PsiWheel Under a Glass Container video


This video is a couple of years old, but I just read about it on Forgetomori last night. It shows a folded piece of paper, balanced on an upright toothpick, under a glass bowl. The guy in the video shows how he can make the paper spin with his "psychic powers."

Before he starts making it spin though, he first blows a hair dryer around the bowl to show that the apparatus inside can't be affected by moving air, and then he moves a powerful magnet all around the bowl to show that there's no magnetism involved. The he sits down in a meditative pose and makes the paper spin in one direction, and then another.

You can read the video creator's explanation here. Before you read it though, try to think how he might have accomplished this.

PsiWheel Under a Glass Container video


  1. I remember there used to be an active Psychic community called PSIPOG that had tons of instructional material on making a psi-wheel, exactly like shown here. I’ve seen enough personal videos to know this could be some sort of phenomenon. Repeating the experiment with anything heavier than aluminum foil will usually not work.

  2. You could definitely do it with heat alone. Heating the bowl with the hair dryer will develop an air current as the air rises up the sides of the bowl, and eventually reaches strength to rotate the paper one way. As the bowl cools, it drops below the temperature of the air, which has now been slightly heated by acquiring heat from the bowl. The bowl drops below the heat of the inside air, and a reverse air current to the initial one develops.

  3. All right, watched it. That isn’t, at least completely, what’s happening. Probably too many directional reversals.

  4. I watched it and did what the author suggested – try to figure out if it was faked and if so, how. It was pretty clear to me that some trickery was going on with the table, but the video was too low resolution to be able to see the details of the table that would have revealed the trickery.

    The first clue that the table was involved was that the underside of the table was as finely finished as the top. That’s not been the case with any other table I’ve seen in my lifetime. An unfinished underside would make it hard to hide the gimmickry.

    The other clue was that the bowl appeared to be genuine, and the reflections gave that indication. Reflections are hard to fake. If the bowl is real, then the table must be the source of the fakery since there’s nothing else there.

    But I had no idea what he done to the table – I thought it was a motorized gizmo directly underneath the psi wheel, although I didn’t think through how it would have coupled its energy.

  5. Nice trick, and I can’t explain the exact principal behind it, but I know what he’s doing. That hair dryer was applied for a very long time, longer than needed if you are just showing that no air can get inside. He was ‘coating’ the bowl.

    Then the magnet, same idea, something about static and hot air built up inside the bowl or on it’s surface.

    Just because there’s no immediate reaction, we think neither of these have any effect.

    Bake a loaf of bread, you would be surprised what happens when you combine things like eggs, flour, yeast and water together.

    Same idea behind Global Warming.

  6. The most convincing evidence there is of the paranormal are the realties of everyday-physics which even the most prominent scientists have no quarrel. That the bowl, and the pinwheel, and the consciousness of a mind trying to teach us a lesson should exist in the first place are enough for me.

  7. Hey.. I’ll add this: Possible the table had a spinning metal plate inside of it, with remote control for direction and speed. The hair dryer creates charged air under the bowl, the magnet somehow aligns the whatyoumacallsthems, and the spinning metal plate creates a magnetic vortex. Notice the paper is insulated by wood and air.

    Trick is inside the table. Or he’s got a large magnetic field source under the floor (maglev train, ceiling fan).

    I wish when people make these ‘amazing’ videos, they would take better care in the technical presentation. Screw this auto WB & Iris. If you claims there’s no visual trickery, then don’t have the camera searching for levels and colours.

  8. It should be trivial to determine if the hair dryer is causing this effect.

    Repeat the experiment without it.

    If the paper doesn’t move, the hair dryer is “obviously” causing some force/thermal transfer to be applied, and psychic powers are not involved.

  9. I remember seeing a schematic for a psi-wheel in “On the Frontiers of Science: Strange Machines You Can Build” by G. Harry Stine that would be useful in an objective scientific experiment. The disc had numbered line markings on it, and it spun under a pointer. That way, there could be no ambiguity on where you were attempting to move the disc.

  10. Continuing my comment from #10, the glass bowl means nothing. James Randi, noted debunker of all things paranormal, notes that to even *begin* proving this one way or the other, the psi-wheel needs to be in a Bell jar under proper vacuum.

  11. …the underside of the table was as finely finished as the top. That’s not been the case with any other table I’ve seen in my lifetime.

    I guess they don’t have Ikea where you live.

  12. I could build one of those. Not hard. The table is opague. All sorts of stuff can be hidden in there. I’d put a induction motor coils along with the electronics in there and a set of fine wire coils between two layers of paper to make the paper star. It wouldn’t have a DC magnetic field, hence no interaction with the magnet (as long as the magnet wasn’t moved too quickly.) On the other hand, if the magnetic field were moved quickly, it would “drag” the star around with it. The could have just used aluminum foil for the star and it would have worked just as well. Come to think of it, I’d probably just put aluminum foil between the two layers of paper.

  13. Heating the bowl with the hair drier causes the air inside to expand and escape the bowl. As the bowl and the air cools, a partial vacuum is created. Air is pulled in through tiny imperfections between the bowl and the table. Since these imperfections are random and unevenly distributed, the air is not pulled in evenly on all sides, creating a small rotating circulation within the bowl, This circulation causes the paper to spin.

