Houdini could fly!

Hunt for Houdini 2 715

In 1910, Harry Houdini magically flew over a field near Melbourne, Australia. OK, he was in an airplane. But I hadn't known that the great magician was an aviation enthusiast. Houdini's demonstration was the first heavier-than-air flight in Australia. Apparently, it was a real nail-biter that ended in success. Now, Smithsonian Air & Space reports on the effort to find Houdini's plane, if it still exists.

He flew a Voisin biplane that he’d bought in Germany the year before. Powered by a British ENV engine capable of 60 to 80 horsepower, it sailed over trees, rocks, and fences, reported the Melbourne Argus, then wavered slightly. “Ah! Cabre, cabre!” shouted Antonio Brassac, Houdini’s French mechanic. “The word signifies the action of a rearing horse,” continued the Argus, “and it indicates that the plane, like the horse, will almost inevitably come to grief.”

"The Hunt for Houdini’s Airplane"

Video: How to make chocolate out of nothing

In this video, Mariano Tomatis shows how to create chocolate out of nothing. Here is his explanation of this wonderful phenomenon, known as a missing square or vanishing area puzzle. (Thanks, Ferdinando Buscema!)

Harry Harwood Garrison, player piano restorer, magician, smoke ring-blower, RIP

Harry Harwood Garrison of Cincinnati, Ohio died last week at age 77. Sounds like an amazing guy; wish I'd know him! From his obituary:

CEN048178 1 20130921Sole proprietor of the Player Piano Shop, enthusiast & restorer of all variety of automated musical instruments, life-time entertainer performing magic acts & smoke-ring blowing, including an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson…

Raconteur, gourmand, fine-arts supporter & lover of music, particularly traditional & Dixieland jazz, boogie-woogie piano, blues, bluegrass, & opera. Historian of Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Westwood, & Colerain Township; craftsman, traveler, latter-day renaissance man, noted by many friends & colleagues for having a remarkable memory & his ability to recall detail.

Harry Harwood Garrison obituary (Cincinnati.com, thanks Gil Kaufman!)

Master pickpocket Apollo Robbins on the art of misdirection

EDW Lynch of Laughing Squid says: "Sleight-of-hand artist and master pickpocket Apollo Robbins demonstrates the art of misdirection on an unlucky volunteer in this entertaining TED talk from TEDGlobal 2013."

Ferdinando Buscema: magic, wonder, and ingenuity

Ferdinando Buscema is a magic experience designer whose work draws from mechanical engineering, sleight-of-hand, and his explorations of hermetic traditions. We couldn't have asked for a more astonishing opening presentation at Boing Boing: Ingenuity, our theatrical experience that took place at a former Masonic Lodge in San Francisco on August 18. During his performance, video above, Buscema revealed the final secret of the Illuminati, and guessed my password, which I have since changed. We look forward to future collaborations with Ferdinando whose wizardry and warmth is an inspiration to Happy Mutants everywhere! Get illuminated.

Boing Boing: Ingenuity in partnership with Ford C-Max.

Video from London Varieties 5

Mat Ricardo sez, "Here's the Web TV version of show 5 of the London Varieties. Want to see a man play classical music while juggling ping pong balls with his mouth? OF COURSE YOU DO! Enjoy the show, and then come to the last ever live show, this coming Wednesday at 9.30pm, at the Leicester Square Theatre, featuring DAVE GORMAN, PAUL ZENON, MAT RICARDO and a packed show of circus, variety, comedy, music, and - as it's the last show - lots of secret special guests! Get your tickets here.

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties: Show Five

Magic of acoustic levitation

Researching are using sound waves to levitate and move hovering cells, DNA, toothpicks, water droplets, and other small bits of material in different directions. Eventually, the technique could be used for a "lab on a chip" or to transport hazardous or sensitive chemicals or biological materials in the laboratory. Watch the explosion above when sodium and a water droplet collide! ETH Zurich mechanical engineer Dimos Poulikakos and his colleagues reported their results in the new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. From Science News:

To achieve levitation, Poulikakos and colleagues vibrate aluminum blocks about the size of postage stamps up and down, like tiny jackhammers. The rapid buzz kicks up sound waves that sail upward until they hit a Plexiglas reflector and then bounce back down to the blocks.

