In a new scientific study, McGill University researcher Jay Olson combined stage magic with psychology to make people think that an fMRI machine (actually a fake) could read their minds and implant thoughts in their heads. Essentially, Olson and his colleagues used "mentalist" gimmicks to do the ESP and "thought insertion" but convinced the subjects that it was real neuroscience at work. The research could someday help psychologists study and understand why some individuals with mental health problems think they are being controlled by external forces. Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell blogged about Olson's research for the British Psychological Society. From Vaughan's post:
(The subjects) reported a range of anomalous effects when they thought numbers were being "inserted" into their minds: A number “popped in” my head, reported one participant. Others described “a voice … dragging me from the number that already exists in my mind”, feeling “some kind of force”, feeling “drawn” to a number, or the sensation of their brain getting “stuck” on one number. All a striking testament to the power of suggestion.
A common finding in psychology is that people can be unaware of what influences their choices. In other words, people can feel control without having it. Here, by using the combined powers of stage magic and a sciency-sounding back story, Olson and his fellow researchers showed the opposite – that people can have control without feeling it.
"Simulated thought insertion: Influencing the sense of agency using deception and magic" (Consciousness and Cognition)
Illustration by Rob Beschizza Read the rest
Ah, the magic fortune telling fish! If it curls one way, you are certainly one sort of person! If it curls the other, you are another! Magic, right?
We've spent the morning making our own fortune telling shapes! All you need is some cellophane.
How does it work? I always thought it was body heat, but this simple morning distraction taught both my daughter and I that cellophane is hygroscopic! The sodium polyacrylate that cellophane is made of seeks out water, and as it absorbs even trace amounts -- like from the palms of our hands -- the molecules start changing shapes! The fish starts writhing around!
Cutting out your own is a lot of fun, but lacks the cool packaging of the traditional!
I’ve known Tomohiro Maeda since he was a teenager.
For a period he was well-known in Japan for his many two-hour television specials doing mostly card tricks for famous celebrities seated around a small table. It takes a great magician to keep the high-and-mighty seated for two hours with nothing more than a deck of cards. Above is a good example of one of his recent TV shows in which they also analyzed the brain during the performance of magic (even though it’s in Japanese, you’ll understand the magic tricks with little problem).
Tomohiro Maeda now writes life-style articles for magazines while continuing to perform magic at high-priced private events and he recently made a TV commercial for a Japanese credit card company.
And they also released a behind-the-scenes video.
I think we all wish we could do magic with our credit cards rather than be indebted to them.
Our pal (and former Artist in Residence at Walt Disney Imagineering) Derek DelGaudio's new show In and of Itself is opening at the Geffen Playhouse on May 3rd and it will be stupidly great. His last show Nothing to Hide (directed by Neil Patrick Harris) is literally the best magic show I've ever seen, and I think this one will be better. It's not a magic show in any traditional sense. It's something new - something different and better. It's conceptual art but without pretension or self-indulgence and it happens to have incredible magic in it. Frank Oz is directing and Mark Mothersbaugh is writing original music for it. Read the rest
Rick Lax created the TV show “Wizard Wars” and has written several books on deception. He’s a non-practicing lawyer, a former MENSA member, and now spends his time creating tricks for other magicians and for Penguin Magic, the biggest magic retailer in the world.
Facebook (as a marketing tool)
"I became a mayor of Facebook overnight and I’m still trying to process exactly how it happened … I’ve treated Facebook marketing like an experiment … If you google, “How to make a good Facebook video? How to make a viral video?” 12 different people are going to tell you 12 different things, so I just put enough videos up where I can experiment and I can see for myself what’s working and what’s not working … What I found out is that is not actually a factor in the video’s success, and I do this because I look at my most popular videos. I see what days are they posted, what time are they posted, and that has not been a factor … All the content creators who are doing so well on YouTube, they say, “Well, why should I go over to Facebook if I’m not going to get paid for it?” That’s really left a window in Facebook for new content creators like me, so I was able to just sneak in there and have a tremendous success as everyone else is boycotting."
