I love optical illusions because they tell us things about ourselves. And besides that, they’re just plain fun!
I saw this two or three times on FaceBook and that many more times on other people’s blogs and all I could see was a brick wall. Yes, I saw the little gray rock wedged between the bricks. I even learned that was supposed to be the key. It was supposed to be the ash on the end of a cigar. What cigar?
Then I saw it again at the Bad Astronomy site. I know Phil Plait isn’t an idiot. He runs a good blog over there, and I recommend it. If Phil says it’s real, it’s real. But what is there to see but a brick wall and a little gray rock in a crack between two of the bricks. There’s no cigar!
I read his instructions and looked back at the picture. Nothing!
I kept looking. Still nothing.
I looked again. Still nothing.
Then it slowly materialized.
No. There wasn’t any smoke. No mirrors. No visual effects except inside my own head. But the cigar appeared. Now I can’t NOT see it.
Here’s Phil’s explanation:
The illusion is that it’s a cigar stuck in the wall. It’s actually sticking out at a 90° angle, but the shot is taken so that the body of the cigar is aligned with a horizontal gap in the bricks. Together with the cigar being dark, it just looks like the cigar is the gap in the bricks, and the ash at the end is a rock stuck in the gap.
I really enjoy good magic tricks like these. They seem to bend and twist our minds as we try to understand what just happened. Jamie Raven is probably the best I have ever seen. Among other unbelievable things, he changes real money into play money just inches from the judge’s eyes, and (by extension) from our’s.
Everyone was awed! Both male judges said, “These are not tricks. This is real magic.” It surely looked like real magic to me, too.
As skeptics, we know beyond any reasonable doubt, this is NOT real magic. It’s not even unusual. In principle, it’s so common we have a name for it that everybody knows. It’s called sleight of hand. Jamie Raven just does it exceptionally well.
How does he do it? I have no idea. I wish I could figure it out.
Think. What seems more likely:
That a man has supernatural powers, yet he just uses them for amusement?
Or that he has invented and honed a few tricks for 20 years until he got really, incredibly, uncommonly, extraordinarily good at them?
Number 2 is more reasonable and more likely, of course. The guy has studied and practiced until he has become an expert. He may be the only person in the world who can perform those particular tricks. I dunno.
But I am certain they are illusions.
He makes no claim to having actual magic powers, of course; so nothing I’m saying is a criticism of him. I just keep reminding you because this guy is so good and his illusions so incredibly convincing.
Enjoy the shows, but don’t be mislead too far by your imagination.
Notice the huckster’s hand movements and other motions? A true psychic shouldn’t need that. After all, his power is supposed to be in his mind. All the hocus-pocus serves only to distract our attention from what he is really trying to do–move the pencil and the pages of the phone book by blowing on them. He’s just an ordinary magician. Like Randi himself! And that would be OK. But he lies about it, and that’s NOT OK.
Randi’s $10,000 challenge was later raised to a million dollars for many years, and still no true psychic was ever found. Of course, it really shouldn’t be any surprise. If even just one person on earth had real psychic powers, don’t you think he or she would quickly wipe out every casino in Las Vegas?