Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Magic as an Introduction to Scientific Thinking

Posted on: July 16, 2009

magic hatI love magic.  Being a scientist doesn’t take away from the amazement created by a well executed trick.  My father sent me a clip of Chris Angel doing a trick where he not cuts, but pulls a woman in half right on a park bench.  The trick is incredibly shocking, the people on the set are screaming in fear and surprise.  You can see they are visibly shaken.

YouTube video of Chris Angel. I’m going to show this clip and then start a discussion.  First question – did he really pull this woman in half?  Obviously that did not happen, so what did?  The students are going to either work alone or in small groups and try to come up with a way to explain and possibly reproduce the effect.

What I hope to get from this exercise is a little critical thinking.  If the woman was not pulled apart, and Chris Angel doesn’t have real magical powers, then it must be a trick.  We don’t know how he does it, but we can make educated guesses and then experiment to attempt to reproduce the method.


5 Responses to "Magic as an Introduction to Scientific Thinking"

Can you share the trick of the magic? Just curious. Thanks.

As an amateur magician, I can tell you the first rule is that you don’t tell how a trick is done except to other magicians, and then only when they are learning the trick. So if I knew, I wouldn’t post it here. But I don’t know, I can only make a somewhat educated guess.

I will say this… magicians will do a whole lot more than you would ever expect for a trick. If you doubt that, ask one how long they practice something to make it look natural, or how much they will spend on a specially built device for just one trick. Check out this Penn & Teller video on YouTube:

[…] Magic as an Introduction to Scientific Thinking, by Scott at Physics & Physical Science Domes, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)NOVA scienceNOWHiggs Boson Particle & Particle Physics in AmericaLink Obsession: Overcoming Teachers’ Fears of TechLesson 1 – Outline […]

If you are going to study a magician PLEASE DO NOT study Criss Angel. I say this because I am magician and I own a company called Magic and Mischief Entertainment and I can honestly tell you that Criss Angel is looked down upon amongst other magicians. We don’t hate him because he is successful…we hate him because he is giving magic a bad name. When Criss Angel does a trick and says, “we’ve never met before, right?”…the people always say, “no” but they are paid extras….even hundreds of people that stand around to watch his big illusions, like walking on water (very easy trick) everyone that was in the pool were paid extras. Real magicians do not pay their entire entire audience and do not use rediculous camera editing to be a successful magician. How do I know all this? Well, like I said earlier, Im a professional magician and Im friends with Joe Monti who is the magic producer and Senior Consultant for the show MINDFREAK. Joe has never bad mouthed Criss to me but trust me, Criss Angel he is definitely NOT as talanted as the show leads you to believe. On TV he looks great but if you see him live you will be VERY disappointed….that was actually a quote I read online about his shows.

Geoff, this is not a magic blog, nor is it an endorsement or critique of Chris Angel. The fact that the trick is so extreme encourages conversation. I teach science and science requires critical thinking. Is it possible the audience is paid? Sure. Is it possible they use special effects? Of course.

The point is the kids need to ask those questions and more. I don’t really care what the answer is, I care that the kids don’t take everything at face value. The subject could be Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, or Chris Angel, it really doesn’t matter. The purpose of the exercise is for them to ask questions, propose possible solutions, experiment, and think.

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