"Everyone says everything is fake … It’s frustrating because I’m not actually doing camera tricks. Read the rest
When Matthias Buchinger was born in 1674, he arrived without arms or legs. As an adult, he was under 2.5 feet tall. He lived to the age of 65, outliving three wives (his fourth wife outlived him, and he was rumored to have as many as 70 mistresses), and he sired 14 children. Most remarkably, Buchinger was an accomplished artist, magician, sharpshooter, and calligrapher. Buchinger's specialty was micrography: the art of writing tiny letters. He was famous throughout Europe. According to Wikipedia, “Buchinger's fame was so widespread that in the 1780s the term ‘Buckinger's boot’ existed in England as a euphemism for the vagina (because the only ‘limb’ he had was his penis).”
The author of Matthias Buchinger: "The Greatest German Living" is Ricky Jay, a famous magician, performer, historian of unusual performers, and writer. Jay’s biography of the extraordinary Buchinger includes many reproductions of Buchinger’s exacting pen and ink drawings, which he made holding a pen in his small fin-like appendages. Jay is a longtime collector of Buchinger original art, and this book includes several entertaining chapters about Jay’s personal interest in collecting Buchinger’s work and his interactions with other Buchinger-philes.
I don’t mean a lock of hair or a toe nail—nothing weird.
This Saturday, April 9, one of the largest auctions of Houdini memorabilia ever held will take place in Chicago, held by Potter & Potter Auctions. You can download a pdf of the catalogue. And the whole shebang is up on Live Auctioneers where you can also bid on these fabulous items from anywhere in the world.
Why so fabulous? No matter whether you are wealthy or not, you will likely be able to purchase something touched in some way by Harry Houdini, the world’s greatest escape artist and icon of the 20th century, in this auction.
Do you want a lockpick he might have twiddled between his fingers or toes to free himself from some diabolical device?
Or you can buy one of his sets of props that he used for the trick where he swallowed a bunch of straight needles and then some thread, thereafter removing the thread from his mouth with the needles dangling along its length.
There are buckets full of Houdini’s handcuffs and various forms of restraints, including these metal mittens that will set anyone into bondage a quiver; and a display of restraints also owned by Houdini and later used as a lobby display for the 1950s Tony Curtis biography of the escape artist.
Lot 120 features two canisters of 35mm film featuring 26 minutes of clips of Houdini, some perhaps not seen by anyone in 90 years. The frame grabs below are enough to make Houdini collector’s wet their pants. Read the rest
"The way we do technology development here is really hand-in-hand with the creative goals,” says (Lucasfilm CTO Rob) Bredow. “The R&D is always in service to the story.”
For example, to port the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars film universe into the interactive realm, the Advanced Development Group engineers first had to figure out how the VR hardware could render the massive 3D model in just milliseconds, compared with hours or days for a film shot. Then Skywalker Sound built a surround system that realistically rumbles and whooshes as a Corellian starship should. Meanwhile, game designers and the storytellers hashed out the most compelling way for a Jedi-in-training (you) to battle an army of Stormtroopers with a lightsaber.
"THE SUPERGROUP REMAKING STAR WARS AND JURASSIC WORLD IN VR" (Bloomberg Businessweek) Read the rest
Neither of these decks are smokable, but they bring two of my favorite things together: weed and magic! For sleigh of hand, and other tricks, I always prefer the Bicycle brand cards, but the rolling paper inspired cards are fun as well.
Bicycle's Hemp Deck has a hemp leaf on the back, but the cards are made of your typical US Playing Cards stock and finish.
RAW rolling papers aren't as iconic as Zig-Zag, but if you want to tell a joint rolling story to accompany a magic trick, this deck'll help convince people they are looking at something special. They also come with a bracelet.
RAW Rolling Paper Playing Cards via Amazon
Andy from The Jerx points out that the traditional conjurer's technique of tapping once, twice, thrice-and-VANISH is a fundamentally unsound way to do a vanish, because you're showing the audience what the tap looks like when you're doing doing the move, and no matter how much you practice that move, you'll do something a little different that third time. Read the rest