick. I'd recommend other listeners follow the link. That being said, it's nice that the grandson can listen to the radio piece without being disappointed, and it was fun having to go to a little extra effort to peek at the answer key. Nice job!

Feb. 08 2014 08:19 PM
hermes from San Francisco

The player on points to a broken URL

this is the direct link to the mp3

Feb. 08 2014 01:59 PM
Edwin Carine from Montclair NJ

I'd like to know about the ending song, too.
As far as ""

Feb. 08 2014 10:50 AM

If you played the audio of the 'randomised' book selection process on air I think the mystery would have ended there for a great number of listeners. You were wise to leave it out.

Feb. 08 2014 08:26 AM
Molly from Arlington, VA

I was behind in my RadioLab podcasts, and just listened to this "Black Box" episode. Is the "you be the judge/ don't click this" link still active, and if so where can I "click this"? Thanks for any guidance.

Feb. 07 2014 11:11 PM
Jill from Chicago

I can't find out the ugly truth, the "page is not found". Hopefully this is just a temporary glitch.

Feb. 05 2014 09:29 PM

This doesnt come as a surprise. Sort of had that idea after watching "Now you see me"

Feb. 05 2014 10:02 AM

Like others, I guessed the basic details of the trick, so it wasn't a spoiler to have it revealed.

I marvel at how foreign from my own mind is the mind that feels despoiled on hearing an explanation of how the trick is done.

Feb. 04 2014 07:26 PM
Galen from New York City

After listening to the solution, I was surprised that it had been set up as ugly, fun-spoiling, and something one might not want to know. I actually found the solution quite interesting and even elegant.

Somebody who believes in psychics, telepathy, etc. might be disappointed, but they need to know the truth so that they don't see this as evidence for something that isn't real.

I was expecting it to be a trick, but I love that it was actually TWO tricks: the trick of the "communication," and the trick of getting us to look for the trick in the wrong place.

Feb. 03 2014 12:46 PM
Greg Brenner from Indianapolis

This was a wonderful show! Having people go to the internet was truly funny! BTW id you have not listened to the don;t click it... you are probably better off. Maintain your sense of childhood wonder.

Jan. 31 2014 10:29 AM
nathan from the moon

I had to use internet explorer, Chrome didnt work.

Jan. 30 2014 03:57 PM

I was definitely not bummed at hearing the trick. More interesting than how it's done was how they played the audience. The trick is very much a "if you hear hooves behind you, it's most likely not a zebra" situation.

Jan. 30 2014 12:00 PM

Love that Teta Lando song- thanks for including it on the show! For the person that asked about the meaning, it's about an Angolan guy looking back at his childhood, half wistfully and half regretfully. He recalls how his mother used to beat him because he didn't like quinine (presumably taken for malaria?), but her blows didn't hurt. The title "Fugei na escola pra jogar a bola" refers to how he would play hooky from school to play soccer. Fun, but he regrets that he didn't amount to much because of it.

Jan. 29 2014 07:02 PM

Too hip for me. This leave a bad taste in my mouth. I hope you've enjoyed your childish prank.

Jan. 29 2014 02:16 PM

It's not working for me! I tried the link in firefox, chrome, and safari and none worked! Anyone know why?

Jan. 29 2014 01:13 PM

The Ugly Truth isn't ugly at all. It's fascinating how they pulled it off.
Why all the build-up in the podcast: "Don't go there! You won't want to find out! You'll be devasted with disappointment!" I wasn't bummed at all. I'm glad I know.
Or were you just trying some mental slight of hand...? Hmmm....

Jan. 29 2014 11:49 AM

What is the link for the explanation of the mind trick?

Jan. 28 2014 07:19 PM
Erica from Minneapolis

Just listened to this podcast on my iphone app. Awesome!

Jan. 28 2014 11:56 AM

Ah. Gotta use Chrome and not Safari. An earlier commenter (who is smarter than me) figured this out. So, there ya go. Nevermind!

Jan. 28 2014 02:47 AM

The link that was given on the podcast for the explanation is not working. So that's upsetting. My curiosity is peaked.

Jan. 28 2014 02:44 AM
Peter Schulte

Thanks for all the great shows and for this opportunity to connect!


Jan. 27 2014 11:54 PM
Jim November from Florida

I agree with those who enjoyed knowing the truth. It is very clever and something I would never have guessed.

Jan. 27 2014 04:05 PM
MyOhMyGal from NW Washington State

Glad I found out, mostly. Now I have something to think about on my morning walk.

Jan. 27 2014 12:29 PM

Is there anyway Radiolab can leave a list of some of the music integrated into the episode?

Jan. 27 2014 11:41 AM

"You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled."
-The Prestige

Jan. 27 2014 10:41 AM
Austin Lundy from Garner, NC

It's extremely bold and ignorant to draw parallels between those willfully ignorant of a magic trick's gimmick and those ignorant of scientific discovery. A magic trick is like a mind-game, the most fun part of it is thinking through the possibilities of how it could be done.

... It may also have been a ploy to get some raise awareness and traffic to their website.

Jan. 27 2014 09:48 AM
Angela from Phoenix

Isn't this the thing that separates scientists from the wilfully ignorant? Shouldn't people want to know how something works even if its boring or disappointing? To me people who want to believe nice stories rather than finding the real truth are a problem. Those are the people that prefer religion to science.

Jan. 25 2014 12:05 AM

This bit on explaining how stage tricks work, or not reminds me so much of this famous bit from Dan Dennett.
(who I can't believe hasn't been on the show yet)

This is the quote:
In a recent, marvelous paper, Dan Dennett quotes Lee Siegel: ““I’m writing a book on magic”, I explain, and I’m asked, “Real magic?” By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. “No”, I answer: “Conjuring tricks, not real magic”. Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.” Dennett continues: “It seems to many people that consciousness is a mystery, the most wonderful magic show imaginable, an unending series of special effects that defy explanation. I think that they are mistaken, that consciousness is a physical, biological phenomenon –like metabolism or reproduction or self-repair – that is exquisitely ingenious in its operation, but not miraculous or even, in the end, mysterious. Part of the problem of explaining consciousness is that there are powerful forces acting to make us think it is more marvelous than it actually is. In this it is like stage magic, a set of phenomena that exploit our gullibility, and even our desire to be fooled, bamboozled, awe-struck. The task of explaining stage magic is in some regards a thankless task; the person who tells people how an effect is achieved is often resented, considered a spoilsport, a party-pooper. I often get the impression that my attempts to explain consciousness provoke similar resistance. Is it not nicer if we all are allowed to wallow in the magical mysteriousness of it all? Or even this: If you actually manage to explain consciousness, they say, you will diminish us all, turn us into mere protein robots, mere things.” I get the same resistance from religious believers. Part of their objection to naturalism is that it demotes them or something they revere, like free will or consciousness, or it leaves something out, like eternal life. Or it just generally causes the pixie dust to fall to the floor. And I’m ready. When I hear this, I earnestly reassure them that Humanism has wonderful all-natural replacements for all these things. But these gluten-free items have no appeal. They’re like those biodegradable sandwich bags you can buy at the health food store. (They’re so crinkly.) People look at me like I’m a vegetarian at a barbecue. Sure there are substitutes. They don’t want natural. They want the real thing, the manufactured artificial thing. The thing that doesn’t really exist. Why settle for real when you can have what you really want? -

Jan. 24 2014 03:19 PM
peter from illinoise


Jan. 24 2014 12:38 PM
Garrek from Osaka, Japan

I totally went to the link to find the ugly truth to discover that it was 6 minutes of silence, thinking I had been duped. Then I tried in the Chrome browser instead of Safari and was thoroughly bummed. But I enjoyed it! This was a fun episode!

Jan. 24 2014 01:52 AM

There's something interesting to be about the personality difference between those of us who believe that not knowing is "entertaining" and inspires joy and wonder and those of us who find it irritating and manipulative. More generally, I'd be interested in hearing more about the history and implications of the different ways in which scientists and magicians approach dissemination of knowledge (the movie 'The Prestige' did a fine job of exploring that tension). The psychology behind these competing orientations would make a great follow-up!

Jan. 23 2014 05:51 PM
Seth from Dallas, texas

What is the percentage of listeners who have gone to the "ugly truth" link?

Jan. 23 2014 03:32 PM
Mike from Utah

Update: Apparently I can't read. Thanks Jamie, for sharing.

