Posts Tagged ‘magic’

Revisiting some of Jim Butcher’s rather fun Dresden Files books has made me realise something that’s always bothered me about urban fantasy fiction:

In most fictional worlds where vampires, werewolves, and the like really do exist, most people’s attitudes towards them are exactly the same as in the world where they don’t exist.

That is, this world.

I should perhaps define some terms before getting into this. By “urban fantasy”, I mean stories which are essentially set in the real world, but with a certain fantasy twist. So, we’re not talking Middle Earth here: The Dresden Files are set in Chicago, Sunnydale is fictional but could be any regular town in California, that sort of thing.

There are important and obvious differences between these two tropes. In a completely fictional realm, living with orcs and elves and dwarves is the norm for your characters; with urban fantasy, the protagonist might be one of very few who can give you a glimpse of the magical aspects of your own world.

This isn’t always how it works – there are plenty of stories which take place in a slight variant on our planet, where most geography and history and culture are the same, but some aspect of fantasy has become mainstream, and witches in London are now as populous as hobbits in the Shire. But, in my experience with the genre at least, this is less common.

Most regular people Harry Dresden meets in Chicago thinks he’s crazy for advertising his professional services as a wizard. Awareness of Buffy’s vampire-slaying seems limited to a very exclusive clique, outside of which nobody seems to notice or believe in any of it.

Here’s the thing, though: In the real world, the majority react this way for a very good reason. In this world, if you meet someone who claims to be an actual wizard or to slay vampires, you’d have to be reasoning extremely poorly if you took them wholly at their word.

But in the world of urban fantasy fiction, there really are vampires and wizards and magic.

So why are there still skeptics?

Or perhaps I mean: why is the skeptical position so often depicted almost identically, when you’ve completely changed a crucial aspect of the context – namely, the actual evidence of the phenomenon in question?

The role vampires play in the lore of our world is pretty much exactly what you’d expect to see if vampires weren’t real. If they were really out there, they’d have had a much more significant impact. There ought to be numerous verifiable reports. They shouldn’t be such an elusive unknown quantity if they were real. It’d be like trying to pass off wasps as just an urban legend.

Harry Dresden conjures fire from the air at a single word of command. He summons the wind to do his bidding. He deflects machine-gun bullets with a magical shield. He’s a genuine, powerful wizard. Why is he still having trouble convincing anyone?

I don’t remember if Buffy ever really dealt with the skepticism thing. She knows damn well there are vampires. Most other people don’t, but they tend to come around to the idea pretty quickly when presented with evidence, often in the form of a set of fangs plunging toward their neck.

This is something I’m really struggling with in the urban fantasy novel I’m trying to write my second draft of at the moment. At first I just ignored it, and assumed as cavalierly as many authors do that all the magic and undead creatures wandering around have just been flying under the entire world’s radar for a few centuries. But the basic implausibility of that idea is probably going to be too much for me to comfortably ignore. I’m going to have to find some way to integrate the supernatural into the world at large, or explain its general absence. It’d probably still work as a story if I didn’t, and it wouldn’t bother too many people, but it’ll bug the crap out of me.

I don’t really have an end to this post, so I’m just going to stop abruptly in the mi

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Here’s a video that’s kinda fun if you know what’s going on:



Maybe I should explain what’s going on.

Penn & Teller do a regular magic show in Las Vegas, several times a week, and have been doing so for years now. The show changes constantly, with some tricks being retired once they’ve had their time, and new ones being introduced. About a year ago, they started doing a trick where Teller escapes from a bag of helium.

At one point in the trick, for reasons perhaps best known to himself, Penn takes a photograph of the audience. The above video is a collage of all the photos of every Vegas audience they’ve played to, for the twelve months they’ve been doing this trick.

I saw this a couple of weeks ago, I think because Penn posted a link to it on Twitter. Like just about everyone in the comments thread, I wondered if I’d be able to see myself in there. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I saw P&T at the Hammersmith Apollo when they were briefly in London last October, and I’d seen it happen there. I watched the video, looking out for a different theatre appearing at some point near the beginning of the run.

After a little while, though, I thought to myself… Wait… Did I see them do the helium bag thing at the Hammersmith show?

