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Sleights of mind

SofM_Valladolid__02Within the framework of the “International Year of the Light” the Valladolid YM Section Physics League organized a talk about visual perception and sleights of mind. We invited to neuroscientist Dra. Susana Martinez- Conde, cofounder of the exciting new discipline of NeuroMagic and also member of the Magic Castle, Magic Circle, International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Society of American Magicians.

Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable. By understanding how magicians hack our brains, we can better understand how the same cognitive tricks are at work in advertising strategy, business negotiations, and all varieties of interpersonal relations. When we understand how magic works in the mind of the spectator we will have unveiled the neural bases of consciousness itself. The idea was approach the neuroscience to students and general public in a fun and accessible way.

This talk appeared on the local news programme. A reporter filmed a small part of the talk and a small interview to a Physics League member.

Before the talk, we carried out some experiments in the hall of the College of Science, some tricks that are easily explained with physical laws, like:

  • Burning hands, a mixture of water, soap and hairspray allows us to burn our hands without damage due to the Leidenfrost effect.
  • Bending spoons: The superpower of bending metal by just touching it is demystified. A gallium spoon looks like a normal kitchen spoon but it melts at 28 ºC being easily bent in our hands.
  • Bed of nails: People felt like ‘fakirs’ over this ‘comfortable’ bed of nails. The attendees were invited to prove this and other experiments.