Jan. 23 2014 02:30 PM
Michael from Utah

Whoops. Missed a word in the first sentence: "Ah, que saudade dos MEUS tempos de menino!"

Jan. 23 2014 02:21 PM
Mike from Utah

Here are the lyrics to the song at the end of the segment, as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, this didn't help much. As FlickeringBrain said, it seems to be nonexistent on Google.

"Ah, que saudade dos tempos de menino! Não gostava quinino... nem tomava quinino... Mamãe me batia... mas eu não sentia... porque nao doía... "

Jan. 23 2014 02:18 PM
TimeHorse from Washington, D.C.

Thanks for the links folks. I think Jillette didn't give so much new information as just spell out what he already implied on air. I knew from just what was broadcast he was implying it was in magic what we call a "force" and I'll leave it at that because that's what I got from the episode and it reveals nothing about the specifics of the solution.

Jan. 23 2014 01:13 PM
Jeb Jones from NY

I am surprised that the grandson could not have worked out how this was done. I mean come on… I'm no magician (though I once saw a Penn and Teller show), and even if you allow for the grandmother to have actually been in an exotic location, the idea of an envelope switch and the performers having pre-selected a poetic passage was the first thing that I though of.

I thought the story was cute, but it's probably a fiction - not that his grandparents were famous mentalists, but that he and no one else could figure it out. Call me cynical, but I would wager that there was no real mystery and the grandson and many others had easily figured out how it was done (or how it could have been done) and he simply produced an interesting radio piece. Either that or he's pretty thick and not a very good researcher.

They only gave two examples, but it seemed obvious that if the setups were real, they could use a different tactic for each show.

I think the biggest misdirection was Jad and Robert trying to lead us away from the obvious answer.

Jan. 23 2014 12:40 PM

"Hail to thee blithe spirit..." is not a quotation from Keats, but from Shelley's "To a Skylark." Have to say, for a science podcast to goof up such a simple, accessible fact is a bit disquieting...

Jan. 23 2014 12:08 PM

Link to solution did not work in Safari. Worked on Firefox, though. LOVE THE SHOW. Loved the episode and glad you made us jump through hoops to hear the solution.

Jan. 23 2014 08:26 AM
Anthony from National

Hey, it's 'ABC Radio National' not 'ABC National Radio'.

Jan. 23 2014 04:46 AM
Molly from Seattle

I didn't find the "trick" remotely perplexing or interesting, and my immediate suspicions were the same that Penn described in the reveal. The cool part of this segment for me was that a guy uncovered something fascinating about his grandparents and where he came from, which allowed him to look at them and at his past in a new way. But all the time spent on figuring out the "puzzle", or lack of, was pretty disappointing.

Jan. 23 2014 12:48 AM

What is the address for the ugly truth? I typed in what they mentioned during the podcast and it isn't working.

Jan. 22 2014 11:33 PM
Cockswain from Prussia

Jan. 22 2014 09:43 PM
cary stringfiled from oklahoma

You should have put the how the trick was done bit in the podcast. If people can't handle the truth they should watch fox news not listen to a science programs.

Jan. 22 2014 07:25 PM

I haven't really studied magic, but I still guessed the basic trick, though not the details, which I couldn't have gotten without hearing the whole show. I dunno, it WAS an "aha" moment for me, though that may be because I figured it out before being told, and was wondering why the grandson didn't consider that. Kudos to Penn for making the explanation entertaining.

Jan. 22 2014 06:12 PM
Denise from Vancouver, Canada

I would rather be disappointed by the truth than remain ignorant of it.

Jan. 22 2014 04:06 PM
aboina from Delft

There are certainly "three or four tricks" to do this, independently on your trust and esteem of the judges at BBC, and yet as none of them is proven, those opting for telepathy or else Santa Claus intervention are still on the safe side... ;D

Jan. 22 2014 04:05 PM
Anna Bourque Champion from Toronto

I like knowing.

Jan. 22 2014 11:27 AM

I, for one, always want to know the ugly truth. Reality is so much more amazing than mystery. Even when the reality is how people have engineered the mystery -- how much does that tell us about the mind? Knowing the truth always seems so much deeper and more fulfilling than floating in mystery. There's plenty we don't understand. Why make more when you can provide an answer?

