Archive for the ‘magic tricks’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 27, 2011
My favorite time of the year is almost upon us: Halloween! :D
I love Halloween not just because of the candy, the costumes, and the decorations (when else can you be a complete freak and it be socially acceptable?) but also because of the wonderful potential for promoting skepticism and critical thinking about various paranormal claims. Let’s face it: at this time of the year, ghosts, witchcraft, psychics, and various other kinds of woo are on everyone’s minds, so why not take advantage of that fact and use it to inject the skeptical viewpoint on things? I have found this to be a very effective teaching technique over the years, so that’s why I pass it along to you.
So in the spirit of the season (pardon the pun), allow me to share with you some links to various Halloween-ish skeptical resources that you can use, including a few of my earlier blog posts on the subject…
Posted in aliens & UFOs, education, ghosts & paranormal, humor, magic tricks, physics denial/woo, psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: 1938, AAPT, aliens, American Association of Physics Teachers, broadcast, cartoon, critical thinking, delusion, detectors, education, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, esp, extrasensory perception, Flim Flam, ghost hunter, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghosts, Halloween, Haunted Physics Lab, high school, hoax, humor, hysteria, infrared, invaders, invasion, James Randi, Lake Forest, lesson, magic, mars, Martians, mass hysteria, media, Mercury Theater, meters, NOVA, orb, Orson Welles, Ouija, Ouija board, panic, paranoraml, paranormal, PBS, physics, pseudoscience, psychics, radio, Randi, science, Secrets of the Psychics, skeptic, Skeptic's Dictionary, skepticism, Snopes, South Park, spacecraft, spirit, spirits, TAPS, teacher, teaching, temperature, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi, The Atlantic Paranormal Society, UFO, war, War of the Worlds, waves, woo | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 22, 2011
Tomorrow, September 23rd, is the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, and it is on this occasion that I like to inject a little skeptical and critical thinking fun into my physics classes. Most of us have heard of the urban legend about balancing an egg on its end during the equinox – the thing is, this is true! The myth is the implication that one can only do this on the equinox, when – in fact – you can balance an egg on end pretty much any time you want.
Case in point, here’s a couple of photos of me balancing eggs on their ends during the time of year exactly opposite to the equinoxes…
During the summer solstice…
And during the winter solstice…
In addition, here’s a nice Youtube video showing some tips on how to accomplish this trick:
The reason why this trick works boils down to simple physics: it’s called unstable equilibrium. If you have a flat and level surface on which to perform this trick, and there aren’t a lot of vibrations around, then chances are you can balance a number of eggs in a standard dozen pack. As long as the eggs are relatively smooth on their ends (look closely and you’ll see some bumps on some of them) and you are very patient, then with some practice pretty much anyone can perform this trick. The Bad Astronomy blog has a pretty good rundown on the physics as well.
So the next time you hear someone pass along the “eggs can be balanced only on the equinox” myth, whip out some eggs and balance away. It’s a quick, easy, and fun way to advocate for skepticism and science :)
Posted in astrology, magic tricks, physics denial/woo | Tagged: astrology, astronomy, autumnal, Bad Astronomy, balance, balancing eggs on end, cosmic, critical thinking, debunking, egg, eggs, equilibrium, equinox, magic, myth, physics, pseudoscience, skepticism, solstice, stable, summer, Sun, trick, urban legend, vernal, winter | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 24, 2011
This is the solution to the puzzle presented in my previous blog post – Self-Tying Knot Trick from TAM9 – wherein I show you how to supposedly tie a knot in a length of rope without releasing the ends. Of course, it is a trick, so watch the video carefully to see just how the trick is done. And have fun with some friends, family, or (if you’re a teacher) students with this puzzle. It is a wonderful exercise in critical thinking!
Check out the Youtube video for the answer…
One last thing: I cannot claim credit for inventing this trick. I learned about it from Penn & Teller’s old book “Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends”, so credit should go to them :)
Posted in education, magic tricks | Tagged: critical thinking, education, fun, illusion, james, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, magic, math, mystery, puzzle, Randi, rope, skepticism, string, TAM, TAM9, teacher, teaching, The Amazing Meeting, topology, trick | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 18, 2011
Well, I’m back from The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 in Las Vegas, and I’m slowly but surely getting caught up on things. I just wanted to take a moment to share with everyone a trick I showed off during my “Skepticism in the Classroom” lecture at TAM9. In this video, I show how to use a simple nylon rope to perform a *seemingly* mathematically impossible feat: having the rope tie a knot in itself without releasing either end of the rope. I show this to my students as a lesson in skepticism and critical thinking, and it never ceases to catch their interest.