When these falling waves run into the climbing ones, they can cancel out, creating a low-pressure pocket that can support an object’s weight.

By adjusting vibration rates to control the position of the pocket, the researchers could float particles across a chessboard of the aluminum blocks.

"Sound waves put levitation on the move"

Last ever London Varieties show, July 24

http://vimeo.com/70029913

Mat Ricardo's about to host the last ever London Varieties show, and he's issued a challenge with potentially humiliating consequences. Turn up on July 24 to see what happens!

On the difficulty of patenting (or otherwise protecting) magic tricks

"In the field of magic, theft is rampant. Close-up magic wholesalers steal from close-up magic wholesalers. Parlor manipulators steal from parlor manipulators. Large-scale illusionists steal from large-scale illusionists. Why do they do it? Because they can." —Rick Lax at Wired.com.

Giant illusion house makes it look like visitors are scaling sheer walls


The Barbican commissioned artist Leandro Erlich to design an illusion that uses a giant, tilted mirror and a building facade that lays flat on the ground to make it look like its participants are defying gravity and scaling walls. The piece is called Dalston House and it's sited on the foundation of a house that was bombed in the Blitz. Erlich will be giving a talk about the piece tomorrow (Thursday) night at the site of the installation: 1-7 Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8 3DL.

Art: Leandro Erlich's illusionary Dalston House will have you clinging on for dear life (via Colossal)

Guide to making magic toys (1902)


John sez, "The Falvey Library at Villanova University has just digitized a turn of the century guide to mechanical toys and small automata. They've been digitizing a lot of very interesting material--see more here."

How to make magic toys : containing full directions for making magic toys and devices of many kinds / by A. Anderson (Thanks, John!)

Doing a tablecloth yank from beneath a dog in a dragon suit

Mat Ricardo sez, "Here's what happened last time Piff The Magic Dragon (and Mr. Piffles the dog!) was a guest on Mat Ricardo's London Varieties. What's going to happen when he pays us a return visit, this Thursday night at London's Leicester Square Theatre? Find out by coming!"

New, cheap edition of Taschen's stupendous "Magic 1400s-1950" book


Back in 2009, I wrote about Taschen's amazing "Magic 1400s-1950s," which presently goes for about $300. Taschen is reissuing the book in a cheaper edition, which'll cost you $42.22 when it comes out on July 1. Here's a review on Crackajack, providing a timely reminder of what a stupendous book this is. And here's what Boing Boing reader Peacelove said about the first edition:

PeaceLove sez, "Cory's recent post mentioning the 'books as objects' phenomenon compels me to mention the extremely delectable new Taschen book, Magic, 1400s-1950s. It's gargantuan, classy, profusely illustrated and expensive but if you are a magician or magic fan, you've just found the perfect holiday gift (hint, hint). Authors Mike Caveney and Jim Steinmeyer, along with contributor Ricky Jay, are all professional magicians, scholars and historians of the first rank. This is a serious work, as well as a gigantic love letter to the 500+ 'golden years' of magic."

Magic. 1400s-1950s (Thanks, Rene!)

Sweet, nostalgic film about a magic trick

R Paul Wilson sez, "I've just released a short film about magic and nostalgia. 'The Magic Box' is based on experiences and memories that many of us share and follows a handmade magic trick as it passes from one generation to the next."

This is as sweet as a sweet thing.

The Magic Box

Documentary about magician Ricky Jay

The new documentary about esteemed magician, magic historian, and actor Ricky Jay opens next week at New York City's Film Forum with screenings in many other cities to follow in May and June. Jay is a fantastically curious and entertaining fellow and I can't wait to see this film. "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay"