During the last days of August, the Science of Magic Association organized the 1st Science of Magic Association Conference in London (#soma17). This academic meeting gathered a wealth of researchers in the fields of psychology, science and humanitites, with the purpose of advancing in the understanding of the mechanisms of generating the perception of impossibility, i.e, of magic.
This was not a convention of magicians trying to fool each other and to show their latest creations. On the contrary, it was a normal meeting with keynotes and short communications, along with a poster session.
Our group was represented by Miquel Duran, who besides attending and actively participating, presented a poster entitled Communicating complex Science concepts with Magic, coauthored with Fernando Blasco:
Abstract of the poster:
In the last three years, the authors have been developing a project entitled “From the Magic of Science to the Science of Magic”, with the purpose of improving Mathematics and Science learning, and also of increasing Scientific Culture of the overall Public.
Besides using magic to entertain, to teach elementary concepts to high-schoolers and adults, and to create curiosity in maths and chemistry, we try to use Magic to explain difficult concepts that emerge in scientific news.
Here we report the effect of four magic tricks that we perform in front of a small group, in a classroom, in the street or in a theater. First, we deal with two “experimental” effects: one involving a transformation from “whiskey” to water (using iodine tincture and Aspirin C) – which is drunk by the magician, and another involving a story of a color-changing solutions with the aid of a lollipop and potassium permanganate. In the first case, impossibility of the outcome brings about a surprise when the magician actually drinks the resulting water. In the second, the illusion of magic is much weaker, but surprise and spectacularity may be higher. Besides entertaining through theatrical magic, the audience may understand the actual chemistry involved therein.
As opposed to those two “experimental” effects, we will report on two “theoretical”, playing card magic tricks which allow to explain a couple of difficult concepts in modern Science. First, we use the First Gilbreath Principle to explain entangled, instantaneous-action-at-a-distance photons, as used in satellite-to-earth quantum cryptography. Second, we use “Out of the Universe” trick to explain entropy, as a measure of disorder and as a non-observable thermodynamical property in Nature (entropy is linked to the arrow of time). Indeed both carry a large amount of deception and surprise. We will comment here on the impact of both tricks on the audience and the ability of actually learn those two difficult concepts – which should likely be part of the core of Scientific Knowledge of any citizen.