I was definitely at one of their recent live shows at the Apollo. I’ve definitely heard Penn talk about the helium trick a lot, and I’ve definitely seen it on TV… but am I sure I’m not conflating these different events and remembering something which didn’t actually happen?

Going solely by my memory, I genuinely can’t tell.

At first glance, the memory of seeing the trick happen live, in a theatre, right in front of me, appears to reside in my brain. But I don’t feel like I can extrapolate from that to say that it definitely happened.

One thing I can do, though, is to check some other sources, and measure those against what I seem to remember, to see how plausible it is. A quick check of this very blog finds me reporting on seeing the show last July, not October, so already I’m getting things wrong. And if it was July when I saw them, then surely that was before they’d finished working on the trick and had ever performed it publicly.

Furthermore, their Wikipedia page states:

The duo had hoped to put the trick in their mini-tour in London; however, it was first shown to the public in their Las Vegas show on 18 August 2010.

If that doesn’t count as proof positive that my brain is screwy, I don’t know what does. Your memory of what happened is just one piece of data among many when trying to determine the truth.

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Greetings, people of Earth. I am no longer in Scotland.

Posting is still going to be a bit irregular for a while, but there’s a lot to discuss when I find the time. Here’s Richard Dawkins talking about magic.



The title of his new book, The Magic Of Reality, is an excellent summation of an approach that deserves to be pushed more by skeptics, scientists, atheists, and reality-based thinkers generally. It’s an important myth to bust, that of the skeptic as the humourless spoiler of all things fun. We might insist on pointing out the non-existence of things which don’t exist, but there’s so much that’s really going on in the world, which is thrilling for all the same reasons.

In the above video, he’s discussing what he means by the word “magic”, by breaking it down into three separate categories of event to which the word usually refers. Because of how I’m such a wild and unrestrained free spirit, I’m going to characterise his point as outlined in the title of this post.

Harry Potter. Actual witches and wizards doing actual spells, subverting natural laws and invoking supernatural forces. This kind of magic doesn’t exist. (Boo, party-pooper, etc.) If it did, it would be fascinating – but mostly in the context of a rigorous scientific study of it. Everyone would be dying to know how it works. What are the factors that affect how the magic actually functions? Can certain potion ingredients be substituted while maintaining the effect? Do you get more power if you shout the magic words louder?

Fiction can explore hundreds of questions like this in fascinating detail, and weave wonderful worlds around such ideas. I don’t know of any skeptics who are against the idea of enjoying made-up stories. But they are made-up.

Paul Daniels. Tricks, conjuring, illusions. Stage magic. Rabbits out of hats, coins behind ears. It clearly exists, but only creates a façade of the Harry Potter kind of magic by means of deception. This can also be very entertaining and uncontroversial, so long as you don’t get the two kinds confused. You don’t have to believe that David Copperfield can really fly in order to have a good time being fooled.

Scotland. It might not seem obvious why I’m bringing this up for the third example. But have a look at this.

I’ve just spent a week on the Isle of Skye, looking at stuff like that.

Now, I’m sure you’re all worldly people. You’re more well travelled than me, and have no doubt basked personally in such glorious vistas that my holiday snaps seem dull and meagre. But I’d never been before, so let me revel a bit.

The point is, there are things in the world which can be experienced, and which are just amazing. Scotland is gorgeous, and you don’t need to sit through my slide show to remember or imagine views of the world that fill you with awe and which are worth trekking across the globe to experience.

That right there is the magic of reality.

And one of many reasons why it’s superior to Expecto Patronum is that there are extra layers of wonder beneath the experience itself. There are some views of nature which people almost universally find pleasing to look at – and science can tell us why.

With reality, you get to delve further and find out about things like the evolutionary pressures that have led our species to feel a sense of pleasure or comfort from the presence of bodies of water, which historically has been a positive sign for our survival. You get to find out so much about what’s going on in the magical world around you, and so much of it is truly extraordinary.

…This totally isn’t just a post about how amazing and life-changing my trip to a secluded and unblemished part of the countryside was. It’s totally not. I’m making a serious point here. Shut up.

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I realised, sitting in the fourth row of the Hammersmith Apollo on Friday night, that I’m basically the ideal Penn & Teller audience member.

I’m predisposed to like them and enjoy their company a great deal, which helps, but that’s not what I’m getting at. I mean in my approach to watching the magic they do – and I suspect I’m far from alone here – I have what must be close to the perfect attitude to maximise my admiration of their performance.

