The science behind an illusion

Fran Scott from the Royal Institution in England looks at the science behind an illusory Jeff Koons “sculpture”. In it, three basketballs sit motionless in a tank of water half way down with no visible means of suspension. This is what it looks like:

Jeff Koon - Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank

Jeff Koon - Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank

Now an inflated basketball would be full of air (um… by definition) so the fact that they’re underwater at all is unusual. And they couldn’t be filled with rocks because they would sink to the bottom. It’s also not a case of having some strategically positioned supports hiding behind the basketballs; you could walk all the way around the tank.

If you would prefer not to know, don’t watch this:

Magic Tonight at the Social Capital

Coming up September 14, we’re having a Magic Tonight revival!

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For three years (2013-16) I had the pleasure of hosting a weekly show in downtown Toronto (and occasionally in Mississauga, Oakville and Pickering). It was a wonderful collaborative endeavour where each show featured a different guest and it gave me the ability to work with a wide variety of different performers; from magicians, to mentalists to unusual sideshow performers; from seasoned world travelling professionals to novices finding their footing on stage. While there are currently other opportunities we do sometimes get together to share some magic and mystery for old times’ sake.

This time we’re back, sponsored by the Soul City Social Club at the Social Capital Theatre (Danforth & DVP) for one night with two of my favourite guests from the show; both dear friends and wonderful performers.

Nicholas Wallace

A magician that conjures with the thoughts of his audience, he plays with luck, strange conspiracies and occasionally talking to the dead. Recently featured on America's Got Talent and Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Nick Wallace may seem sweet and innocent, but he is the devil; pure evil wrapped in Mr. Rogers' sweater. Come and see one of Ontario's foremost purveyors of astonishment.

Ben Train

Ben Train is like a magician, but for real... whatever that means. He has performed across Canada, the US and Europe. Locally he is a feature performer at Dave & Busters where he presents his show Weirdo, he is also the host and producer of the acclaimed Art of Magic.

So please come and join us for an amazing night of fun and magic. Tickets are available below.

 

Mystery & Magic with Beyond Mental Borders

Later this month, I will be appearing at The Rec Room in An Evening of Mystery & Magic featuring the mind reading duo Beyond Mental Borders. The Rec Room, located near the SkyDome (or Rogers Centre… if you insist.) It’s stocked with arcade games galore and multiple restaurant and bar spaces. This performance is in their main theatre which offers full dinner menu & bar service so you can come and eat as you enjoy the show.

Sunday, August 18
8:00 PM (Doors open 7:00 PM)
The Rec Room
(255 Bremner Blvd, Toronto)

Located at Roundhouse Park in downtown Toronto, just steps away from the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Air Canada Centre and Billy Bishop Airport.

The Rec Room redefines the meaning of fun with over 40,000 sq. feet of great games, mouth-watering eats and amazing entertainment, all packed under 1 roof!

The Rec Room is the place to let go, be playful and experience something new and exciting. We’re Canada’s premier “eats & entertainment” hot spot, and we’re taking Toronto by storm!

With Canadian-inspired cuisine, virtual reality, video & redemption games, live entertainment, and more, The Rec Room is the ultimate gathering place to grab a pint, host an event, or just play.

Your new social playground has arrived!
 

Newest Trick in the Book - July 30

A little bit of a last minute announcement. I’ve been conscripted to host The Newest Trick In The Book, a weekly show put on by the Toronto Magic Company.

The concept of the show is to provide a safe space for magical experimentation, trying and testing out new material that is still under development. (In much the same way that comedy clubs host open mic nights.) True to form, I’ll be showing off something new, and joined on stage by magicians Jeff Hinchliffe, Rob Testa, Dan Stapleton, LEO and Ajay. One of those has been performing magic since before I was born. Another one, I’ve been doing magic since before he was born. So we’re covering the entire spectrum.

This is a pay-what-you-feel-like show hosted at Toronto’s nerd-bar See-Scape (Keele & Dundas, Toronto). We have limited seating so you can reserve tickets at the link below.

Tuesday, July 30 - 8:30 PM
See-Scape
347 Keel Street, Toronto

 

Pulling Back The Curtain

Penn Jillette (the speaking half of Penn & Teller) gives Vanity Fair a bit of inside commentary looking at magic performed in major TV and motion pictures including The Prestige, The Illusionist, Arrested Development and more — that is actors portraying magic tricks on camera, regardless of whether they’re actually performing the magic or using camera tricks. In addition to contrasting how magic in real life differs from its on-screen portrayal, he gives a look at the philosophical and ethical choices that go into presenting magic.

On Parapsychology

Is there something to claims of telepathy, mindreading, precognition, ESP? Is it real? There is an entire industry — actually probably multiple industries — that apparently exist to answer that question. In fact, they really care more about asking the question than answering it. If we can keep asking the question enough times, maybe the answer will turn out one day to be yes.

But science isn’t like buying scratch lottery tickets where eventually one will win. To anyone who has actually looked at the science, the writing has been on the wall for decades, and it spells no.

As a magician, I can have endless amounts of fun doing tricks that make it look like mindreading is happening. Although despite the fact that I enjoy tricking people for the sake of entertainment, I’m also deeply committed to what is real. “Real” is a problematic word. In my case, something is “really” happening. Except the thing which is really happening is that I’m lying. So it’s not enough for something eerie to be happening, there has to be an underpinning cause that we can understand and might call true.

Or as Arthur Reber and James Alcock point out in a recent Skeptical Inquirer article:

It is not a matter of rummaging around in arcane domains of theoretical physics for plausible models. It is more basic than that: parapsychology’s claims cannot be true. The entire field is bankrupt—and has been from the beginning. Each and every claim made by psi researchers violates fundamental principles of science and, hence, can have no ontological status.

The whole thing is really worth reading. It goes in depth to the problems with methodology and the field’s constant attempts at do-overs. Inventing new hypotheses and discarding them, hoping no one notices their failure to come up with anything coherent, so that they can come back again to ask the question although asking it for the first time.

Although it all boils down to this one delightful line:

In short, parapsychology cannot be true unless the rest of science isn’t.