Here's a little trick you can use to amaze your family and friends. Before we start, you need to know three things:

1. This is not a prank on you.
2. I don't know why it works.
3. It has worked every time I have tried.

The setup happens when someone in your life asks you to open a stubborn jar. Ideally, that person has already tried several furious approaches to the jar and failed. He or she tries to hand you the jar for assistance. Here's what you do.

Wave off the jar that has been offered and make sure you don't ever touch it.

Now say the following:

"You can open that jar easily with a trick I learned. Want to try?"

Most people will say yes.

"Okay, put your hands on the jar as if you are about to twist open the top and close your eyes. For ten seconds imagine all of the power and energy of your body flowing down to your hand that is about to open the jar. When you can imagine all of your strength and energy in your jar-opening hand, give the lid a sudden, confident twist and it will come off as if it had never been hard in the first place."

Wait for the subject to concentrate for 10 seconds, then say, "Now give it a quick twist and open it."

The lid will come off as if it had never been seriously stuck in the first place. Your subject's eyes will be like saucers. It's a fun moment because it will feel as if something magic just happened.

I've been doing this trick for years. As I mentioned, I have no idea why it works, unless one can actually move energy around to different body parts. But I have never seen any scientific support for that hypothesis.

You'll want to try this trick on your own jars a few times before you talk someone else into trying it. Let me know how this trick works for you.

You might wonder how I discovered this phenomenon.

Well, I have the optimist's curse. I have to confess that over the course of my entire life - or at least since reading my first Spiderman comic - I have periodically tested to see if I have an latent superpowers. For example, I like to see if I can levitate objects at a distance using nothing but my mind. That hasn't worked yet. And I have tried to predict or influence the next play in sporting events but that hasn't yielded any results. And I have tried to stand on a scale and will my weight to instantly decrease just to see if I have the start of flying powers. So far, no luck.

One day in my optimistic past I tried moving my entire body energy into my jar-opening hand to see if that was a thing. The jar lid popped off as if it had barely been attached. The first few times I tried this method on various jars it seemed as if perhaps the jar had not been so hard to open in the first place. But after I extended the trick to include other people who had already tried and failed to open stubborn jars, I started to wonder why it works.

I still have no idea. Do you?

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a book that is changing a lot of lives, or so I am told.


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Jun 9, 2014
I'm 6'2", 315lbs and have been lifting for the past 24 years. Opening jars doesn't take a Jedi mind trick. But I sure am going to try this trick next time some old bag at the art studio needs.something opened. But to extract the most fun out of it, I'm going to have to do a lot more !$%*!$%* with the old lady's first.
Jun 9, 2014
Not sure where I heard or read it, but I advise people to concentrate on holding the lid still, and turning the jar or bottle.

Seems to work. I always explain it as increasing your lever, therefore torque, because the jar radius is bigger than the lid.

However, it is probably kung fu / magic / changing your focus / realigning your expectations. The torque patter is just part of the hypnotic effect.
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
I tried your affirmations technique as mentioned in one of your books. I really, really tried for ages. My wife is still frigid.
Jun 9, 2014
I've done this too. Works by heating (expanding) the lid.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
If you want to skip the mystic mumbo-jumbo, the most effective jar openers are the ones that mount under your kitchen cabinet. See goo.gl/vd4ijo They're invisible and out of the way, never get lost, and work effortlessly each time.
+27 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
If it works without touching the jar, it's about effectively using your muscles. When you start straining on the jar you start trying to put shoulders, etc. into opening it, or focusing on gripping the lid instead of the twisting action. When the person focuses their energy they're actually relaxing their muscles, then devoting all their energy to the twist instead of wasting a bunch of it on grip and general body tension.

Any other martial artist on this board would probably agree with me on this point. Small alterations in mental state and body position can have a surprisingly disproportionate affect on physical capabilities. I competed in judo at a high level and was always amazed at how my primary throw - a simple shoulder throw called ippon seo-nage (http://youtu.be/SGHQrj09O-g) - hinged entirely on my twisting my free wrist along the axis of the throw. If you watch the video, I'm not talking about the hand grabbing the opponent. I'm talking about the the hand that isn't grabbing ANYTHING. It seems like a minor thing, but that simple action caused the rest of my body's musculature to line up in such a way that it probably gave me 3x more throwing force than otherwise.

There's lots of other examples of this in sport that aren't pickle jars, but they're about using a mental trick to align your body. In baseball and boxing for instance they tell you to swing through the point of contact, as though the ball/face is just something along your path and not the endpoint. Intuition says that shouldn't matter - isn't the point of contact where everything happens? - but it's a matter of aligning the body in the most powerful way by using a mental trick instead of by focusing on the physical directly.

