Archive for the 'Science' Category

There Are More To Illusions Than Meets The Eye

Posted by Michael on January 30th, 2014

The Atlantic recently took a look at, or rather listen to, auditory illusions. It is easy to forget sometimes that sight is not our only sense that can be fooled, but hearing and even touch can be fooled. This recent article discusses the use of mirrors to scratch one arm to relieve an itch on the other discuess one example of touch based illusion, which may have been inspired by the Rubber Hand Illusion. In that touch illusion researchers were able to convince people that a rubber hand was actually their own (learn more about it here).

One of the interesting things in The Atlantic’s article on auditory illusions is that several of the ear-foolers mentioned have similar sight based illusions. Running above is one of the examples listed on The Atlantic’s website, the Shephard Tone which is the auditory equivalent of the Penrose stairs, seen in the background.

Tempest Staged Again, Messin’ With Cats, More [Magic Bulletin]

Posted by Michael on December 17th, 2013

The Daily Mail’s website highlighted the work of optical illusionist Brusspup, who posts his videos on YouTube. He even provides templates so you can mess with your own cat. You can check out more at the Brusspup YouTube channel.

The American Repertory Theater at Harvard University has announced that it will end its 2013-2014 season with Shakespeare’s The Tempest directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. The production will run from May 10 until June 15 and star Broadway veteran Patrick Page.

Magician and juggler Julian Pittman will be performing tomorrow (Wednesday, December 18) at the Destin Middle School in Destin, Florida. Tickets are $5 for the 3:45 show which will raise money for school supplies. Assisting Pittman will be language arts teacher Melody Gill-Pittman, who is also his wife. As some of us at iTricks happen to be married to school teachers, we know how desperately many schools need the most basic of supplies and hope the Pittmans sell out!

The Academy Honors Magic, Mütter Sleepover More [Magic Bulletin]

Posted by Michael on November 12th, 2013

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the good folks behind the Academy Awards) have enlaced Ricky Jay to host an upcoming presentation on magic and the origin of special effects. Titled “Like Magic,” the presentation will include film and stage illusion designer Michael Weber and effects supervisor Shane Mahan. The combination of film clips and live demonstrations is open to the public and will be held November 20 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. General admission tickets are only $5 and can be purchased at

Katy Perry let slip to MTV that her new tour stage show will include at least one magic trick. She says she will not be sawn in half, promising to do that later, but instead will “fly.”

Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum is famous for its collection of medical artifacts and oddities, many of which were at one time associated with side shows. (The safe for work Mütter Minute running above focuses on one of their historical pieces instead of pieces of brain or deformities… you’re welcome.) It recently hosted its first sleepover which included a seance conducted by magician Frances Menotti. No word yet on whether they will host another sleepover, but you can learn more about the museum at their website.

Scientists Stealing Ideas From Magicians

Posted by Michael on August 20th, 2013 recently reported on the father and son team of John and Benjamin Howell who have built a “human scale invisibility cloak” for about $150. If the demo above looks somewhat familiar, though, it is because they nicked their idea from stage illusionists. They freely admit this in their research paper, but maintain that it may have practical applications because of its scalability, which gives the system advantages of more complex systems. From the above video we can conclude one thing the duo did not learn from magicians is how to choose a proper background to completely “pull off” this illusion!

A Method Used by the Best Magicians in the World Just Got Revealed as Scientifically Useless

Posted by Editor on February 13th, 2013

Watch Video Short: Magic and Autism on PBS. See more from NOVA scienceNOW.

There are few how have become more famous in the modern era for the cups and balls than Penn and Teller. So if PBS was looking to track exactly how anyone fooled any audience with the venerable old routine, it makes sense it was them.

And it would also make sense that the study would ask P&T why they think the trick works. And mostly, they’d be found to be right. Except for one little concept.

In addition, magicians often say that success with illusions depends on how well they can use gazes and faces to manipulate where audiences look, Macknik explained. The researchers tested this idea by hiding Teller’s face on the video clips with a black rectangle, and found doing so apparently did not affect the illusion.

‘We’re showing a discovery that magicians missed because they relied on their intuition, and their intuition was wrong,’ Macknik said.

The full report has yet to be released, but it seems to indicate that social cues might be a very overrated element of magic in general.

Think of a Card, Science Knows What You’re Thinking (Even if You Picked THAT Card)

Posted by Editor on July 31st, 2012
pick a card-1.png

Scientific American broke down the hard numbers behind one of magic’s most common requests: think of a card.

So what did they find?

A final interesting result was that the exact wording of the question seemed to influence which cards people chose. When asked to name a card, over half of the people chose one of four cards: the Ace of Spades (25%), or the Queen (14%), Ace (6%), or King (6%) of Hearts. If you’re like most people, you may have chosen one of these cards when asked at the beginning of this article.

Another interesting fact, statistically wise guys who are trying to throw you off will select a mid-value black card. Therefore creating more predictability when they are trying to create chaos.

Illusion Used to Make Writing with Eyesight a Reality

Posted by Editor on July 27th, 2012

As much as we think our eye movements are smooth, they are actually very erratic. Constantly darting all around our surroundings, trying to take in as much as possible.

This makes something like writing with your eyesight extremely difficult. Until now.

A French neuroscientist has harnessed the power of an optical illusion to focus our gaze, therefore allowing for smooth movements. With this breakthrough, writing with only your eyes could be a reality for many disabled people.

It utilizes “reverse phi motion.”

Phi motion is essentially the effect that turns a series of still photos into a movie, but reverse phi motion is a bit weirder. Take a film of a moving white dot then turn the dot in every other frame black, and the film will appear to run backwards – that’s reverse phi in action.

Lorenceau’s system uses a display covered in dots that flick from all-white to all-black. The reverse phi illusion means that moving your eye in any direction while looking at the screen makes it appear as if an on-screen dot is moving in that same direction.

Check out a reverse phi motion demonstration below. What you are seeing is two frames from a documentary, however, because of the change from white to black we assume there is motion. This tricks our eyes into focusing on it.