What I mean is: I’m just smart enough to be really stupid.

Or, I’m just stupid enough to think I’m being smart.

Or something.

I have just enough superficial, surface-level understanding of magic, and deception, and of Penn & Teller’s usual way of doing things, that I briefly delude myself that I can watch out for the clever tricks, the subtle palms and whatnot they must be doing to make something appear where it wasn’t. I think I know misdirection when I see it, so I peer carefully at the other hand and keep my eagle eyes peeled for any tiny hints of subterfuge.

In other words, I am precisely the right kind of idiot. I think I’m watching out for the right things and will have some idea where they’re going and what they’re about to pull. And they still fool me and produce some grand last-minute flourish out of nowhere, that I could never see coming even after it’s happened. Every. Damn. Time.

And obviously they’re going to fool me every damn time. They’ve been doing this for decades, and what the fuck do I know?

It’s a wonderful performance, and I can’t really think of anyone for whom I wouldn’t recommend it. You may have missed your chance in London this time (though, as I type this, there are still tickets available for tonight’s final show (and there was at least one tout outside the theatre when I went)), but if you ever find yourselves in the same city as them when they’re performing in future, go.

If you like magic, go. If you like comedy, go. If you like entertainment, go. If you like joy, go. Just go.

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Yes, I’m still moaning about the lack of time I find to get anything done. Couple of quick links.

James Randi on Uri Geller, summing things up nicely. The guy’s made a decades-long career out of convincing people that he does real, genuine, no-foolin’ magic using psychic alien powers and no trickery whatever. If he’s now claiming to be an illusionist relying on natural means, he’s a disingenuous twat. Randi put it more eloquently.

And when I go home for Christmas, I’m going to have to remember to try out at least some of Richard Wiseman’s quirky science tricks.

And that’s everything that happened today.

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I used to believe in some wacky stuff.

It didn’t seem all that wacky at the time, of course. When I first started taking an interest in the stuff I was reading online, about people’s religious experiences and psychics and mind readers and dowsing and so on, it sounded fascinating, and wasn’t obviously bullshit at all. I guess I tend to think about things a bit differently now, or maybe there are just more things that I’ve learnt aren’t real in the intervening years.

Anyway, there was a lot of stuff about dowsing that caught my eye, and made it seem like an accessible skill. There was reams of advice and personal experiences people wanted to share, and it sounded like you didn’t need to be whisked away from your cupboard under the stairs to a wizards’ school by a hairy giant in order to be a part of it. It sounded like anyone could join in, and learn to access some spiritual dimension which could provide insight and knowledge from beyond this world.

So I bought a crystal pendulum from a new age shop.

It feels so weird typing that sentence now.

It was cheap, but kinda pretty, and looked a lot like this quartz one. The idea, as described on that page, is to clear your mind and mentally ask a series of yes/no questions, while letting the pendulum hang loosely from your fingers. There are various ways the pendulum might swing – circular motions, clockwise or anticlockwise, back and forth, diagonally – and you can calibrate it with some control questions.

I don’t remember exactly how it went when I tried it, but it would have been something like: “Is my name James?” – and I saw it swing forward and back, so I knew that meant yes. “Is today Wednesday?” – another yes, with the same swinging motion. “Is there a dragon in my room?” – and it swung side to side, meaning no.

This was really exciting.

So I decided to test it out properly, and see if I could find out something that I didn’t know, and prove that I was really tapping into some amazing psychic source of power.

I think this is the point where my strategy departed from that of a lot of new age fans.

I got a deck of playing cards and placed one face down in front of me. I didn’t know what card it was, but I held the pendulum over it, and asked yes/no questions to narrow it down. “Is it black?” – no. “Is it red?” – yes. “Is it a picture card?” – no. And so on.

Eventually I narrowed it down to “Is it the five of diamonds?” and got a yes. It had given me a definite answer to everything I asked. It had never contradicted itself. I’d started with absolutely no knowledge or assumptions or preconceptions about the card in front of me, and my pendulum had honed directly in on its identity as the five of diamonds.

I still remember the fluttering in my chest – half excitement and half genuine fear – in the second or two before I turned over the king of clubs.

Aw, crap.

It turns out that there’s a bunch of reasons why people believe in this kind of thing, and post articles to the internet about their powerfully moving personal experiences with it. And these reasons don’t require magic to actually be real.

When I first started looking into it, it didn’t require any particular daftness on my part to take it seriously – it just seemed to be a part of the world. A somewhat secretive, not generally known, exclusive part, but that just made it all the more fun. At the depth at which I explored it at the time, I didn’t find any good reason to suppose that it was all completely fictitious. People were taking it for granted, writing detailed accounts of their achievements, and beginners’ guides to the basic techniques.

But once you start thinking about it more critically, you realise that magic powers aren’t the only explanation. They’re not the best explanation. In fact, they’re not even a very good explanation.

Some people are very keen to find evidence that supports the idea that their dangling crystal can tell them things – so confirmation bias plays a big part in explaining why it’s so widely believed, as well as a host of other logical fallacies. But the ideomotor effect is one of the most persuasive aspects if you don’t know what it is. And it’s the one I’m supposed to be talking about here.

When I was asking myself those questions, I really was trying to hold the pendulum as still as possible. I know I wasn’t deliberately swinging it around to make myself seem like an amazing wizard (“Look, it knows my name!!”), but it’s worth asking: how good am I at holding my hand perfectly still? When I look closely at my outstretched digits as I try to remain motionless, I seem surprisingly wobbly. If I’m going to hold something on a thin and flexible cord or chain, it seems likely that my natural shakiness is going to have some effect.

And it turns out that the pendulum picks up more than just a general jiggle from my unsteady muscles. Let’s say I know a forward-swing means yes, because of my first test question. If I then ask something else which I know, or expect, has the answer yes, then on some level of consciousness I’m going to be imagining getting a forward-swing answer from the pendulum. My hand will then actually twitch, without my being aware of it, to make the pendulum swing forward.

The mental processes to do this can really happen inside your head, without the part where you’re conscious of it. It “bypasses volition”, to be a bit technical (volition being your capacity to do something by your own will).

You can try it easily yourself with any weight on some sort of dangling cord. I’m trying it now with one of the earphones from my mp3 player on its lead, and it’s still quite odd to see. I concentrate on a clockwise spinning motion, and it starts spinning clockwise, even though I’m still trying to hold it as steady as I can.

If you’re thinking that this might be evidence that I was secretly psychic all along, you’re still leaping to a more complicated explanation than is necessary. If I’m not directly touching the cord, or holding it in such a way that my hand movements won’t affect its swing, then it doesn’t respond in the same way. It only moves like this when I have the capacity to be swinging it around unconsciously. The best explanation is that I’m simply moving my hand.

There’s also a common hypnotic trick, where you’re asked to close your eyes and stick your arms out, then vividly imagine a heavy weight in one hand pulling it down, and a balloon tied to the other pulling it up. You focus on the respective feelings of pressure and lightness for a while, and if you’re anything like me, after a couple of minutes you open your eyes and find that you’ve lifted and lowered your hands accordingly by several inches, without being aware of doing it.

The point is, your mind’s good at doing stuff like this without telling you about it.

Now, this doesn’t mean that nobody can dowse anything, or that we’ve proved that Ouija boards are universally a load of crap (yes, the people are just pushing the glass around even if they don’t realise it). But it reminds us the importance of asking the question “Is there a simpler, less Harry Potter explanation?” when we see something we think might be magic.

If I was doing actual magic over my playing card that time, then my skills make Neville Longbottom look like Gandalf. I must really suck at magic. I didn’t even get close to getting the card right. Magic just isn’t a good enough explanation for what happened there. But the idea that my hand wasn’t perfectly still, and made the pendulum swing a little by entirely natural means? Yep, that fits.

But what if I had got it right? What if I had no way of knowing what card I was staring at the back of, and wasn’t being provided the information by any means except the pendulum, and I actually got it right? And it kept happening, consistently?

Well, the ideomotor effect wouldn’t cover that. And I’d be a millionaire.

But it does cover, y’know, every case that’s ever been examined of any kind of dowsing ever. Except the ones that are outright fraud, where there’s conscious deception taking place. But there really doesn’t need to be any malice or dishonesty for people to make magical claims that aren’t based in reality. If you don’t know what the ideomotor effect is, and maybe don’t test out your new idea all that rigorously, and kinda let slide the few occasions where it doesn’t work… then I can imagine this being pretty convincing.

