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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The Science of Magic » » Astronomical magic (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

billmarq
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State near Arizona
570 Posts

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Hopefully, this is the right place to ask. Aside from magic I have a passion for astronomy. I belong to three clubs and often participate in community awareness events. I am brainstorming some ideas on how to combine the two hobbies in a small show of sorts, maybe using magic to demonstrate astronomical facts. So far, the only effect I have come up with is using the needle through balloon trick to demonstrate how cosmic rays can pass through the earth with no effect. This is more magic than science of course, but I would be using it to make a point, not actually demonstrating science at work.

Anyone have any ideas? I know a lot of you guys are smarter than I.
Honi soit quit mal y pense.
MobilityBundle
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Las Vegas/Boston
120 Posts

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I'm not sure what ratio of magic to science you want, but here's a bunch of science with some magic hooks. Cull the science out until you have your desired ratio. Smile

First, you can talk about stellar formation. How does a star form? Well, you get a bunch of hydrogen that starts to collapse under its own gravity. Eventually, the gravitational pressure becomes so great that fusion starts to occur. The hydrogen starts to fuse into helium. The energy released by the fusion balances the gravitational pressure, so the star remains stable for a long time, burning hydrogen. (This is known as the "main sequence.")

Eventually, all the leftover helium starts to accumulate in the center of the star. Helium fuses at a slightly higher pressure than hydrogen, so the gravitational collapse returns in the little helium core. But eventually the pressure builds up to be great enough so the star starts fusing helium nuclei to produce carbon. Once again, the energy produced by the helium fusion holds back the gravitational collapse a bit.

Then the carbon starts to accumulate and eventually fuse, to form oxygen. And so on, until one gets to iron. The thing is, iron won't fuse... iron fusion costs energy, it doesn't release energy. So now the gravitational collapse goes unchecked for a little while longer.

Eventually, the gravity becomes so great that the electrons of the iron nuclei are actually pushed into the nucleus. (The scientific term is "electron capture.") This causes a proton in the nucleus to become a neutron, and emit a neutrino. In a star, this happens very rapidly: all the nuclei in the huge iron core at the center of a star essentially all capture electrons simultaneously, causing the core to collapse into a much smaller ball of neutrons, and emitting a huge blast of neutrinos. After the core collapses, the rest of the star starts falling inward, and literally bounces off the ultra-hard ball of neutron to create the explosion that we see as a supernova.

Alternate ending: If the star was big enough, then the ultra-hard ball of neutrons still experiences gravitational collapse, and eventually forms a black hole.

Back up a bit to the neutrino blast that happens when the iron core collapses. Neutrinos are interesting creatures themselves. They are extremely light (about six million times lighter than an electron) and electrically neutral. They don't interact with matter very much. For example, a neutrino passing through a block of lead one light-year thick has only about a 50% chance of interacting with anything.

Nevertheless -- and perhaps surprisingly -- we can actually detect supernovas from their neutrino blasts, because there are just so many neutrinos involved. This was first done in 1987, where two neutrino detectors on opposite sides of the world noticed an unusually high number of neutrino events (I think it was like 10 or 12) at the same time. There were so many hits because the star was particularly close to us. So... that's cool. Smile

Okay, so a few magic hooks:

1. When you're talking about fusion, you can do some fusion with cards. For example, hydrogen has atomic number 1 and helium has atomic number 2. So you can take two hydrogen nuclei (two aces) and fuse them into a helium nucleus (a deuce). Then two deuces to a four, etc. You might even throw in a funny line about iron (atomic number 26): the reason it won't fuse is because of the physics of nuclear binding energy, and not because your deck of cards doesn't have a "26 of clubs."

2. When you talk about the neutrino blast, you can do some kind of penetration trick, showing how the neutrinos can effortlessly pass through ordinary objects.

3. For a bit of a finale, when you talk about a the black hole maybe you can do a deck vanish or a deck switch to one of those black decks of cards.


And now that I think of it, you can have some fun with black holes. For example, General Relativity predicts some unusual behavior at the surface of a black hole. Specifically, a far-away observer will actually see time stop at the surface of a black hole. In other words, if you throw a probe in to a black hole, then the image of the probe will forever be "frozen" right at the surface of the black hole, long after the probe itself (from the probe's reference frame) has fallen in.

So you can do an ambitious card routine with this theme, showing that no matter what happens, time is frozen at the surface of the black hole -- i.e., at the top of the deck. For example, call the top card (let's say, 7C) the "probe." You have lines like "even though you might think you see the probe fall into the black hole [apparently put 7C into the center of the deck], you'll really just see it frozen at the surface [show 7C on top.]"

Then you can then talk about what the probe -- and not a far-away observer -- sees. The probe won't notice any funny time problems as it passes through the black hole, and will eventually just fall in and get obliterated. Of course, you can demonstrate the obliteration magically... put the 7C face-up in the center of the deck, and somehow vanish it. For example, get rid of it with a diagonal palm shift.

Then for a finale, you can talk about black holes themselves aren't invincible. There's a process called Hawking radiation whereby a black hole slowly evaporates. Because the gravitational field at the surface of a black hole is so strong, it literally polarizes the vacuum and captures antiparticles that literally didn't exist moments before. These antiparticles fall in to the black hole and reduce its mass, while their normal particle pairs escape off into space where we see them as radiation. Eventually, the whole black hole "evaporates" by this process.

Magically, you can demonstrate that with a deck vanish. Or even better, vanish the deck bit by bit... half the deck, then a quarter of the deck, then 5 or 10 cards. Then vanish those for a finale.

Whew, that was more than I thought I had! So obviously, this stuff is all very sketchy. I'd love to hear (or better yet, see!) where you go with this!
J-L Sparrow
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Wow, MobilityBundle, I really like your scientific explanations.

Thank you for sharing.
Yellowcustard
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Inner circle
New Zealand
1290 Posts

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I do a purse frame routine using sponge stars. The routine starts with the purse begin made out of a black hole which eat a star. I also do a single rope routine talking about time.

Not magic but when I worked at the science museum in London visitors always liked the idea that if the earth was a basket ball the moon would be a base ball. And they would be 22ft apart. It gets across how big the universe is.
Enjoy your magic,

and let others enjoy it as well!
Decomposed
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Eternal Order
High Desert
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Dittos, thanks for posting Mobility.

Decomp
ropeadope
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Elite user
Mississippi
453 Posts

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Dan Harlan has a paper tear from a napkin that with a few simple folds and one tear results in two pieces of paper, one with a round hole(the moon)and the other a five point star.

Seems like I read somewhere a scientist said that if you could hypothetically blast off from earth, traveling unimpeded and indefinitely, you would wind up on the other side of the earth and inside out. Card Warp?

How about a magic square using nine squares representing the nine (yes I know) planets, count or spell and eliminating some until you landed on a predetermined square/planet.

Have fun,
John
Nothing is better than more.
link8822
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Central Jersey, NJ
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I'm not sure of specific tricks he uses science in, but I believe Tom Meseroll studied astrophysics and is also a professional magician. You might want to look into some of his stuff.
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