Woosung An demonstrates an excellent technique for adding a layer of rubber protection to your phone in seconds, by deflating a balloon around it.
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Brain City, this beautiful film by Noah Hutton made from neuroimagery collected at leading brain science labs, will screen in New York City just before midnight on Times Square's massive electronic billboards every night this month. Read the rest
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Since 2008 Teller (Penn's partner) has been making a video show about living in a zombie infested world. His latest episode, the fifth in the series, was posted today.
In 1891, Kennard Novelty Company, makers of the first commercial talking board, needed a name for their product, so they asked the board to name itself. Smithsonian's Linda Rodriguez McRobbie looks at "The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board." Above, my favorite Ouija Board moment in film. From Smithsonian:
Contrary to popular belief, “Ouija” is not a combination of the French for “yes,” oui, and the German ja. (Ouija historian Robert) Murch says, based on his research, it was (Kennard Novelty Company co-founder) Elijah Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was, Bond said, a “strong medium”), who supplied the now instantly recognizable handle. Sitting around the table, they asked the board what they should call it; the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” Eerie and cryptic—but for the fact that Peters acknowledged that she was wearing a locket bearing the picture of a woman, the name “Ouija” above her head. That’s the story that emerged from the Ouija founders’ letters; it’s very possible that the woman in the locket was famous author and popular women’s rights activist Ouida, whom Peters admired, and that “Ouija” was just a misreading of that.
A Gweek listener recommended The Magician and the Cardsharp to me (I can't remember who - sorry!) and I'm thankful he did. It's a well-told story about two men with intersecting lifelong goals. The first man was Allen Kennedy (1865–1961) a professional card cheat who spent many years perfecting his technique to deal cards from the center of the deck undetected. The second man was Dai Vernon (1894–1992), one of the most highly-respected sleight-of-hand magicians in history.
Vernon, who worked as a silhouette cutter in department stores, had been interested in card tricks (especially ones involving sleight-of-hand) since childhood. By the time he was an adult, he'd gained a reputation for being one of the best card handlers in the world. From time-to-time, Vernon would heard rumors that there was a professional cardsharp somewhere in Missouri who'd mastered the mythical Center Deal, a move that almost every magician dismissed as an impossible fantasy.
Vernon had his doubts too, but the rumors continued to spread, and his curiosity got the better of him. He embarked on a years-long quest, involving much travel and encounters with scary characters, to find out if there really was someone who had invented an undetectable center deal and, if he existed, to convince the man to teach him how it was done. This book is not only the story of Vernon's search for, and eventual meeting with, the man behind the rumor, it is also a history of the American midwest's rough-and-tumble past, replete with illegal gambling dens, speakeasies, con-men, whorehouses, and mobsters. Author Karl Johnson does a fine job of bringing the dusty, dangerous, boisterous, exciting atmosphere of small city vice to life.
Video below shows a sample of the genius of Dai Vernon:
At The Wire, performance artist Sarah Angliss explores the weird history and present state of ventriloquism, from the 16th century exorcism of a demonic dummy to Angliss's own robotic stage companions.
This magnificent crop circle appeared last night in Poirino, Italy. Read the rest
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Video of a magical architectural installation of an illuminated web of threads, titled "Line Segments Space" (2013), by Seoul design studio Kimchi and Chips.
Magician Jose Ahonen confounds canines with some sleight of hand. "By the way, all the dogs got treats before and after the trick," states the video description on YouTube.
Today marks the Italian publication of "L'arte Di Stupire" ("The Art of Amazement") the new book by Boing Boing friends and collaborators Ferdinando Buscema and Mariano Tomatis whose work is best described as "magic experience design." I've read a draft English translation and it's absolutely fantastic. I can't wait for the eventual publication of the English edition. Here's what I said about the book:
Buscema and Tomatis are modern day mystics who move seamlessly between the realms of science, art, and magic, seeking wonder at every turn. They delight in inspiring us all to cultivate curiosity and embrace astonishment in our daily lives. This brilliant book is an empowering grimoire for hacking reality and giving the gift of magical experiences to others. Read the rest
Read the rest
Vincent Brady shot these scenes of swarming fireflies at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, and at his home in Michigan: "I used every trick I have up my sleeve to pull this off. Image stacking, 360 degree startrail panoramas, and even a macro love scene! Hold on to your seats these fireflies fly by pretty quick!"
Nobody knows a magician's secrets, but everybody knows Silvan. Wecrosstheline meets one of the greatest international masters of illusion: the man who has enchanted millions of Italians with his unique blend of style and skill, illusion and elegance.Silvan - The Great Magician, directed by Gabriele Trapani
Voted Magician of the Year twice, in 1990 and 1999 - the only artist outside America to have received this prestigious award - the great Silvan welcomes us into his home in Rome where we become the witnesses to a magical existence as he reveals the secrets of his legendary life.
Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "We just published an interview with Zack Coutroulis, who has an amazing collection of vintage magic posters. Zack explains how many of the most popular magicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries got their starts in vaudeville, sandwiched between song-and-dance acts and comedians. If the magicians got big enough to go out on their own, they'd produce lithographed posters to publicize their shows. While some of these posters were portraits of magicians such as Dante, Carter the Great, Kellar, and Thurston, often surrounded by devils and imps whispering dark-art secrets into their ears, other posters showcased particular illusions, such as the one of Harry Houdini performing the water-torture trick."
In his book Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind (reviewed here), Alex Stone starts by recounting his tragically humiliating disqualification at an international magic competition. So ashamed was he by the unceremonious ejection from the stage that he gave up magic and pursued a post-grad degree in physics. Eventually the lure of the conjuring arts called him back, but this time around, Stone got serious. He sought mentors, practiced incessantly, researched magic history, and read up on the psychology of deception and the limits of human perception.
You can listen to Incredibly Interesting Authors and other Boing Boing podcasts on Swell, a cool streaming smartphone app. Visit swell.am to download the free app.
inFORM is a "Dynamic Shape Display" that lowers and raises pegs in a matrix to display digital 3D information in a physical way. The effect is quite magical. It's a prototype from MIT's Tangible Media Group that embodies their concept of "Radical Atoms," materials that can dynamically shift form to generate a kind of blended reality that merges the virtual and physical. (Thanks, Syd Garon!)
In the history of magic, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871) is considered the father of contemporary conjuring. (Indeed, Ehrich Weiss was so influenced by the master magician that he took the stage name of Houdini in his honor.) A lifelong maker, Robert-Houdin is credited in the late 1860s with inventing an optical device called an "iridoscope" to see details within the eye. In a description of the device from the time reprinted in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, Houdin said that "its principle is something like that upon which a water carafe is held up to the light to detect whether the contents are pure." Above is an 1866 watercolor Robert-Houdin used the device to paint of the cataracts in his own eye. It was shown as part of a recent Robert-Houdin exhibit titled "Fascination optique" at the Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin in Blois France. (via Cabinet)
Absolutely beautiful dance of a liquid droplet. In scientific terms, an ultrasonic field is used to levitate a drop of liquid. Increasing and decreasing the strength of the field alters the droplet's shape. Here is the scientific paper: "Shape oscillation of a levitated drop in an acoustic ﬁeld," by W. Ran & S. Fredericks (Clemson University, Department of Mechanical Engineering)" (Thanks, Ariel Waldman!)