Magic Meets Science


A fun piece in The New York Times about a conference of scientists, philosophers, and magicians:

Secretive as they are about specifics, the magicians were as eager as the scientists when it came to discussing the cognitive illusions that masquerade as magic: disguising one action as another, implying data that isn't there, taking advantage of how the brain fills in gaps—making assumptions, as The Amazing Randi put it, and mistaking them for facts.

Sounding more like a professor than a comedian and magician, Teller described how a good conjuror exploits the human compulsion to find patterns, and to impose them when they aren't really there.

"In real life if you see something done again and again, you study it and you gradually pick up a pattern," he said as he walked onstage holding a brass bucket in his left hand. "If you do that with a magician, it's sometimes a big mistake."

And not just with magicians…

Elsewhere in Reason: Teller has a cameo in the August/September Reason, available at newsstands now. And the philosopher Daniel Dennett, who plays a significant role in the Times piece, was interviewed in our May 2003 issue.

NEXT: Policing the Academy for Pirates

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Sounding more like a professor than a comedian and magician, Teller described

    I call bullshit. Teller doesn’t speak.

    Oops, pattern recognition strikes again.

  2. Wow. There’s a metaphor about the state in there somewhere.

    “With a nod of his eyes and a flick of his palm, he deftly draws the attention of the audience to the new policy. ”Look at these new jobs I’ve created.” It was only afterwards when he explained the trick that we saw the lost opportunities fall unnoticed into the brass bucket.”


    This post made Brian’s porn post magically disappear. Please bring back Brian’s porn.

  4. Warren—Kerry had already blogged that same story yesterday and I’d missed it….we try not to blog the exact same stories twice, if we can help it.

  5. My comment from the porn thread was good enough to become immortalized here on this totally unrelated thread, enjoy;

    “The DOJ should require every porn star to have a serial number tattooed on the forehead and thigh for quick and easy identification. Don’t laugh, after all, it’s for the children.”

  6. Brian,

    I understand, but your post included this remark:

    it’s for the children I’m tired of that joke; I’m even more tired of the circumstances that give occasion to use it so often.

    Truer words were never blogged.

  7. Warren and Brian,

    So just join us and call people who think that way bibertarians ?

  8. And now that,“…it’s for the children.” is used so often, I move that we make it an acronym (IFTC). Has a nice ring to it. Any seconds?


  10. And here i thought this was going to be about ID

  11. IFTC also Individual Freedoms Too Costly

  12. Sounding more like a professor than a comedian and magician, Teller described…

    It wouldn’t surprise me. Before he and Penn got into magic, Teller taught high school Latin.

  13. That article should be borne in mind by anyone hoping to understand current TV serial Lost.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.