Science | Page 91


Conjuring is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of entertainment , and magic has played an important role in many aspects of our lives . Even though the Enlightenment brought scientific explanations for most of the ancient mysteries , advances in science and technology have done little to squash magic ’ s appeal . To the contrary , magic has rarely been as popular as it is today .

Magicians amaze and enchant , but there is more to magic than simple entertainment . Magic deals with some of the most fundamental philosophical and psychological questions ( e . g ., consciousness , deception , beliefs , free will ), yet it has received far less academic attention than other art forms , such as music , film , literature , and the fine arts . Even though thousands of magic books have been written for magicians ( by magicians ), very few are intended for outsiders . Ignoring this fascinating form of entertainment is a lost opportunity . The past decade has seen huge advances in our understanding of magic , yet there is still much catching up to be done .
Magic is shrouded in clouds of secrecy and deception , which often prevent outsiders from studying it . Some magicians are reluctant to reveal their secrets for fear of destroying their illusions . Magicians also often mislead outsiders about how their effects are achieved . Throughout history , magicians have presented their tricks a scientific demonstration , and today , they often use pseudoscientific neuro-jargon to create intriguing illusions . For example , some magicians use tricks to demonstrate psychological skills , such as priming or body language reading , and people often take this explanation at face value . However , as we have seen throughout this book , there is often more to magic than meets the eye .
Magic relies on deception and secrecy , but this should not prevent us from studying it more systematically . Most magicians are pretty open about their deceptive techniques , and the idea that they guard their secrets with their lives is an illusion . I have tried my best to avoid revealing secret methods unless necessary , but it is impossible to please all . For the nonmagician eager to know how the tricks are done , I simply