'Magic is an art, as capable of beauty as music, painting or poetry. But the core of every trick is a cold, cognitive experiment in perception.' Those are the words of Penn Jillette's normally silent partner, Teller, explaining the psychology and preparation behind the magician's veil. Teller's known mostly for his silence as part of the Penn & Teller double act, but at The Smithsonian Magazine, he's expounded on the art of magic in quite some detail. It's well worth reading the entire article; some choice snippets of commentary include the level of detail needed for a surprise magic trick
'My partner, Penn, and I once produced 500 live cockroaches from a top hat on the desk of talk-show host David Letterman. To prepare this took weeks. We hired an entomologist who provided slow-moving, camera-friendly cockroaches (the kind from under your stove don’t hang around for close-ups) and taught us to pick the bugs up without screaming like preadolescent girls.'
As well as the way that most magic works on the basis that people will freely lie to themselves
'If you are given a choice, you believe you have acted freely. This is one of the darkest of all psychological secrets'
Also, if you've ever wondered about the old 'pick a card, any card' trick, Teller gives details on that too. The bad news? You're going to need a lot of packs of cards. [Smithsonian Magazine]
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