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.
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.
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.
It’s called Saccadic eye movement. As explained in this awesome video by YouTuber VSauce, it’s the reason why a clock with a second hand might appear stopped when you’re looking back and forth at it. In short, your brain replaces the blurred milliseconds it takes to look from one thing to another with whatever you see when you stop moving your eyes.
These lost moments in time add up to roughly 40 minutes a day.
It also goes a long way to understanding misdirection and hiding movements in plain sight. As long as magicians can fit all of their dirty work inside those 40 minutes of their spectators.
Our perception of the world around us could be very different than the person next to you.
In extreme cases it could mean the luscious red strawberry could look like a bulbous blueberry to someone else. Even more mind altering, results of new experiments with monkeys suggest that these receptors can be altered, allowing us to see colors we have never seen before and possibly helping reverse blindness.
In work published in the scientific journal ‘Nature’, colour vision scientist Jay Neitz from the University of Washington injected a virus into monkeys’ eyes which enabled them to see red as well as green and yellow.
Remarkably the group of squirrel monkeys were able to make sense of the new information despite their brains not being genetically programmed to respond to red signals.
The result was that just four months later the monkeys could see in full colour for the first time.
As well as allowing colour-blind humans to tell red from green, the innovative technique could restore sight to the blind.
Could color blindness really be a thing of the past? Does it make you wonder how different the world looks outside of your own head? How freaked out are those monkeys right now? Is this basically Pleasantville for them?
UPDATE: Our esteemed publisher has rightly pointed out this work has been explored by the great Jerry Andrus and is prominently on display in the house with 999 happy haunts… The Haunted Mansion.
We’ve all gotten the creeps when being made to believe the eyes on a painting are following you while walking across a room. But why is that? Also, can we demonstrate it while Chubby Checkers plays in the background?
Thank you Rutgers University! According to this video, you can see stiff plastic masks as they are slowly moved back and forth, yet seemingly maintain eye contact. Also, the direction we perceive the head shaking in is the opposite in which it’s actually being moved. In fact, when coupled with the body it appears as if the inanimate person is twisting his neck because our brain processes the body moving in one way and the head in another.
Hence, they dubbed this creepy little gem “The Exorcist Illusion”.
A new study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience gives some new insight into why magic is effective, specifically citing a few performance elements you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
For example, the trajectory of Apollo Robbins hands…
One of the studies was initiated by professional magician Apollo Robbins, who believed that audience members directed their attention differently depending on the type of hand motion used. Robbins believed that if he moved his hand in a straight line while performing a trick the audience would focus on the beginning and end points of the motion, but not in between. In contrast, he believed if he moved his hand in a curved motion the audience would follow his hand’s trajectory from beginning to end.
Or Mac King’s lovable face…
They studied a popular coin-vanishing trick, in which King tosses a coin up and down in his right hand before “tossing” it to his left hand, where it subsequently disappears. In reality, the magician only simulates tossing the coin to the left hand, an implied motion that essentially tricks the neurons into responding as they would have if the coin had actually been thrown.
Although we probably didn’t need science to tell us that King and Robbins rule, it might put a kibosh on that mask routine with the big circular arm movements.
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