  14. The whole point of this device is to MAKE ONE YOURSELF. It’s trivially simple! Obviously not everyone can demonstrate the anomaly and make these things move, but the percentage is far from zero.

    As with spoon-bending or whatever, videos are not convincing. Neither are personal demonstrations. There’s too many ways to fake it: hidden supermagnets, tiny air jets drilled through the table, HV attraction or corona wind. To be certain it’s real, you’ll have to accomplish the feat by yourself. Anything less is just noise.

    But if you succeed, you’ll be put in the position of knowing it’s real, yet unable to convince any others …except by persuading them to try making one of their own and attempting to turn it. (Then try winning Randi’s millions. Betcha can’t!)

  15. > Did you folks read the whole page?
    > He explains how it was done.

    I didn’t even watch the whole video: there are too many ways to fake it. Think up any you wish, but the author will find one you didn’t anticipate. The only convincing evidence is to build one yourself, then succeed in your efforts to make it move. Hey, the forgetomori article is actually excellent! A rare example of true skepticism with no trace of the usual megalothymic taint. (Plus, I guessed right on the pinhole air jets.)

  16. Gosh, I was so hoping there was some sophisticated physics going on for a change.

    The sun is not psychic, yet with a surface temperature of only 5800 K, it manages to have a corona temperature of at least 1,000,000 K. Now *there*’s a trick.

  17. oh come on! it’s obvious. The whole room is on a turntable and is being moved backwards and forwards. the paper stays stationary because the toothpick sits on the axis of rotation.

  18. One of the first possible explanations I thought of (other than videoshoppery) was that the whole floor was actually on a rotatable stage. Floor+man+camera+psiwheel initially at rest, then spin up the floor, man+camera get taken for a ride, but the psiwheel and air in the bowl stay still.

    That cool idea got blown away when the psiwheel started spinning really fast and the guy didn’t fall over due to centrifugal forces and his clothes didn’t start flapping in the wind.

    Decent article on skepticism as well.

  19. Form a hypothesis? Build one and perform your own tests under direct observation with control of all the variables? Understand the physical principles? Provide a rational, testable, demonstrable explanation?

    What are you people, scientists??

  20. not so along ago I had a conversation with someone who described paying to sit in a circle at someone’s house with a group (other paying customers) around a “device”. I showed him a picture from hundreds of years ago of Mesmer’s animal magnetism experiments.
    Apart from some resentment, I doubt I stirred anything in his head.

    We can all be conned, it’s just a question of how much and how often.

  21. I haven’t read the explanation. My guess is thread or hair or monofilament line. That’s why you can’t see his other hand which is NOT empty. Gonna go read the article now.

  22. Being conned is the supreme duty of consciousness. Once you know, it’s the end of the show. For this reason, illimitable intelligence cannot co-exist with consciousness. This is why God is in the atoms, and not on the mountain top.

    Once we know enough we will create our own physics and dissolve into it, and this is how we will exist. Consciousness, not conscious of itself, eventually able to produce consciousness conscious of itself and so on.

  23. #12: “to even *begin* proving this one way or the other, the psi-wheel needs to be in a Bell jar under proper vacuum.”

    Here’s your psi-wheel in a vacuum:

    Crooke’s Radiometer! I remember playing with these in science class as a kid. MAGIC!!

    I knew it had to be air, heat, or static electricity, but i still didn’t know the right answer. But if you read the entire article, you’ll see that that is precisely the point. It’s impossible to tell which of those forces is at work by watching the video.

    They pose 2 questions: Does the video prove the paranormal? and How was it made?

    The correct answers are: “No” and “I don’t know.”

    Anyone who is SO CERTAIN that their particular guess is correct, is falling into the same trap that the psychic believers are. You are BELIEVING in something with NO PROOF to back you up!!

  24. I think its more interesting how many people watched the video and tried to figure out how it was done rather than read the complete page.

  25. more of a challenge to make a real one. An EEG that reads alpha, but no bigger than a intra-canal hearing aid, coupled with a transmitter for a micro-controller and hidden IR lasers that drive the vanes of a radiometer.

  26. Huh. Like many others in this thread, my guess was that the blow dryer heated the bowl and the effect was created when it cooled.

    The self-righteousness in the linked “how-to” article is misplaced, by both the video creator and article author, however. Both take a moment to chastise skeptics for claiming they KNOW it’s faked (caps theirs) and pointing out ways in which it could’ve been done.

    Both forget that the burden of proof is on the person claiming discovery, not on the skeptics. It’s good that some people automatically assume it’s fakery. Skepticism can be taken too far, of course, but it’s a healthy first reaction to “paranormal” phenomena.

  27. #28: Best suggestion so far!! An in-ear EEG might be hard to develop. Why not just build it into a hat? Or better yet, a wig!

  28. I’m generally a HUGE skeptic when it comes to this type of thing and I think the Psi wheel stuff is very high on the baloney meter. However, the only thing I’ve seen that has ever given me pause is this:

    Maybe worth another BoingBoing post?

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