But, I suppose people feel differently. So, I'm glad you had the reveal, at least behind the don't-click-this wall.

Jan. 22 2014 11:10 AM
Jennifer from Buffalo, NY

I could have done this a lot easier, it is radio, she could be back stage saying she's at a different location, and could be listening to the the show...

Jan. 22 2014 07:37 AM
William from DC

I was disappointed by this segment. It isn't really a black box, or well it could have been, but Radiolab didn't treat it as such. A black box is something that a person can use, but they don't know why it works. You can't use the mentalists radio program. In fact, the "wonder" in it all depends entirely on trust. There is no reason to trust that the people in the studio weren't planted to begin with. There is no reason to trust that the radio host wasn't just playing the listeners and the audience for fools. Though it would work either way, there isn't even a reason to trust that she even went to any of those locations in the first place. Heck, there may not have even been a studio audience. The radio program, and most TV mentalists, just prove a corollary to the famous statement about telling big lies: if you tell one big lie and a bunch of small lies people will tend to believe the big lie is deception and the small lies are truth without any good reason for doing so. The essence of magic I guess, misdirection.

Jan. 22 2014 01:39 AM
Lezley from Toronto

YES!!! YesYesYesYesYesYes!!!

Thank you Jamie!!!
Got it on iTunes - woot!

That's just an awful lot of exclamation points.

THANK YEWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jan. 21 2014 10:29 PM

Why I can't listen any song at the end of this segment " you are the judge" ? Everyone is asking for the name of the song and I dont hear anything, it just ends with Pen Jillete talking.

Jan. 21 2014 07:38 PM

Fuguei Na Escola (Para Jogar A Bola) purchased from Amazon, thank you Jamie!

Jan. 21 2014 05:57 PM
Niall Dooley from Berlin

Anyone gonna say what the song at the end is? ..radiolab? any thoughts?

Jan. 21 2014 05:02 PM
Jamie York from NYC

The song at the end of 'You Are the Judge' is Fuguei Na Escola (Para Jogar A Bola) by Teta Lando off Angola Soundtrack 2 - Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969​-​1978.

Thanks for listening,
Jamie York
Senior Producer, Radiolab

Jan. 21 2014 04:36 PM
Alejandro Carrillo from México

still nobody knows what's the name of the songs at the end of this segment, I also want to to know, please!

Jan. 21 2014 02:02 PM

I wasn't able to get the link to work in Firefox, but I saw some of the comments and switched to Chrome, and it worked fine.

Jan. 21 2014 11:43 AM

I have tried to identify the song using Shazam and SoundHound - but no luck!

Jan. 21 2014 10:20 AM

I have tried to identify the song using Shazam and SoundHound - but no luck!

Jan. 21 2014 10:20 AM

I have tried to identify the song using Shazam and SoundHound - but no luck!

Jan. 21 2014 10:20 AM
Ryan Paxson from East Aurora NY

Will someone answer the question???? what is that song?!?!?!?

Jan. 21 2014 09:55 AM
Rusty from Kenosha

I love Radiolab! However, are you serious about this nonsense story? So a woman in a "remote" location says that she is not listening to what's happening in the studio BUT some technician who is with her IS listening but NOT in collusion with the duo? This is not crop circles people. There are a thousand ways to manipulate the facts this way. Further, I heard no engine sound in the airplane or radio distortion. The recording in the studio was JUST as clear as the Tower of London recording. Why? Because neither took place where they say it did.

Jan. 21 2014 07:43 AM
Lezley from Toronto

Yeah seriously @RadioLab... help a sister out on the name and artist of the song at the end of this segment.

It was amazing pants.

Jan. 20 2014 06:06 PM
Colin from Australia

I got to the black box ok. The answer was entirely expected but fascinating nonetheless. Thank you for your great shows. I am an avid listener from Oz.

Jan. 20 2014 05:36 PM
Colin from Australia

I got to the black box ok. The answer was entirely expected but fascinating nonetheless. Thank you for your great shows. I am an avid listener from Oz.

Jan. 20 2014 05:35 PM

What is the link to find out how the trip is done? I typed in what I thought I remembered it being, but it didn't work.

