Navigation Links
Scientists advance the art of magic with a study of Penn and Teller's 'cups and balls' illusion

Cognitive brain researchers have studied a magic trick filmed in magician duo Penn & Teller's theater in Las Vegas, to illuminate the neuroscience of illusion. Their results advance our understanding of how observers can be misdirected and will aid magicians as they work to improve their art.

The research team was led by Dr. Stephen Macknik, Director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at Barrow Neurological Institute, in collaboration with fellow Barrow researchers Hector Rieiro and Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde, Director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience. The study, titled "Perceptual elements in Penn and Teller's "Cups and Balls" magic trick" was published today, Feb 12th 2013, as part of the launch of PeerJ, a new peer reviewed open access journal in which all articles are freely available to everyone. "Cups and Balls," a magic illusion in which balls appear and disappear under the cover of cups, is one of the oldest magic tricks in history, with documented descriptions going back to Roman conjurors in 3 B.C. "But we still don't know how it really works in the brain," says Macknik, "because this is the first, long overdue, neuroscientific study of the trick."

The discovery concerns the way magicians manipulate human cognition and perception. The "Cups and Balls" trick has many variations, but the most common one uses three balls and three cups. The magician makes the balls pass through the bottom of cups, jump from cup to cup, disappear from a cup and turn up elsewhere, turn into other objects, and so on. The cups are usually opaque and the balls brightly colored. Penn & Teller's variant is performed with three opaque and then with three transparent cups. "The transparent cups mean that visual information about the loading of the balls is readily available to the brain, yet still the spectators cannot see how the trick is done!" said Martinez-Conde.

Magicians have performed and systematically developed the art and theory of this illusion for thousands of years, but each new generation of conjurers offers new insights and hypotheses about how and why it works for the audience. Here the scientists turned the power of the scientific method to the illusion. The experiments tracked when and where observers looked during video clips portraying specific element of the performance, filmed by a NOVA scienceNOW TV crew. By quantifying how well observers tracked the loading and unloading of balls with and without transparent cups, the scientists determined that some aspects of the illusion were even more powerful at controlling attention than aspects originally predicted by the magician.

The end result is that cognitive scientists now have an improved understanding of how (and by how much) observers can be misdirected. In addition, this knowledge can help magicians further hone their art.


Contact: Stephen Macknik

Related medicine news :

1. CSHL scientists identify a new strategy for interfering with a potent cancer-causing gene
2. Scientists Find 24 New Genes Linked to Nearsightedness
3. NIH scientists discover promising target to block Staphylococcus infection
4. Scientists find key to growth of bad bacteria in inflammatory bowel disease
5. Scientists Explore How Zinc Fights Off Infection
6. Compound developed by scientists protects heart cells during and after attack
7. Scientists discover how chromosomes keep their loose ends loose
8. Meeting: Scientists to explore 60 topical issues related to human health and the environment
9. Scientists debate CDC recommendations during meningitis outbreak
10. Scientists discover protein that allows safe recycling of iron from old red blood cells
11. MU scientists build harness for powerful radiation cancer therapy
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... , ... Brent Kasmer, a legally blind and certified personal trainer is helping to develop a ... fitness app plans to fix the two major problems leading the fitness industry today:, ... type program , They don’t eliminate all the reasons people quit their exercise ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... California (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... "With ... fit their specific project," said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. ... customizable and all within Final Cut Pro X . Simply select a ProHand ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... Canada (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... Conventional ... pursuit of success. In terms of the latter, setting the bar too high can ... risk more than just slow progress toward their goal. , Research from ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) ... will receive two significant new grants to support its work to advance research ... anniversary by recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work in fighting ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... People across the U.S. are sharpening their pencils and honing their writing skills ... patients and their families pay tribute to a genetic counselor by nominating him or ... Counselors (NSGC) Annual Education Conference (AEC) this September. , In April, Genome magazine ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Any dentist who has made ... the current process. Many of them do not even offer ... difficulties and high laboratory costs involved. And those who ARE ... at such a high cost that the majority of today,s ... Dr. Parsa Zadeh , founder of Dental Evolutions Inc. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; ... for its Elecsys BRAHMS PCT (procalcitonin) assay as a ... septic shock. With this clearance, Roche is the first ... integrated solution for sepsis risk assessment and management. ... infection and PCT levels in blood can aid clinicians ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Research and Markets has ... 52" report to their offering. ... creates a favourable commercial environment for MedImmune to enter. The ... that will serve to drive considerable growth for effective anti-influenza ... to cap sales considerably, but development is still in its ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: