Discovering Magician's Tricks: Ignorance is Bliss

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For centuries, mankind has lived in awe of the unexplained — the field of hocus pocus, the world of magic. Magicians were treated as mystic creatures, possessing powers that no other mortals could ever understand, let alone acquire and wield. While some made objects bend, float, or disappear, others played with fire, saws, and bunnies. One thing was guaranteed — the onlookers were left clueless, but amused enough to return for additional doses.

What we earthly creatures categorize as ‘supernatural’ is really just a result of our limited perspective and physical inability to comprehend the bigger picture. Almost all magic tricks hinge on a particular characteristic of the human brain. Our eyes constantly see so much happening in front of us that the brain filters out some of the visual information it receives. Whether it be in a magic trick or out in the streets, for the sake of maintaining some order, the eyes only focus on certain parts of the view before us. The rest is automatically ignored. This loophole is what magicians (and sometimes politicians) exploit routinely.

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Humans possess an innate desire to only believe what they see. Using canny sleight of hand techniques, skilled magicians divert the audience’s attention to a misleading place, showing you only what they want you to see. For example, the onstage wizard displays an ordinary coin to the spectators — nothing fishy about it. He makes exaggerated gestures with his hands while chanting random spells and poof; the coin is gone. When the magician dramatically transfers the coin from one hand to the other, the attention shifts to the movement of the coin. Misdirection is the key here and hence; onlookers never notice that the coin actually stayed in the original hand and are perplexed. This sleight of hand is mastered by practice and must look natural enough to bamboozle audiences without raising suspicions.

We don’t live in the medieval era of witchcraft, alchemy, and sorcery anymore. Nowadays, most unexplained phenomena that were quite conveniently shoved into the category of ‘magic’ have been demystified. The water in the ‘disappearing water trick’ never vanished; it changed into a gel after being absorbed by sodium polyacrylate. The card set on fire emerged unscathed because it was already doused in a water-alcohol mixture. Even seemingly impossible natural occurrences are just based on science and perspectives. The scientists always spoil the fun, don’t they? It’s their job; don’t hold grudges.

The eyes play tricks on our brains that are sometimes unnoticeable. Ignorance is bliss and until you know the truth, your perception will continue to fool you, and so will others who exploit that limited perception. Although watching magicians exercise their mystical powers on stage may be quite enjoyable, remember that these tricks may be dangerous if you happen to be dealing with fork-tongued friends. So, next time you hear someone say the cliché line — “Pick a card, any card” — play along (you don’t want to hurt the wizard’s feelings). Just sit there, beaming to yourself as you notice every crafty move, and bask in the glory of your genius. 

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