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  • Nicholas J Johnson

Deceptology at Melbourne Magic Festival

It has been a while since my last update. I have not, as some sources suggest, been ‘disappeared’ by con artists I’ve upset. Instead I’ve been deep in rehearsal for my new show at Melbourne Magic Festival, Deceptology. And I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Every year, dozens of magicians from around the world take part in the magic festival and so, every year, I do my best to stand out from the pack.

This year I decided to feature not just my favourite scams and illusions but to explore why we get fooled by them.

After my discussions with neuroscientists Susana Conde-Martinez and Stephen Macknik on Scamapalooza, I became obsessed with the neurological functions that cause our brains to be fooled.

I read and reread their papers, their articles and their books. I spoke with researchers at Monash University here in Melbourne. And I listened to TedTalks. So many terrible TedTalks.

The end result is a sixty minute mix of magic, science, scams, shadow puppetry and chocolate biscuits in the shape of cat poo.

I discovered that ventriloquists fool our ears because our eyes see the puppet’s mouth move leading our brain to assign the sound we hear to the puppet in a process called cross modal perception.

I learned about hypothetical projection, a function of the brain that causes as to see what we expect to see next, not what is really there, causing us to see objects vanish in midair that never left the magician’s hands.

I learned that if you put too much butter in your cat poo biscuits they melt and look even more disgusting.

I’ll be testing the show this evening in front of a group of friends, magicians and scientists before opening on 28 June at Northcote Town Hall.

Now I need to go lie down.

My brain hurts.

Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne Magician, author and collector of scams.


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