Science | Page 37


The magician introduces three cups and some little balls . She waves her magic wand and commands the balls to materialise from her hands and rematerialise under the cups . The props seem possessed by supernatural powers as they appear , disappear and penetrate solid matter at the mere whima of the magician . This unearthly choreography ends with pieces of fruit appearing under the cups where the balls once were . The spectators applaud after witnessing this ancient miracle . Yet , although they are both fooled and entertained , a nagging thought lingers in their minds : How did she do it ?

Among the spectators is a group of university colleagues who reflect on what they just experienced . They enjoyed the show as much as everyone else , but they asked questions beyond how she performed the trick . The psychologist wonders how the performer so easily deceived his mind . How can our minds see something that contradicts our common-sense view of the world ? The professor in humanities also enjoyed the show . She ponders the cultural significance of magic and why it has remained popular for millennia across different cultures . Her husband is an occupational therapist at the local hospital and an amateur magician . He admires the complex hand-eye coordination needed to perform this trick and contemplates how magic tricks can help his patients .
This anecdote illustrates how magic performances can have different meanings , depending on the viewer ’ s perspective . These paragraphs also show that the question of how magicians accomplish a magic trick is only one of the wide variety of possible questions . This article explores some of these questions and looks at the complex relationship between magic and science .
The Magic of Science
Performing magic is essentially an anti-scientific endeavour . A magician is a performer who creates illusions that break the known laws of nature . Even though the central premise of magic as a performance is to flaunt with our scientific understanding of the world , magicians nevertheless use the principles of science to create the illusion of magic . The magician in the introduction is fully aware of the psychological aspects of her performance by managing the audience ’ s attention . Other magicians extensively use mathematics , engineering , information technology , linguistics ,