To use your vernacular Scott, it's about triggering a program in the brain that will tell all the muscles what to do, rather than trying to tell all the muscles individually how to do something.
Jun 9, 2014
You're a trained hypnotist - did you use your hypnotist voice when you gave instructions? Have you ever observed (or heard of) this succeeding when someone else gave the instructions?

Does the structure of those instructions correlate in any way with the structure of standard hypnotic inductions? Just curious.
Jun 9, 2014
Alright Scott. Through whatever synchronicity in the world that exists after reading this my wife walked into the room and asked me to open a new jar of pickles.

I did as you said. I told her I would help her and to bear with me as my method would be unusual.

I asked her to close her eyes and imagine all of her jar opening strength. As she giggled and asked how this was supposed to work, I continued. Next, I asked her to imagine directing all of her jar opening strength into her jar opening hand.

Then I said, "for the next 10 seconds, imagine all of this jar opening strength being used to open the jar."

While saying this last part, my wife decided to try opening the jar and it worked. Loads of pickle juice spilled out onto my office floor.

Her eyes widened, "It worked! How did you do that?" she asked. At this point I feel it is necessary to reveal that she is a scientist (a chemist in fact) and this felt to me as the closest she has ever believed in some sort of supernatural powers.

Before I could explain where I learned of this new method, she left the room to go use the pickles in a sandwich. I was left to clean up the mess.

Thank you very much for this jar opening method. In the single time I witnessed it, using a person who did not know what was to happen next, it did work.

Now my question: Where is the best place for me to send you a carpet cleaning invoice?
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
I was once at the receiving end of a similar kung fu mind trick like this once.
I had been suffering from the hiccups for hours. A friend made me do a similar process where I was meant to close my eyes and focus on something or other for 10 seconds, and then I 'switched' my hiccups off by mentally telling them to stop.

Interestingly after this one experience for the next 10-15 years I never hiccuped more that once or twice before I was able to mentally 'switch' them off. People were amazed I could do this.

Then suddenly one day I couldn't do it anymore and I haven't been able to get it back. So now I'm again a sucker like everyone else trying to control my breathing or drink water to make the hiccups stop.

The friend claims to know exactly what he's doing and how this worked, but he's never been willing to share the methods with me (if in fact he really does know, or if his knowledge is on the same level as the rest of the hypotheses here).

+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
Unrelated comment.
I was recently working with a tech device, and the "helpful tutorial" came up. As usual, it was filled with things like "move two fingers outwards to zoom in." and "click OK to select the highlighted option."
I wonder if we couldn't create a "Tech score," for humans, not in any rigid, pass tests to advance sense, but in a voluntary, "I know how tech smart I am" sense. Perhaps a scale from 1-7 where 1 is a grandma who has trouble with rotery phones, and 7 is an early adapter currently reading this in google glass while commuting in his/her self-driving car.
Any time a tutorial comes up, it can ask your tech score, and if you say "5" it will skip to items unique to this device, if you say "7" it will turn off, and if you say "2" it will explain what a mouse is...
Thread hijacking pirates say "Arrgh"
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
Back in School I practiced karate for a few years. Breaking boards by punching them was easy if you took a few moments to mentally "focus" all your energy on the point of impact (your knuckles) AND you believed you could do it. If either of these was lacking, you usually ended up with a sore hand and intact lumber,

Also--if I may--a brief digression/regression to a previous topic of discourse here ...Robot overlords

This weekend I read read about three developments:

- A computer passed a Turing test for the first time

- Entanglement was confirmed in the D-Wave quantum computer which pretty much settles the debate over whether quantum computation is actually occurring in the machine

- Facial recognition software is now consistently and significantly better at identifying emotions than humans

...This is getting serious folks!
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
First, if this trick works ever when not holding the jar, then my comment is useless, but...
The way spoon-bending works is that when you tell someone to hold the spoon and will it to bend without using your muscles, your muscles do engage, and bend the spoon.
I wonder if holding the jar, getting ready to open it, for ten seconds applies slow force to the jar. If so, it may be "downshifted," force, high power, low speed, which would certainly get the lid past the first few millimeters where the tightness and vacuum seal are the problem.
Remember, your Bicep muscles (for instance) have the ability to lift tons, but they are applying that lift over a distance of millimeters, and thus moving an arm 2 feet. Leverage and the conversion of power to speed and back explains a lot of cool thinks about humans.
Jun 9, 2014
Couldn't remember where I read the stuff about muscle inhibition, but a quick google produced this random article:
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2014
[It works even if you don't put your hand on the jar when you concentrate for 10 seconds. -- Scott]


I guess it must be a combination of factors then.
While the force might be applied more effectively when exterted in bursts, its absolutely plausible that concentrating for 10 seconds gives us access to some extra strength.

