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  • Nicholas J Johnson

Champions of Illusion: The Science Behind Mind-Boggling Images and Mystifying Brain Puzzles

Neuroscientists, magicians and friends of the podcast Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik have a new book of optical illusions culled from the Best Illusion of the Year Contest and their own archives.

The book is jammed with extraordinary illusions exploring false motion, tricks of perspective and shifting colours. Unlike other books of optical illusions the authors also go into great detail about the science behind the magic. Martinez-Conde and Macknik, who study the intersection where neuroscience, illusions, and stage magic meet, explain why we think we see the things we see.

The 2017 Winner of Best Illusion of the Year

Even the cover of the book is an optical illusion. The longer you stare at the coils of green, black and blue that make up the brain on the front of the book, the more they seem to shift and rotate. Based on Rotating Snakes by Akiyoshi Kitaoka the illusion works because of the automatic movements of our eyes. Notice how whatever part of the illusion you’re staring at doesn’t move? The illusion only seems to work on the edge of your field of vision.

Books like Champions of Illusion are my crack. As a professional magician I am fascinated by how and why our brains lie to us each and every day. In fact, I even created an educational magic show for high school students exploring this very theme. I’ve toured Deceptology around high schools and science events for the past two years explore how magic affects our brains and how our brains affect magic.

You can hear my excitement for the topic back in 2015 when I interviewed Susana and Stephen on Scamapalooza.

Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne magician, author and expert on scams and deception


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