The word neuromagic sounds like an obscure subgenre of cyberpunk fantasy novels. In reality, it’s a branch of neuroscience dedicate to the study of magicians and magic founded by neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde. On this week’s Scamapalooza, the pair talk about their research and reveal some of the real secrets of magic including change blindness, misdirection, perception and saccades.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
One of my favourite examples of neuroscience in magic is the spiral illusion or ‘motion after-effect’ in which ordinary objects seem to grow and distort after watching a spinning spiral.
Watch the video below without looking away or blinking and then stare at the back of your hand. Go on, do it now, I’ll wait.
What you’re experiencing is the ‘motion after-effect’. The stationary image appears to be moving away from you, getting smaller. Once your brain figures this out it adapts to take this effect into account, treating all apparently shrinking images as stationary.
When you look at your hand, your brain is still compensating for the shrinking disk and makes your hand look like you’ve had bad reaction to some dodgy shellfish.
If you’d like to find out more, check out Sleight Of Mind by Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde or catch Deceptology, my new show for high school students in 2016.
Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne magician, author, entertainer and collector of scams.