December 15, 2011

Magic and religion

Via Jerry Coyne, I obtained this video of an amazing trick.

I love magic tricks. I enjoy them so much that I resist visiting sites that might reveal how they are done, preferring to try and figure it for myself, which is almost always a futile exercise. I enjoy the mystery of magic.

It struck me that my attitude is similar to that of religious people who also like to wallow in mystery and not seek natural explanations for the extraordinary claims of their religions.

There is one critical difference though. I know that the magic tricks I enjoy are just tricks and magicians never claim otherwise either. There is no fraud involved. If someone did claim that they had supernatural powers, then I would work diligently to understand how the trick was done in order to expose the fraud. With religious people and their beliefs, they seem to want supernatural explanations and resist natural explanations.


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As some of the commenters on Dr. Coyne's blog and on YouTube have suggested - and I agree, the "card trick" is probably (well done) CG added after a not-nearly-so-spectacular trick was caught on video. (After all, the crowd's reaction isn't exactly what I would have expected if they had actually seen this happen.)

Also, if you watch the video in HD, some of the shadows look a little strange - they seem to fade at the top, and I've never seen that happen to shadows before. In addition to the card monster's shadow, I also get the feeling (for the same reason) that the human shadow on the ground by the monster (at 0:44-0:46) is added in as well, probably to make the shadow of the card monster appear normal by comparison.

Lastly, why does the video cut away at 0:47, 0:57, and elsewhere? These are just shots of people looking amused and distracted by something off-camera, but because they're interposed between the shots of the card monster, we're led to think they're watching and are amused by this trick. Needless to say, I'm not buying it.

Posted by ECM on December 15, 2011 08:53 PM


You are probably right. I am easily taken in by CGI effects and keep forgetting that video editing can produce the most amazing thing in a trick! It is always a warning sign if there are cuts in the video.

Posted by Mano on December 15, 2011 09:29 PM

And the people who think of supernatural powers are always befooled by some fraudsters who takes a big money. Thanks for info.

Posted by Kamal Singh on December 16, 2011 04:56 AM

One of the perverse unintended consequences of CGI and digital editing is that I no longer believe anything I see on video. I go so far the other way I actually *assume* the what I'm seeing on screen has been manipulated.

I can pinpoint this change in my trust to the movie Jurassic Park. The effects were so wonderfully real that I came to the conclusion that if something looked to good to be real then it was likely CGI.

Posted by on December 16, 2011 03:03 PM