Just For Fun

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:

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 the difference between Juggling and Magic

The legendary Penn & Teller were on Jimmy Fallon promoting the new season of their show Fool Us. They always have magic which is deeply thought-provoking. Here they talk about the difference between juggling, which relies on skill, and magic, which relies on lying. (Which is truly wonderful because a lot of Penn’s juggling is based on lying and much of Teller’s trick is based on skill.

The Proizvolov Identity

Here is a simple card trick you can perform informally, courtesy of the British YouTube channel Numberphile. James Grady shares a simple prediction that can be accomplished thanks to something called The Proizvolov Identity. (Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either.)

Take a look:

As an ex-mathematician, I find these small tricks charming. They aren’t well suited to performing in a show, but as something fun to share with friends, the offer a wonderful small pleasant mystery.

The concept of symmetry in math, where you can make changes that have no impact, is closely related to the idea of choice in magic, where you often get to make choices that don’t affect the outcome of the trick. (And providing a moderately irritating counterexample to proponents of free will.)

Cheap Tricks (2)

It is the worst possible scenario for a variety performer. You arrive in another city to perform, but your props and equipment do not. (Thank you Airlines.) It’s a situation no one would want to be in, but we’re inflicting it on ourselves in Cheap Tricks. We tried this earlier in 2017 and are at it again, putting performers in awkward and unpleasant situations for your entertainment pleasure.


All participants are given a small budget, location to buy what they can find, and have to come with 10 mins of amazing material on the fly for the audience.

Featuring John Roldan, Poppa, Jimbo, Beyond Mental Borders, Jonah Babins, The Wanderer, Jacque Swan, James Harrison, Shamus MacGregor and some guy named James Alan. Judged by Ben Train, Steffi Kay & Chris Westfall (the returning champion from the first Cheap Tricks in 2017.) With a performance by The Sentimentalists.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
8:30 PM
783 College Street, Toronto

We hope you can join us for what is sure to be a very unusual night.


A little Martini primer

FINALLY…. a hint of something that looks like spring in Toronto. So to help you get in the spirit and cool down, here’s a primer from Cocktail Chemistry: Three different simple martini recipes.

Magic & Martini is continuing this summer on a special limited schedule. Tickets are now available. Readers can use the secret code olive for a discount on the price of tickets when reserving online.