I remember reading somewhere that the human brain deliberately inhibits muscle strength, thereby increasing finesse. Maybe the 10 seconds concentration briefly switches off that inhibition.
This is why people on meth typically have more strength than when sober.
You can test this hypothesis by....nevermind.
Jun 9, 2014
Well, here's a great big WAG (Wild-Butted-Guess).

First, class, we must look at derivatives, in the mathematical sense. Particularly the third derivative of distance with respect to time.

Derivatives are mathematical rates of change in one thing with respect to another. So we'll look at distance and time.

The first derivative of distance with respect to time is called 'velocity.' Most incorrectly call it speed, but velocity includes both speed and direction. If you change either speed or direction, you're accelerating. Simple, if you think about it. The amount of distance you can traverse in a given time is your velocity.

Now, the second derivative of distance with respect to time is the rate of change of velocity with respect to time. We call this 'acceleration.'

Everyone is familiar with velocity and acceleration. But there's a third derivative of distance with respect to time, to wit: the rate of change of acceleration with respect to time. The term for this third derivative is 'jerk.' And no, I'm not kidding. That's what it's called. Honest. Look it up.

When I was a Navy fighter pilot, the plane was placed on the catapult with a bridle that connected it to the catapult's piston. To allow the plane to add power without the plane skidding down the deck, the plane was held back by a piece of steel machined to a particular size, which would break when the catapult fired. Jerk was what caused it to break.

I posit with absolutely no evidence that what makes Scott's trick work is 'jerk.' And no, I'm not making any joke about Scott here. It may, and I emphasize MAY, be the rapid snapping motion rather than the steady application of power that makes the jar lid come off.

I suppose you could test this by bypassing Scott's "focused power in hands" idea and see if it worked. But hey, it's as good a guess as any.
Jun 9, 2014
I've tried running hot water over jar lids. Sometimes that works and sometimes it does not. If your trick really works every time, then there is more going on than warming the metal.
Jun 9, 2014
I'm thinking this has to do with visualization.

If you fail at first, most people can't see themselves opening the thing and their brains have giving up... or in my case started to wonder what tool they can use to do the job. However if you can convince your brain that it can open the lid, it'll go back into the mode where it's willing to get your body to try harder.
Jun 9, 2014
Improved focus sounds like a good explanation to me, although the phrase "it has worked every time I have tried" sets off alarm bells -- people have a remarkable ability to forget ordinary events and only remember outliers. Sounds like confirmation bias to me.

I have a friend whose family is convinced she has psychic powers because at some point in the past she has called one of them up with a warning about an event and it has come true. I asked, "What about the times she called up and nothing went wrong?" None of them could remember that happening (or would admit to remembering it), which they gave as further proof of her "powers". In fact, though, there was at least once when she called and I was present, and the event she was warning about did not come to pass. They are unconsciously cherry-picking the data.

[Selective memory always has to be the first hypothesis in these situations, I agree. But you will probably test it yourself in the next month and then you'll have to wonder how many times it didn't work that you already forgot :-) -- Scott]
Jun 9, 2014
Much of the world works on the placebo effect.
- Medicine, while relying on actual physics and biochemistry as well, is as much "getting the body to heal itself" as actual 'treatment'
- Business, while using real math and tracking, relies more on the 'confidence' (placebo) that people have in the business, rather than on actual performance.
- Even in college, I discovered that when presented with a math or physics assignment, when I was confident in my ability to be able to solve the problem, the problem was "easy"; when my self-confidence was low (through other hits to it, even social ones that had nothing to do with my knowledge of the subject), the problems "became" much more difficult to solve.

As a hypnotist, you've probably seen this effect again and again. It works because you are telling the other person that it will work, and in a way that they believe you. Physiologically, they're probably doing something different when they retry -- twisting more precisely (creating less friction between the lid and the jar), or being unconsciously aware of whatever is causing the lid to stick (if dried gunk, breaking the bonds; if vacuum pressure, applying less pressure on the lid so as not to lock it down even more; or whatever the "real" explanation is (I could probably throw out reasonable-sounding "explanations" for an hour)).

Jun 9, 2014
My guess is that it is a matter of focus. We never really think about the muscles we use, or how we use them to apply force. When we struggle to do something, physical or mental, we often just exert unfocused effort, and much of that effort is wasted pushing in wrong directions. And frustration only diminishes our focus, making things more difficult.
By taking a moment to refocus, we get another chance to apply effort in the right directions.
This is a good general life lesson, it's not just jars.
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