Three big time magicians, the ‘Amazing’ James Randi, Teller (of Penn and Teller) and the ‘The Great Tomsoni’ recently teamed up with the Barrow Neurolological Insitute of Phoenix to participate in a bit of the ole’ neuroscience research . The result is a paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience on how magicians exploit nuances in how the brain works to accomplish an illusion. Here’s an article in the Times all about it. In a nutshell, ‘objective’ reality ain’t all that objective, especially when someone knows how to manipulate the brain’s perception mechanisms. From the article:
One theory of perception, for instance, holds that the brain builds representations of the world, moment to moment, using the senses to provide clues that are fleshed out into a mental picture based on experience and context. The brain uses neural tricks to do this: approximating, cutting corners, instantaneously and subconsciously choosing what to “see” and what to let pass, neuroscientists say. Magic exposes the inseams, the neural stitching in the perceptual curtain.
And here’s a great post over at Mind Hacks that fills in the picture further.