Watch Ricky Jay's wonderful "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women" TV special from 1989

Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women is a compendium of curiosities by magician and historian of wonders Ricky Jay. In 1989, CBS aired a TV special inspired by the book and featuring a "human calculator," wine glass musician, ballet dancer automaton, Steve Martin (!), and other delightful characters. (Special bonus is the classic "SPECIAL" motion graphic preceding the program.)

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TastyFloats levitates food morsels to your mouth

TastyFloats is a "contactless food delivery system" that uses ultrasound to raise bits of food and droplets of drink to your mouth without any utensils at all. While this method to levitate small objects is well known, what's fascinating is that a small scientific study shows that the levitated food apparently tastes better. Researchers from the University of Sussex describe TastyFloats and their sensory experiment in a scientific paper they'll present at this month's ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces conference. From IEEE Spectrum:

The researchers experimented with three of the five basic tastes: sweet (a positive taste), bitter (a negative taste), and umami, which is a savory taste that can also enhance other flavors. The researchers asked a group of volunteers to test TastyFloats with the three basic tastes, delivered in three different volumes (5 microliters, 10µL, and 20µL), with tongue delivery via pipette as a non-levitating control. Participants were asked to identify each droplet, and then rated each on intensity, pleasantness, and satisfaction.

The most significant difference between levitated tastes and tastes delivered via pipette was in intensity: sweet tastes were more intense and recognizable, while bitter tastes were harder to distinguish. The researchers suggest that this might make TastyFloats more suitable for dessert delivery, although it could also be used to make bitter but healthy foods (like broccoli) more palatable to people who wouldn't otherwise enjoy them.

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Sheet, a spreadsheet program in 217 bytes of javascript

The code for Sheet fits in one of those newfangled 280-character tweets with room to spare: at 218 bytes, it's the most amazingly compact spreadsheet app committed to screen.

A 218b spreadsheet app in HTML/JS

Inspired by aem1k.com/sheet Golfed by xem, subzey, p01, rlauck, aemkei, odensc, corruptio Related AMA answer

See also my new favorite subreddit, r/TinyCode Read the rest

Mat Ricardo's next juggling show will feature a trick you think he can't do

Mat Ricardo (previously) writes, "After 30 years of being the undisputed go-to guy for performing feats of dexterity live on stage, I've got a problem - I think I've done all the tricks I can think of. So, in what could be the dumbest move of my career, or the most fun, I'm issuing an open challenge for my next one man show." Read the rest

Watch this great magic trick using a card deck and a smartphone

Chris Ramsay does a lot of fun street magic, and this clever trick that employs a deck of cards and a phone is an update of a classic. Read the rest

Anti-heckler judo for the amateur magician

Andy at The Jerx (previously) describes a surprisingly effective tactic for putting a heckler in his place during the performance of a magic trick. Read the rest

Goop and Infowars sell the same wellness stuff

You'd think Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's "lifestyle brand" for clean-freak whippies, and Infowars, Alex Jones' conspiracy compendium for seething fascists, wouldn't share much in common. But they both have exactly the same business model: selling wellness to people skeptical and fearful of mainstream medicine and healthcare. Nikhil Sonnad took a look at the ingredients on each site and found that it's all the same stuff.

We at Quartz have created a compendium, from Ashwagandha to zizyphus, of the magical healing ingredients both sides of the political spectrum are buying, and how they are presented to each. We looked at the ingredients used in products sold on the Infowars store, and compared them to products on the wellness shops Moon Juice and Goop. All make similar claims about the health benefits of these ingredients, but what gets called “Super Male Vitality” by Infowars is branded as “Sex Dust” by Moon Juice.

Call it horseshit theory: opposite extremes of lifestyle branding converging on a hidden axis of shared appreciation for their audiences.

[h/t Agies] Read the rest

Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap Is Moving To Hollywood!

For those of you who don’t know, my pancake juggling friend Scot Nery has been putting on a circus & variety show in L.A. for last 111 weeks. Rain or shine, he has introduced a ridiculous amount of energy and the best talent from around the world.

The show is called Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap and there is nothing else like it. Really! You’ve got to see this show!

The format is unique in that it features fifteen 4-minute acts that are peppered with Scot’s frenzied hosting personality and his awesome house band Fire Leopard.  

The show is eccentric and the entertainers rotate every week so you never know what you’re going to get. In the past we’ve seen:

Guinness-Record-holding hula-hoopers World champion knife throwers Cirque de Soleil aerialists Amazing Ventriloquists Standup comedians Sword swallowers Contortionists Magicians Musicians Jugglers

And now, each and every Wednesday, Scott and his talented army have a brand new home at 6555 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

The doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $25 at the door and $17 if you buy them in advance.

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The Conjuring Arts Research Center: Manhattan's hidden library of magic

Atlas Obscura discloses a secret library, The Conjuring Arts Research Center, established to preserve the secrets of magic!

The not-for-profit organization was established in 2003, “dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of magic and its allied arts.” It was started by William Kalush, who developed a love of magic from the card tricks shown to him by his father, a Marine wounded in World War II. This love of card magic turned to a love of collecting magic books, which now form a wondrous collection of over 15,000 books—some dating to over 600 years old—housed in this hidden location.

