The Magic of Consiousness

In honor of Graham Spanier joining our class on Tuesday, the topic of science and magic intrigued me. In this interesting New York Times article the scientist explains his experience and discussion with Apollo Robbins.

He talks about the illusions of magic and how magicians go about them. He also makes comparisons to magicians as scientists and psychologists: "Secretive as they are about specifics, the magicians were as eager as the scientists when it came to discussing the cognitive illusions that masquerade as magic: disguising one action as another, implying data that isn't there, taking advantage of how the brain fills in gaps -- making assumptions...and mistaking them for facts."

The magician Apollo's definition of magic is "the theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that -- in our hearts -- ought to." This is a very interesting way of describing magic because we just think of it as a series of illusions that we are unable to see unless told. But he explains that in our hearts it ought to make sense. The excitement of the moment, a new experience adds to the illusion of the trick and our confusion. Michael Gazzaniga, the president of the consciousness association, had described another form of prestidigitation -- a virtual reality experiment in which he had put on a pair of electronic goggles that projected the illusion of a deep hole opening in what he knew to be a solid concrete floor. Jolted by the adrenaline rush, his heart beat faster and his muscles tensed, a reminder that even without goggles the brain cobbles together a world from whatever it can.

"Allow people to make assumptions and they will come away absolutely convinced that assumption was correct and that it represents fact," Mr. Randi said. "It's not necessarily so."

And all along magic was really just science. What are your takes on magic--especially the really crazy tricks?

pick pocket trick: keep a close eye on the watches, and fast forward to 2:13

and there is also Criss Angel Mindfreak who does a bit of his own type of magic. This is a picture of Apollo Robbins out on the streets doing magic.

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