Can you figure out the trick? Stay tuned to my Youtube channel for the solution ;)
Posted in education, magic tricks, mathematics | Tagged: critical thinking, education, fun, illusion, james, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, magic, math, mystery, puzzle, Randi, rope, skepticism, string, TAM, TAM9, teacher, teaching, The Amazing Meeting, topology, trick | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 9, 2010
I wanted to quickly share with you all some neat science-related tricks from Professor Richard Wiseman; these will no doubt make for all manner of fun at those end-of-the-year Christmas & New Years gatherings. Enjoy! :)
Posted in magic tricks | Tagged: Christmas, fun, games, holiday, Holidays, magic, New Years, parties, party, Richard Wiseman, science, tricks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 28, 2010
I want to share with you all a couple of Halloween-related lessons I give to my students every year. That’s because this time of year is the perfect time to inject some explicit critical thinking & skepticism of all things spooky that go “bump” in the night. I also tie it all in to scientific inquiry…
The first lesson I give my students is that I show them James Randi’s “Secrets of the Psychics” video from NOVA. Though it was released in 1993, it is still one of the most well-done videos on the topic, and it is the perfect length & tone for a high school or college class. Below is a link to Youtube where you can access the entire episode (50-60 minutes long), and I would also like to share with you the notesheet that I have my students fill in as they’re watching the video – Secrets of the Psychics Notesheet
Over the next few days, I will share with you part 2 of my Halloween lesson. I’m certain you’ll enjoy it, so stay tuned :)
Addendum: In addition, I share some good Halloween & skeptically-themed weblinks with my students on the course website. They are the Snopes.com page on Halloween urban legends and the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry on Halloween – I highly recommend sharing these with your friends, family, and students.
Posted in astrology, education, ghosts & paranormal, magic tricks, psychics | Tagged: critical thinking, education, ghosts, Halloween, James Randi, lesson, magic, NOVA, paranoraml, PBS, psychics, Randi, science, Secrets of the Psychics, Skeptic's Dictionary, skepticism, Snopes, teacher, teaching | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 20, 2010
Every year when I start a new class, I always take some time on the first day to discuss science & the scientific method. But I have my own fun & unorthodox spin on it: I first tell the “Dragon in My Garage” story, and then I go on to describe the scientific method in a very fun manner. In short, I do a card trick…
The way I start is to ask my students if they’ve ever been to a family reunion or other gathering where someone present is doing card or magic tricks (suppose this person is “Old Uncle Harry”). And say Uncle Harry does a particularly impressive card trick (some kind of “mind reading” or mentalism trick); what is likely to be the first response from the children present? If you said “Do it again!” that’s a pretty good guess, but second to that I’d say the next most common response is “How did you do that?”
“How did you do that?” – contained within this question is a lot of information, folks. First, it shows that even little kids can think critically & skeptically, because if Uncle Harry responds “It’s magic, kid (wink, wink)” even children know something’s fishy. Second, it shows that kids want to know some kind of plausible, naturalistic solution to the supposedly “magical” phenomenon they just witnessed.
Then I play off this curiosity & natural skepticism: I ask my students what a particularly curious kid might do to figure out Uncle Harry’s trick (because really good magicians don’t reveal their tricks too easily). Invariably, they respond that perhaps the first step would be to do some research on card tricks by looking up info on the Internet or going to the public library. Then, once they think they’ve got an idea of the process, what’s the next step? “Experimentation” comes the reply – in other words, the student might try to replicate just how the trick is performed by getting their own deck of cards and trying to repeat the phenomenon they observed earlier. Depending upon their relative success or failure at replicating the trick, they may have to go through this process multiple times before coming to a meaningful conclusion as to how the trick is done.
And that, as I tell my students, is the scientific method in action. Scientists are going through the very same investigative process as are those kids attempting to figure out Uncle Harry’s magic card trick. They are attempting to figure out the “tricks” that nature is playing upon us all the time, and to do so they must study, research, hypothesize, and experiment in order to form a coherent & naturalistic explanation for the phenomena we observe (sorry, no “magic” allowed ;) )
And then I ask the question I’ve been waiting to ask for the entire class: “So, having said all of that, do you want to see a trick?” The answer is always yes, and it’s always a satisfying and enjoyable trick. This very trick I performed at the “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop at The Amazing Meeting 8 for about 150-200 people, most of whom were teachers, and it was a real hit. In fact, it was such a hit that I decided to write up the solution for it, and I share it with you here… enjoy… :)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in education, magic tricks, scientific method | Tagged: card tricks, cards, conjuring, education, educators, experimentation, hypothesis, investigation, magic, magic trick, mentalism, science, scientific method, skepticism, Skepticism in the Classroom, TAM, TAM8, teachers, teaching, The Amazing Meeting | 4 Comments »