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Topic: The Magic IS the secret
Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 27, 2006 11:42PM)
On another thread djrdjr wrote:

>That 21-card trick ... I know it works, and I know how it works, but I don't know >HOW it works. There must be an algebraic explanation of it somewhere.

That struck a chord with me because I've been thinking a bit lately about
some of the secrets of magic that are more clever, impressive, interesting, intellectually stimulating than the effects that they achieve.

There is an almost universal acceptance in magic that exposing a secret destroys the magic. As soon as you know how a trick works it ceases to be magical.

This is true for many many tricks, but not for all. There are tricks where understanding the inner workings actually amazes even more. The best example I can think of is the Reverse Monte trick.

Three face down cards, you look away, spectator peeks one then switches the other two, then you turn back around and the spectator can swap cards for as long as they like, but you can still tell them which card they peeked.

I taught it once to someone who had both an interest in magic and maths. When I performed the trick he looked at me puzzled, trying to figure it out. But it was just a curiosity, another puzzle.

I set him to work on it for a day or two and he couldn't figure it out so I taught it to him. His reaction to the solution was vastly different to his reaction to the trick.

His eyes lit up at the moment that he "got it" and he just kept saying over and over "that's beautiful". There was no loss of admiration for the original trick, if anything it went up.

I don't expose this trick when I perform it normally, it's still a good trick, and as worthy of protection as any other. But occasionally, for the right kind of person who can appreciate it, and who I trust, I'll teach it (only about two or three people so far), and the reaction is always the same, the solution is ingenius, all have used the word beautiful.

It's not fair to call it a mathematical trick, but it appeals to the mathematically minded. I guess there are times when knowing the secret doesn't destroy the magic.

What got me thinking about this was the folloing video clip of Richard Feynman. He discusses how a scientific understanding of a flower adds to it's beauty rather than detracting from it.


I wonder are there other tricks like this. Self working tricks like the ones we did in school. The kind of tricks we gloss over in books because the effect is so obviously "mathematical". But if we took a second to understand the maths we'd see some real magic.

Message: Posted by: Pricholas (Jun 28, 2006 09:39AM)
I'd be very careful here. Its better keeping everyone dum than letting one or even two in the know. Trust me. The moment someone figures out a trick, they realise that you are not immortal.

You'd be surprised how many people think that I am quite powerful, and the moment you bring in the idea of reality into something amazing, you HAVE destroyed the effect and your reputation.

BUT, if you are simply referring to 'OTHERS,' such as gamblers and con artists, whilst showing what THEY do, rather than what YOU do, and then possibly exposing something. Then you have an effect.

I actually do this with larry jennings 4 cards to pocket. I first tell (only people that are more knowlegeable than others), whilst I do the trick, that I am pretending to reach in my pocket for the cards, and they say 'obviously,' but then I go on to the second part of the trick where I actually say, 'BUT! When I send cards to my pockets, they ACTUALLY fly for REAL' I reach in, showing my hands empty, producing cards from my pockets. For this trick I actually explain the first part (only the first), because I don't want someone to think that I am a fool, especially when it is easy to flash the palming. I am on their level.

Derren Brown does the same thing, he explains how some of his tricks are done (such as the wooden ring effect in the dark) because they are more beautiful there. But he also explains his other effects with 'psychology,' making them to appear genuine, when sometimes they are and sometimes they are not, thereby interesting the spectator.

Be very careful here.
Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 28, 2006 10:28AM)
I know what you are getting at and I agree for the most part. I'm referring to a very specific type of trick here. For example, most people know the 21 card trick and know it's self working (your specific performance of it might make it entertaining or not, but that's a different story).

But with a trick "like" the 21 card trick, there's another level of magic that comes from understanding how it works. The best example I can think of is the Reverse Monte effect I mentioned above.

I'm not suggesting for a minute that spectators should be routinely let in on secrets to enhance their experience. in 99% of tricks understanding the secret diminishes the enjoyment of it. But I'm posing the question, are there tricks where understanding the secret improves it?