People who do things like dowsing aren’t being stupid or evil. But they are claiming that they can do magic, and it’s a big ask that we should take that at face value without daring to question it any further, even if we don’t doubt their sincerity. It’s the kind of massive claim that we should probably, y’know, check.

And, unfortunately for any aspiring Weasleys out there, natural phenomena like the ideomotor effect provide a better explanation for every instance of “magic” that’s yet been observed. They account perfectly for what’s going on, but the magical explanation fails to explain why the effect always vanishes when studied closely. It just doesn’t work. The five of diamonds was not my card.

Sorry, Hermione. Muggles win.

A more academic and less chatty approach to this topic can be found at The Skeptic’s Dictionary, RationalWiki, SkepticWiki, and all over the place really. Barrett Dorko and Ray Hyman, among others, have written rather more scientifically rigorous documents about the ideomotor effect in action, with examples of experiments in which it’s been seen.

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There are two methods you can use to bend spoons. (They both work just as well on forks, keys, and a variety of other objects, usually small and metallic. Spoons are traditional.)

The first one is to be psychic and use your magic psychic powers. Much distorted cutlery has been presented as the result of claimed paranormal abilities. Uri Geller, for example, has made a decades-long career out of doing almost literally nothing else. You can just tap into some strange cosmic energy, and alter the state of matter through the sheer force of your will, according to your desires. You can harness this inexplicable artefact of nature, a phenomenon as yet unexplained by science, the potential of which has ramifications beyond imagining for the socio-economic development of our species, and use it to make your kitchenware go a bit wonky.

That’s one way.

The other way is to just hold a spoon and bend it. Using your hands.

The second way is much easier.

But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, simply using obvious brute force renders the whole activity rather pointless. Because this method is so easy, it’s also deeply unimpressive. Anyone can bend a spoon, after all – but it takes someone quite special to be able to bend a spoon with only the power of their mind.

Which leads us to a question brimming with potential and overflowing with possibilities. Suppose you used the second method of bending a spoon, and just brought your arm muscles into play to give it a bit of a twist, but then – and this is the clever bit – you use some cunning misdirection of some sort, and dress it up as an example of the first method, to make it look like you’re demonstrating psychic powers.

Now wouldn’t that just be a thing.

I’d be surprised if nobody’s thought of this before.

Now, don’t get flustered before I’ve even said anything controversial. All I’m asking you to accept at this point is the simple fact that bending a small metal spoon with your hands is entirely possible, and so is inaccurately claiming that you were using psychic powers to do it. Look, here’s Hugh Laurie doing exactly that:

I’m pretty sure I could do that too, by just bending some spoons and going “Ta-da!” But that doesn’t really prove anything. The above demonstration is, obviously, part of a comedy sketch, and it’s funny because it would only bamboozle a stupid person. It seems fair to ask: could a better version of a similar trick be performed, so that non-idiots would be taken in by it?

Well, I’m going to suggest that it could. And I don’t think this is very controversial, either. If you’re going to disagree at this stage, and argue that nobody possessing the wherewithal not to drool all over themselves could ever possibly be fooled by some sort of trick, and persuaded that a bent spoon hadn’t simply been bent by physical force alone… well, good luck with that in a world where people who still think wrestling is real manage to get dressed in the mornings without help. People are always getting taken in by fake stuff, even intelligent people. If you’re a trusting person, and inclined to believe in psychic powers already, then it doesn’t seem implausible that someone might, in theory, be able to trick you.

For instance, take a look at this guy bending spoons:

That’s Michael Shermer, and he’s definitely using the second method to do it. He’s a skeptic, and he openly admits that he’s doing tricks. But he makes it look pretty good, doesn’t he? If he were to tell you he was using psychic powers, you wouldn’t have to be a complete idiot to believe him. It certainly doesn’t look like he’s just bending things with his hands, at any rate. It looks a lot like things look when people claim to be using the first method, and demonstrating real paranormal abilities.

