(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘magician

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places”*…

 

The visual system’s tendency to fill in the invisible parts of the objects we see before us can be exploited to create a wide range of compelling magical illusions: spoons bending, knives cutting through flesh, and solid rings magically linking and unlinking. The principle underlying all these tricks, as well as many others, is that the visual system convinces you that something is there, whereas in fact there is just a gap or a missing piece.

But our visual system doesn’t just fill in the gaps. It can also create a compelling impression that the space hidden behind an object in the foreground is empty. In most situations, this impression is correct, but in some cases, it is illusory and misleading. To magicians, this perceptually empty space is the perfect hiding place for the things they don’t want you to know about. It is a no-brainer that hiding things behind something else makes them invisible, but the illusion of perceptually empty space entails more than just invisibility: it makes you ‘see’ that that there’s nothing there, although there sometimes is – particularly when you are watching a magician at work.

The philosopher Jason Leddington at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania says the experience of magic results from a failure of imagination. Our failure to figure out what the magician does results from the fact that we are unable to imagine it. This view neatly captures the essence of the illusion of empty space: it makes it difficult for us to even imagine that there is anything hidden behind the object in the foreground – be it the magician’s thumb, hand or anything else…

What magic can teach us about what we do– and don’t– perceive: “Now you see it, now you…

* Roald Dahl

###

As we confirm that there’s nothing up our sleeves, we might recall that it was this date in 1693 that is traditionally ascribed to Benedictine friar Dom Pérignon’s invention of Champagne.

In fact, the the good father didn’t actually invent sparkling wine:  The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by a different bunch of Benedictines in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcassonne in 1531.  Then, over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation– six years before Dom Perignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers (where he did, in fact, make several improvements to the process of making bubbly) and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne.  Merret presented the Royal Society with a paper in which he detailed what is now called “méthode champenoise” in 1662.

Still, today’s a good day to raise a glass in thanks.

Statue of Dom Pérignon at Moët et Chandon

source

 

Written by LW

August 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I don’t care what you think unless it is about me”*…

 

Louis XIV– the Sun King– ruled France for seventy-two years, a reign during which he oversaw construction of the palace of Versaille, and consolidated political power in an unprecedented fashion.  Still, he he sought constant assurances that His Highness was, in fact, the highest– assurances supplied by his counselors, staff, and consorts, all of whom showered the king with flattery to keep him content and to keep their own positions secure.

Louis de Rouvoy, duc de Saint-Simon, served the Sun King until they fell out over Saint-Simon’s opposition to one of the King’s power grabs.  From Saint-Simon’s memoir:

c. 1694 | Versaille
Base Flattery

Louis XIV’s ministers, his generals, his mistresses, his courtiers perceived, very soon after he became master, his foible, rather than his real taste for glory. They vied with each other in praising him, and they spoiled him. Praise, or to speak more truly, flattery pleased him to such a degree that the coarsest was well-received, the basest with most relish. It was only in this way that anyone ever reached him. It was this that gave such power to his ministers through the constant opportunities that they had to adulate him, especially by attributing to him whatever they did themselves and letting him think he inspired them. Suppleness, baseness, an admiring, cringing, and dependent air, above all, an air of nullity except through him, were the only means of pleasing him. Leaving that path, there was no recovery. Year by year the poison spread, till it reached an almost incredible height in a prince who was not without some intelligence, and who had experience. He, who had neither voice nor music in him, would sing in his private rooms the prologues of plays and operas that praised him; he was so bathed in that delight that sometimes at his public suppers, if the violins played the tune of those praises, he would hum the words between his teeth as an accompaniment.

[Via Lapham’s Quarterly]

* Kurt Cobain

###

As we note, with Mark Twain, that while history may not repeat itself, it does in fact rhyme, we might recall that it was on this date in 1582 that Britain’s second-best-known magician, the necromancer Edward Kelley, first met the best-known: the  mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee.

While Dee’s most important legacy was his rich series of contributions to the development of modern science (and his coining of the word “Brittannia” and the phrase “British Empire”), Dee might also be remembered as the man who, while trading on his fame as a sage, served abroad as a spy for the Queen– and signed his reports “007”…  thus inspiring Ian Fleming’s trade-naming of James Bond.

Dee and Kelley

source

Written by LW

March 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

“It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done”*…

 

There’s a war being waged in the dark corners of the internet. On one side are kleptomaniac pirates hiding in secret communities. On the other side is the law.

For most people, piracy is a simple affair: Movie streaming sites, dubious music blogs – maybe a quick trip to The Pirate Bay if they’re feeling adventurous.

But beneath the surface lies a hidden network of “trackers”, invite-only sites with staggering libraries and stringent invite-only entry requirements. And they’re engaged in a constant game of cat-and-mouse with law enforcement…

The story of the most famously-exclusive tracker around, a site devoted to sharing the secrets of (equally-famously secretive) magicians: “Art of Misdirection is the world’s most exclusive website, and it’s dedicated to illegally sharing magic.”

* Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

###

As we take care of that rabbit in the hat, we might spare a thought for Frank Caesar; he died on this date in 1948.  The son of a Minneapolis book binder, Caesar became interested in magic after seeing Alexander Herrmann in 1889.  A year later he was touring America as a magician. In 1896 he began performing a “Trunk Substitution,” a gag that Caesar created himself (though likely based on an earlier variation developed by John Nevil Maskelyne, an older stage magician who also invented the pay toilet); the routine became most famous as performed by harry Houdini and his assistant/wife Bess.  Still, it was Caesar’s trademark through a vaudeville career that lasted into the 1920s– after which, he became a manufacturer of magic tricks/equipment.

 source

 

Written by LW

December 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

From The Annals of Overachievement…

click here for video

Bilbao-based David Calvo juggles three Rubik’s Cubes, while solving one of them…

[TotH to Laughing Squid]

As we do the Twist, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that Erik Weisz (under his stage name, Harry Houdini, the most acclaimed magician and escape artist of the 20th century) passed away.  Twelve days earlier, Houdini had been talking to a group of students after a lecture in Montreal when he remarked on the strength of his stomach muscles and their ability to withstand hard blows.  One of the students spontaneously punched Houdini, who hadn’t had time to prepare, rupturing the magician’s appendix.  He fell ill on the train to Detroit; and, after performing there one last time, was hospitalized.  Doctors operated, but to no avail: the burst appendix poisoned Houdini’s system, and on Halloween he died.

source

Written by LW

October 31, 2011 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: