Conspiracy Theories


Conspiracy Theories

What are we talking about?

A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event.

Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

Often times, things happen in the world that are difficult for us to comprehend because they have no obvious meaning or causality. These events are typically quite frightening either because they represent a direct danger to us, or happen so infrequently that we question whether or not it could (or should) happen at all.

Leon Festinger (1957) proposed cognitive dissonance theory, which states that a powerful motive to maintain cognitive consistency can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behavior. According to Festinger, we hold many cognitions about the world and ourselves; when they clash, a discrepancy is evoked, resulting in a state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. As the experience of dissonance is unpleasant, we are motivated to reduce or eliminate it, and achieve consonance (i.e. agreement).


The following is from an article in Scientific American, written by Michael Shermer;

Why do people believe in highly improbable conspiracies? In previous columns I have provided partial answers, citing patternicity (the tendency to find meaningful patterns in random noise) and agenticity (the bent to believe the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents). Conspiracy theories connect the dots of random events into meaningful patterns and then infuse those patterns with intentional agency. Add to those propensities the confirmation bias (which seeks and finds confirmatory evidence for what we already believe) and the hindsight bias (which tailors after-the-fact explanations to what we already know happened), and we have the foundation for conspiratorial cognition.

Are conspiracy theories always wrong?

Nope. Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln and Franz Ferdinand (Austro-Hungarian prince), just to name a few, were all assassinated by groups of conspirators. Governments have been in on it too – here’s a list of amazing-but-true projects that the US Government has undertaken. (from

Did we land on the moon?

Was 9/11 orchestrated by the US Government?

More here.

Even more here.


Mental Math


Everybody has been stuck at some point in their lives without a calculator and too lazy to draw out 72 x 11 on paper to figure it out.  Or how about figuring out 9% of 60 in an instinct?  125 x 125?  No problem.  This week Perek brings a handful of useful tips and techniques to help you increase speed and ease for all your mental math needs.  As pointed out in the audio, at the beginning, it may help to write a couple things down.  Grab a paper and pen and follow along, the GoodGuys are already getting promotions and sportscars due to their newfound math skillz.  Below are some brief explanations of the techniques discussed.  Also check out the video below about the Soroban (abacus) we discuss at the end of the show.

Multiplying by 9

Multiply by 10 and subtract the original number from that result.  7×9?  taxe 7×10, and then subtract 7.  This helps more and more as numbers get larger.

Multiply by 11

For 2 digit numbers this couldn’t be easier.  Add the 2 digits together, and place that result in between the original 2 numbers.  72×11?  7 plus 2 is 9, put that 9 in between the original 7 and 2, to get 792.  To carry a 1 when the 2 numbers add up to more than 10, just add that 1 to the next digit to the left.  86×11?  8 plus 6 is 14, so keep the 4 and carry the 1.  Out the 4 in the middle and add 1 to the next digit to the left.  Did you get 946?  good.  You are already better than Mitch at mental math.

Multiply by 5

To increase the probability of doing this in your head, divide the number by 2.  If the original number is even, tag a 0 on the end of the halved result.  That’s it.  If the original number is odd, you will end up with a .5 once you divide by 2.  Just get rid of that decimal and you are done!  This is awesome on big numbers.  2,682×5?  Well, what’s half of 2682.  Most people can do THAT better than they could attempt to do that whole problem in their head.  Half of 2,682 = 1341.  Since 2682 is even, tag on a zero.  13,410.  There’s your answer.  For odd numbers, how about 4,215.  Half of that is 2,107.5.  Drop the decimal for 21,075.  Easy as pie.

Divide by 5

This is even easier to remember than multiplying by 5.  All you have to do is double the number, and then move the decimal one to the left.  193/5 seems difficult on its own.  but doubling 193 is easier.  193 doubled is 386.  Move that decimal over and you get 38.6.  193/5 is 38.6.

Square any number ending in 5

This one is a little more interesting, but still easier than the long way.  Take any number ending in 5, and forget about the 5.  So, 95×95?  That’s 95 squared.  forget about that 5, and all you have left is the 9.  Multiply the 9 by 1 + itself, so 9+1 = 10.  multiplying 9×10 is easy right?  90.  The last step is to tack on a 25 at the end.  9025.  95 squared is 9,025.  A little practice on this and you can do it in a couple of seconds.

Criss Cross Multiplication 

This concept I absolutely love.  It is so much easier to do in your head than the way we learned in school.  It’s going to be tough to describe it properly in words, so here’s a link to a video that can help!  This site has other examples that I duscussed as well.

Percentage flip rule

9% of 80, go!  That’s hard for me.  But the flip rule says that 9% of 80 is EQUAL to 80% of 9.  That’s easier for me.  I would take 10% of 9 (.9), and then multiply that times8 to get up to that 80%.  .9×8 = 7.2 (9×8 is 72, move that decimal back to get 7.2).  This is only really useful when one number is a multiple of 5 or 10.

 Day of week calculation

Warning!  Advanced maneuver in your head.  Not so bad, but just not exactly a clearly logical path (if you break it down it is, of course, totally logical).  Here is a link to a good site that lays it out:

So – as I mention too many times in the show – these are all going to seem a little weird or difficult at first.  The important thing to remember is that these methods, although they will need practice, will pay off later because (IMO) they are much easier to keep track of in your head.  I’m gonna start practicing now.  Quick!  What is 127 divided by 5?