Jan. 20 2014 05:04 PM

As soon as they mentioned "magic" I was hoping that there would be commentary from Penn, and I was not disappointed!

And I'm glad he was able to give an explanation without a full step-by-step how-to. Generally the answer to any magic "trick" is that there is a "lie" in there somewhere, but often we go into those types of shows asking to be lied to for our own entertainment, so to me it is less of a lie and more a work of fiction (not counting scam-artists who use such lies to hurt or take advantage of people).

I for one still enjoy the trick even knowing how it is done because there is still often skill involved of either great practice or showmanship and that can be a marvel all its own.

Jan. 20 2014 04:25 PM
Song? from Earth

What's the song at the end of the segment!?

Jan. 20 2014 02:48 PM
Marian Klatt from Richmond

Hello, sorry to post this on Facebook and here, but I think even Penn wasn't quite cynical enough. It seemed particularly obvious to me when the grandmother said she couldn't teach her grandson to do it - because it wouldn't be possible today.

But THEN, even with a live studio audience, there are things you can get away with that you can't get away with on TV.... like having a woman backstage claiming to be in the Tower of London, or a diving bell, or some other location. So there's a dramatic delay to "connect the line to the Tower of London" but she's really just behind the curtain and can hear everything - or someone hand delivers her the words on paper.

Jan. 20 2014 02:47 PM
Me Monster from Palo Alto, CA

Hi all.

Hope you're well.

I'm with the others who instantly loved the song at the end of the piece and who are now obsessed with finding out who sang it and what song it is. Thanks FlickeringBrain for letting us know that it is in Portuguese. Can you please write and translate the lyrics available in the clip?

Thank you.

Kind regards,
Me Monster

Jan. 20 2014 02:39 AM

The mystery for me is what song you played after this segment in the podcast. The lyrics are in Portuguese and I speak Portuguese, but the song seems to be unsearchable on Google. If the song is supposed to be a black box then you succeeded!

Jan. 20 2014 12:38 AM
Alex Ember from San Francisco


Jan. 20 2014 12:20 AM

Safari (Mavericks) did not play the audio. Firefox, which I haven't used in years, worked. Whatever.

Jan. 19 2014 11:58 PM
Mike Gibson

For those of you having trouble:

It didn't work for me in Chrome on my Mac, but I switched over the Firefox and it played just fine.

I didn't find the answer to be a let down at all. Very interesting, in fact.

Jan. 19 2014 09:23 PM
Anni from Iowa City

I'm locked out of the answer as well. The audio downloads but doesn't play on Chrome or Safari! Guys, just tell us. We can handle the truth.

Jan. 19 2014 05:08 PM

Anyone who's studied magic at all could have told you the same thing Penn did, although we wouldn't be nearly so entertaining! Penn's answer, while entirely true, doesn't reveal anything new. And because of this, I LOVE the gimmick of having to go click through the warnings. What percent of listeners went to hear it? By the way, for Justin... (copy and paste into browser window; click the black box that appears, then click the skull and crossbones, then click play.)

Jan. 19 2014 03:57 PM

I was a little disappointed that they didn't include the reveal in the broadcast version. Having listened to it, I can understand the lack of an 'aha' moment may be anti-climatic or else disappointing after the build-up within the show. But given that the theme of the episode dealt with understanding black boxes, why not show the possible truth behind the magic trick? Then again, I've always been the type of person who has to look behind the curtain.

Jan. 19 2014 03:35 PM
Phil , you have to click the pictures a few times and then you get to a player. Worked for me on Mac + Chrome.

Jan. 19 2014 03:01 PM

Ah! The "don't click this" doesn't work! Dyin' here. Please fix it!

Jan. 19 2014 01:26 PM

The link to Penn's explanation does't work! I've tried it in Mac iOS and IE. Please fix!

Jan. 19 2014 01:18 PM

I really need to know the name of the song at the end of this segment. I'd like to purchase it. Please help the artist out and tell me and the many others who are interested just who they are.

Jan. 19 2014 10:29 AM

How did they do it ... Penn Jillette 's explanation.

Jan. 19 2014 08:05 AM

Put a link to the "Penn Jillette's explanation of how they did it" on this page.

Jan. 19 2014 06:08 AM

What is the song played at the end of this segment?

Jan. 18 2014 07:03 PM

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