“I like early books that no one else has ever seen”, Kalush says, sitting in a high-backed, ornately carved wooden chair that wouldn’t look out of place with a wizard sitting on it. “Books of performances pieces, card secrets, many that are unique.”

Browsing through the shelves stacked with all things conjuring, you will find obscure books on sleight-of-hand techniques, mentalism, deceptive gambling, the history of magic, and the mysterious secrets of card tricks. One book is the seminal The Expert At the Card Table, which appeared in 1902, written by an S. W. Erdnase. It’s one of the most detailed collections of sleight-of-hand techniques and card sharping, a book so iconic and well-studied within magic circles it is known as “the Bible.” Appropriately enough, S. W. Erdnase was a pseudonym. The real identity of the writer has remained a century-old mystery.

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A "Maker Magician" does tricks with an open source hardware version of the Pixar lamp

Katie sez, "Mario 'the Maker Magician' Marchese has made a name for himself with his DIY robotic props. This is Mr. Lamp, a full animated lamp that combines elements of 3d printing, DIY electronics, Arduino, and found/repurposed objects. Mr. Lamp has a style all his own." Read the rest

Theory11 'Archangels' are the prettiest playing cards

I still love these Archangels. 90% of the time, this is the deck of cards I have in my pocket.

I buy a lot of decks of cards, and this remains my go-to favorite. The beautiful black on white back design is mesmerizing to watch go by as I practice flourishes, and I think helps distract people from clumsy sleights. The Ace of Spades and Joker designs are some of the best I've seen, and the gold foil used on the face cards adds a touch of class.

No blank card or double backer is included. There is one Theory11 advertisement card that can be used for "write on this card" tricks and still preserve the decks 52 card integrity.

Bicycle Archangels Playing Cards via Amazon Read the rest

Entrancing avant-garde music video generated by algorithm

Damien Henry, co-inventor of Google Cardboard, trained a machine learning algorithm using footage shot from a moving vehicle and then had the machine generate this beautiful video.

"Graphics are 100% generated by an algorithm in one shot. No edit or post-processing," Henry writes. "Except the first one, all frames are calculated one by one by a prediction algorithm that tries to predict the next frame from the previous one."

The soundtrack is the Steve Reich masterpiece "Music for 18 Musicians."

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Magic Mondays in Santa Monica

On Monday evenings some of the best magicians in the world perform intimate sets at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

The Santa Monica Playhouse is a long running, classic, beautiful small theatre just off the 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. I was thrilled, last year, when I had the chance to catch a few performances at Albie Selznick's Magic Monday. Albie is an accomplished actor and magician who brings together phenomenal acts for a very playful and in-your-lap kind of night. Frequently, you'll see the most sought after magicians and variety performers from the Magic Castle here, in a far less formal but no less charming setting.

This week, Monday May 8th, two of my favourites are in the cast: puppeteer Scott Land, and (if memorry hasn't failed me) Troop 2 Santa Monica Eagle Scout, and world renowned magician Matt Marcy.

The most fun you'll have on a Monday west of Sepulveda!

Magic Monday at the Santa Monica Playhouse Read the rest

These cards are for throwing

These Banshee playing cards are made for throwing!

Made of plastic, heavier and stiffer than my normal US Playing Cards Bicycle 808 style decks, the Banshee cards sail through the air. The cards also have some cuts in their face to make them scream!

Made of tougher stuff, these cards last a lot longer than a paper deck and are a bit easier to learn with. You will need to practice, however, these cards do not instantly imbue you with skill.

Talk about useful skills to have at a party!

Banshees: Cards for Throwing via Amazon Read the rest

Tiny magic shop on roadside in Arizona

Emory Williams Sr., 82, has been performing magic for 70 years. He owns and operates a tiny roadside magic shop east of Tucson, Arizona. Scott Craven of the Arizona Republic profiled Williams, and took photos of his place. He also took a video of Williams performing a trick.

Calling it a shop is giving it the benefit of the doubt. It is nothing like the store the 82-year-old once owned in Tucson. That brick-and-mortar spot held more than 6,000 tricks in roughly 2,000 square feet, a destination for amateur and professional magicians throughout southern Arizona.

This shop, parked on a dusty gravel lot roughly 50 feet back from the road, is a 13-foot by 18-foot trailer, modified with solar panels providing power to the TV, radio, computer and air conditioner. Inside are 1,000 tricks and novelties. Some visitors can’t quite believe what they are seeing, as if the bold black letters that say “Magic Shop” must be, well, an illusion.

But it's no mirage, as shown by the tourists who stop just long enough to take a photo, as if Instagram posts could pay Williams' bills.

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Teller on how magicians "alter your perceptions"

Teller, the silent half of the Penn & Teller magic act, explains seven cognitive biases that magicians exploit in order to "alter the perceptions" of their audiences and achieve impossible-seeming feats. Read the rest

Why magicians should never snap their fingers as part of a trick

Andy from The Jerx (previously) continues to develop the theory of "audience-centered magic" with an excellent post on the deficiencies of snapping one's fingers to mark the moment at which some magic effect is meant to be happening. Read the rest

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