Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fooling Houdini

One genre of book I tend to enjoy is where the author starts out as somewhat of a layman in a particular subject area, but is very passionate about this subject and ends up becoming an expert. (Is there a name for this category of book?) Previous books of this ilk that I have previously enjoyed (and highly recommend) include The Game and Moonwalking with Einstein. Alex Stone's Fooling Houdini is just as good.

I think all of us non-magicians recognize that it takes a ton of deliberate practice to master the sleights of hand that magicians use to fool their audiences. Stone basically insinuates that his constant practice ruined at least one of his romantic relationships.

But what I think is less clear to us laymen is the psychology involved in pulling off an act successfully. This is mainly what the book is about: what is it that causes an audience to miss things that are right in front of them?

This awareness test offers an example of how distracted we can become:

Magicians use all sorts of tricks to master the short cuts our minds take. In a book that likely garnered a ton of resentment from the magician community (which prefers to keep its secrets in house), Stone shares the lessons he learned on his journey to becoming an expert in the field.


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