Watch out, neurons, there's stuff that we just can't see -- or process -- in the magician's toolbox (and in real life). Sure, the top hat, rabbit, and colorful scarves are hard to miss. But they're also used to distract us -- and to focus our gaze away from other activities.
The combination of magic and science drew a few hundred people to the auditorium of the New York Academy of Sciences for Science & The City's third installment in a series on the five senses.
"See What You've Been Missing: The Science of Vision" featured a professor of biology and engineering brought face to face with a man who pickpocketed the Secret Service during a visit with President Carter. Prestidigitation was also part of the show.
The two-part presentation was a lively dialogue between science and magic and a candid look at how what's going on in our brains -- and what's going on in the brain (and the hands) of the prestidigitator -- makes it hard to see the whole picture.
Christof Koch examines how consciousness is linked to the brain. He is a professor of biology and engineering at the California Institute of Technology.
Apollo Robbins is a Las Vegas-based self-professed "honest thief" whose performances use pickpocketing and sleight of hand to demonstrate shortcomings in human perception. And, yeah, he takes stuff. Robbins pilfers Blackberries, wristwatches, and wedding rings as part of his act, but returns them all to their rightful owners at the end of the show. Really.
At the start of the evening, Robbins gave his subway card, signed for identification purposes, to one member of the audience and asked him to hide it on another person in the audience. Then Robbins circulated in the crowd and tried to get the card back.
Unfortunately, you can't use insider knowledge to stop all thieves, but gaining insight into how they work (and how the brain does) can't hurt. The evening offered a quick look into how human vision works (see next page).