I wonder if some of the self working tricks that we consider not strong enough to use as tricks in their own right, might be more entertaining for a certain type of audience if instead of trying to fool people, we instead engage them in a conversation about the secret.

Many of the Counting/Dealing tricks have very interesting mathematical underpinnings. Some spectators will even be familiar with the maths but will never have considered how that could be turned into a card trick.

I'm aware of the irony that the one self working trick that I've used as an example (Reverse Monte) is definitely strong enough to use as a trick in it's own right. I wouldn't dare expose this trick as a matter of course. For one thing I think unless the spectators brain is wired to appreciate and enjoy the principle behind the trick then exposing it will have the same negative effect that exposing any trick has. But there are individuals for whom the underlying secret of this trick is far more enjoyable than the trick itself.

But you're right, exposure in any form is something that we need to be careful about. There is only one or two tricks that I routienely expose one is the 21 card trick which I teach to any kid who wants to learn a trick (so they can annoy other magicians). The other is a slightly more advanced prediction trick that also happens to use 21 cards, which I teach to any kid who already knows the 21 card trick.

Message: Posted by: Hushai (Jun 28, 2006 04:38PM)
MagicMarker's original post raises lots of ideas in my mind. I don't have much practical advice to offer on the question of "to expose or not to expose," other than agreeing that the idea of exposure of magic secrets is something I automatically recoil from. But, I also have often thought that there are tricks whose secret is more interesting than the effect itself. I like to do the mathematical tricks that some think are too dull for performance for others, just for MYSELF as spectator. Just BECAUSE I know the secret I find them fascinating. I feel as though it's not me doing the trick: Reality Itself is performing the trick for me! This whole thing reminds me of a quotation from G.K. Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories, where Father Brown says, "Real mystics donít hide mysteries, they reveal them. They set a thing up in broad daylight, and when youíve seen it itís still a mystery. But the mystagogues hide a thing in darkness and secrecy, and when you find it, itís a platitude." He's talking there about hucksters of phony religion, but it also applies to those "honest deceivers," the magicians. Most of their secrets would be disappointing, trivial "platitudes" to the spectator who found them out. But the secrets MagicMarker is talking about are the REAL "magic" that only gets more interesting and awesome the more you find out about them. (I'm a professor of religion as well as a would-be magician -- can you tell? :) ) I should give an example or two here. Simon Aronson's "Undo Influence" blows me away; I'm still trying to understand the math behind the secret. George Sand's Prime Number principle may have that effect, too. The Gilbreath Principle famously has been called "a thing of terrifying beauty." Other examples, anyone?
Message: Posted by: djrdjr (Jun 28, 2006 06:55PM)
On 2006-06-28 10:39, Pricholas wrote:
The moment someone figures out a trick, they realise that you are not immortal.

You'd be surprised how many people think that I am quite powerful ...

I would be surprised at that, Pricholas. Everybody I have ever shown a magic trick to has known it was a trick. Nobody thought I was "powerful," they just thought I knew how to do something they didn't know how to do. If anyone in your audience actually thinks you are "immortal," then they're probably not rational enough to understand any explanation you give them. :)

That said, I think MagicMarkers response to my original post from that other thread is quite thought-provoking.

Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 28, 2006 09:54PM)
> You'd be surprised how many people think that I am quite powerful ...

One rule I have is that I don't ever give the impression that I have any "powers". If asked how I did a trick, I might joke that it's done by "Magic". And I'll wink or smile. But if anyone levels with me and asks, do I have powers, or are there people with supernatural powers then I tell them no. Everything I do involves skill and can be learned with enough practice.

I won't explain how I did a trick, but I don't like to leave susceptible people feeling that they have seen evidence of the supernatural or paranormal. There are too many charletains out there willing to take advantage.

Message: Posted by: Hushai (Jun 28, 2006 11:55PM)
On 2006-06-28 22:54, MagicMarker wrote:
I won't explain how I did a trick, but I don't like to leave susceptible people feeling that they have seen evidence of the supernatural or paranormal. There are too many charletains out there willing to take advantage.

You are, in short, one of those "honest deceivers" I was referring to above. I think you are absolutely right to do what you do. I could not in conscience do otherwise myself.
Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 29, 2006 07:23AM)
Incidently just in case I wasn't clear, I don't mean to say that a magician to leaves people feeling they have powers is a Charletain. I was referring to real charletains who take money from people in return for using their "powers" to help them. E.g. Psychics, mediums etc.

If I were to provide evidence that Powers exist, by doing a mentalism effect, or a card trick, then it might leave the audience member more susceptible to the advances of these con men (and women).

Message: Posted by: phil in KC (Jun 29, 2006 07:49AM)
MagicMaker, the Reverse Monte effect sounds very similar to an impromptu bar/restaurant trick with three cups and a ball. In the cups and ball trick, the spectator puts the ball under a cup and exchanges the positions of the other two cups. Then the spectator can exchange any two cups, as many times as they want, and the magician can always identify the cup with the ball. In fact, as I write this, I realize that it's exactly the same effect, using cups and a ball instead of cards. And the idea behind it is elegant. For those interested, it can be found in Magic for Dummies, though I first learned it from a Marvin Kaye book.
Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 29, 2006 08:06AM)
I believe it's also known as Hummers 3 Object Divination.
I think I saw it in the Magic, Maths and Mystery book by Martin Gardner,
although I previously knew it as Reverse Monte, so the original name has stuck.

Incidently there's a trick in that book called Yates' 4 object Divination which is also elegant, but because it involves a little additional complication for essentially the same effect, I prever the 3 object version.

Message: Posted by: phil in KC (Jun 29, 2006 04:08PM)
It's interesting to me how the same priniciple can be applied to different effects in different mediums, as in this case with cards or cups and a ball. I actually worked out a way to use the same principle over the phone, with good reactions.

Similarly, I learned a solid-thru solid effect, using straws, from John Calvert at a lecture. I later saw the same effect, only using silks, in a book. This is another elegant effect, to me, because of its basis in geometry -- math again!

-Phil in KC
Message: Posted by: Hushai (Jun 29, 2006 04:39PM)
The Reverse Monte trick can also be found in Bob Longe's book "Easy Magic Tricks," page 68, as well as on a great Website about mathematical card tricks:
Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 29, 2006 04:57PM)
This is not a trick but more of a puzzle. If you ever want to start a couple of mathematicians arguing with each other pose them this challenge.

Three cards, An Ace, and two jokers. You shuffle the three cards and place them on the table, so that you know where the ace is, but not the spectator.

Spectator then tries to find the ace. They point to one card. It is slid without looking to one side of the table. This leaves two cards.

You then turn over one of the two cards to show that it is a joker. This leaves the spectators original selection, and the card that they didn't select. One of them is the Ace.

The question is, should they keep their card, or swap it for the other card. or does it matter? In theory it's a 50-50 chance. One is the ace, the other isn't.
But is it really a 50-50 chance?

I've heard quite knowledgable maths guys argue about this for hours (and be wrong).

Just to clarify one area that's sometimes confusing. The person who knows where the ace is, WILL turn over a joker. I.e. the card that's turned face up WILL be a joker. The Ace will always be either the card selected by the spectator, OR the card that the Magician leaves face down.

I've used the term magician, but it's not correct, this is a puzzle, not a magic trick.

I'll post the answer tomorrow, but I suspect the clever people at The Cafť will get this one immediately.

Message: Posted by: phil in KC (Jun 29, 2006 09:33PM)
It just goes to show you that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The correct answer is to swap cards -- your odds are 66.667%. This is because the original choice has one chance in three of being right. Since the "magician" can turn over either of the other two cards, he can always turn over a joker. So two out of three times, swapping is the way to go.

-Phil in KC

Posted: Jun 29, 2006 10:34pm
Hushai, thanks for the pointer. This is a little different handling of the Reverse Monte, but I like it!

Message: Posted by: MagicMarker (Jun 30, 2006 12:25AM)
Well done phil, you are of course correct.

Hushai, I like that handling, I might try it on some of the people that know the normal handling and see if they recognise it as the same trick.