By Richard Panek | June 12, 2013 | 3 Comments
Yesterday I confessed my fear of magicians. Today I confront that fear by going to the source: Alex Stone, a magician I met at a party who, at my prompting, was kind enough to perform an impromptu set that thrilled me but that also, on the walk home, left me feeling uneasy. I later learned that Alex is the author of Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, a book that explains some of the hard-wiring behind the brain’s susceptibility to illusions.
Richard: Magicians scare me because they can manipulate my mind. Should I be scared? Or can you reassure me?
Alex: I don’t know how much reassurance I can offer you, given what I know about magicians. It makes sense, though. Magicians are experts in deception and lying. Some of them—most of them—do it to entertain people and make them happy. But many of the same techniques magicians use to manipulate people’s minds can also be used for more nefarious purposes, and have been. Magic also reminds us of how easy we are to fool, which is amusing but, as you noted, kind of scary, too.
By Richard Panek | June 11, 2013 | 1 Comment
Not magic. Magic is cool. I was at a party recently when I asked someone what he did and he said he was a magician and I said I hope he didn’t mind but would he possibly—and even before the request was out of my mouth he had produced a deck of cards. We cleared space on the bar in a corner of the room, and soon a crowd had gathered. The impromptu show was typically mind-blowing. I loved the act. But when it was over and the magician and I resumed our conversation, I realized I was nervous.
The magician turned out to be Alex Stone, a former writer for Discover, an aspiring physicist who eventually dropped out of the PhD program at Columbia University in order to pursue magic, and the author of Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind (out in paperback today). He was kind enough to send me his book a few days after we met. I confess I opened it with a combination of fascination and dread: fascination, because I might find out how magic fools me, and dread because I might find out how magicians fool me. Read more…
By Ann Finkbeiner | June 10, 2013 | 2 Comments
By Sally Adee | June 8, 2013 | No Comments
This week, Erik took on the Singularitarians.
Cassie saw the ugly future of drone journalism.
When you look out your kitchen window in winter, what’s out there looks simple. But Cameron told us what’s really going on under the snow.
If you’re a Neanderthal, you’ll like guest poster Jude Isabella’s dating tips for how to bag Homo sapiens.
And after reading an inelegant critique of psychiatry in the New York Times Richard — sorry, there’s no other way to put this — tore it a new one.
By Cassandra Willyard | June 7, 2013 | 7 Comments
On May 31, a flight instructor named Craig MacCallum and his 19-year-old student lost control of a single-engine plane shortly after taking off from a small airport in Linden, New Jersey. MacCallum put out a mayday call just before the plane plummeted from the sky. The student survived, but MacCallum didn’t make it. And I may have watched him die.
No, I wasn’t on the abandoned industrial lot in New Jersey where the plane crashed. I wasn’t even in the vicinity. But the News 4 New York chopper was, and the network interrupted my soap opera to deliver the breaking news. One minute I was watching Brady and Kristen’s relationship disintegrate on Days of Our Lives (guilty pleasure), the next I was hovering above the wrecked carcass of an aircraft. Read more…
By Erik Vance | June 6, 2013 | 1 Comment
Humans might someday become cyborgs and live forever. Really, that might happen.
This was my take on a recent New York Times profile about Dmitry Itskov and his quirky quest to upload human brains into machines by 2045. It seems that this Russian former media magnate and propagandist has started a project to upload a human consciousness into a robot in 30 years or so.
Now, to be fair, David Segal, the author of the story, did a good job of framing the whole endeavor as fringe and a total longshot. And let’s face it, it’s a great story with a bizarre central character. But let me spoil the ending for you right now: This will never happen. Scientists can barely agree on the definition of consciousness, let alone where it exists or how it works. Let alone, well, move it. Read more…
By Cameron Walker | June 5, 2013 | 1 Comment
It’s after Memorial Day, so I should be wearing white instead of thinking about the white stuff. (Although if I were in the Arctic Circle or even in Vermont and New York, where a late-May storm dropped a foot or more in some spots, I might be thinking about snow quite a bit).
Even when I do think about winter, I mostly think about all the fun things that take place on the snow’s surface. Or all the fun things that take place inside: hot chocolate, eating, reading by the fire. Once spring comes, when the world outside is buzzing (and boing-ing), there’s no excuse to stay inside with a good book.
I’m not the only one who needs a winter retreat. In snow-covered spots food can be scarce; the wind-chilled open air, brutal. But for creatures that aren’t able to curl up with cocoa, the snow itself forms the insulation for a shelter under the snow. Read more…
By Jude Isabella | June 4, 2013 | 4 Comments
We are obsessed with the idea that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred. But really, would the two species be compatible? Homo sapiens are flaky artists; Neanderthals are all business. Nevertheless maybe a Neanderthal guy found himself falling for a Homo sapiens gal. Here’s some belated advice:
1. A well-tailored set of animal skins is certainly a turn-on, despite the fact that your Homo sapiens gal lacks a pronounced brow ridge and has a poor excuse for a nose. Still never call a date “Flat Face.” It’s rude. Read more…« go back — keep looking »