Even if you think that Shermer’s demonstration isn’t quite as convincing as someone you’ve seen who claims to be genuinely using the first method (the fork thing isn’t all that subtle, for instance), it still seems possible that someone with their mental faculties grossly intact could still be fooled. If Shermer were unscrupulous enough to attach grandiose claims of psychic mastery to his techniques, and maybe hammed up the performance a bit, it could be moderately persuasive. The kind of people who might find it plausible wouldn’t have to be stupid or clueless at all, just like Uri Geller’s millions of fans aren’t all dribbling idiots. A lot of them are adequately functioning members of society.

A number of tricksters like Shermer are out there, bending spoons through non-magical means, and can be found all over YouTube. Many of them take the approach of confessedly bending spoons by the second method alone, and inviting us to marvel at how this can be made to look like the first method. Others will also show us the secrets behind the tricks they’re using, and give an even greater insight into how the effects of the first method can be simulated.

In short, if you put on an act just like these guys show you, you can make it look a lot like you have psychic powers. And not just to stupid people.

All the second method boils down to is “bend the spoon with your hands”, but disguising what you’re doing is where the interesting skills lie. For one thing, it’s important that people aren’t watching your hands too closely while you’re just exerting brute force. Cause a distraction, divert people with some attention-grabbing patter, move your hands somewhere out of sight, point at something else – anything that’ll give you a brief moment where you can give the metal a quick twist, so that when onlookers next see it, the bend is there.

Obviously if they look back to find it suddenly sharply bent, though, it might occur to them that they just missed you doing something devious. This can undermine your magical kudos, but luckily there are plenty of optical effects and quirks you can take advantage of too. If you’re moving the spoon around a lot, it’ll be hard for anyone to tell how bent it actually is, and you might be able to make it look like it’s becoming increasingly curved as they watch, even if it’s staying the same. You can see this sort of effect by holding a pencil horizontally in front of you, near one end, and waggling it up and down. The way the other end flops about will look loose and rubbery. (Try it, and you can really see the effect. Remember, we’re still not talking about stupid people. Even intelligent brains get easily confused by things they weren’t designed to be able to cope with.)

Also, a straight line can look either more or less curved depending on the angle at which you’re looking at it. I suspect that Michael Shermer is using this point to good effect in his final demonstration in the video above. The rod is bent from the time he holds it up, but the bend is held horizontally, in line with the plane on which you’re seeing it, so it still looks flat. The bend comes into view as he rotates it, but he’s making other gestures and telling you to see it bending upwards, so the truth might not be obvious.

Now, although this might all be a jolly interesting exercise, I must add that none of this has any direct bearing on anybody who’s actually using the first method – that is, anyone really bending spoons with genuine psychic powers. That’d be like miming to a Mariah Carey track and expecting Simon Cowell to give you a record deal. They’re not affected by the details of how a similar effect can be faked, because they know that they’re doing something completely different.

But we don’t know that. And these details are extremely relevant to our assessment of performers claiming to use the first method. Shermer could have claimed to possess psychic powers, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many people would have believed him – but, because of his honesty, we know that those people would have been mistaken.

Who else might also be mistaken?

It’s not just the case that the second method can look a lot like the first – on top of that, people who claim to be using psychic powers often really seem like they’re doing tricks. Uri Geller may be a good example of this (depending on whether he’s calling what he does “magic” or “mystificationalism” today). This video seems to show him simply bending a spoon while people are distracted from looking at it directly, as well as providing supportive evidence that his broken spoons look like they’ve been bent repeatedly.

And then there’s his famous appearance on The Tonight Show, where he doesn’t bend any cutlery by any process, paranormal or otherwise. This makes sense if we were to assume he’s using the second method: he can’t just blatantly bend them, because that wouldn’t make for an interesting demonstration, and he can’t work with his own props which are designed for this very purpose, so there’s really nothing he can do. It’s harder to reconcile it with the idea of actual psychic abilities, which inconveniently fail to function every time we try to get a good look at them.

So, we have:

– a claimed paranormal phenomenon which is less than paradigm-shattering in its scope to begin with,
– a simple and naturalistic method by which the same effect of this phenomenon can be achieved,
– a plausible set of reasons why this naturalistic method could be mistaken for something more ground-breaking,
– an example of people demonstrating what a powerful illusion this naturalistic method can provide,
– a number of good reasons why certain individuals might be motivated to disguise this non-event as something more remarkable,
– some evidence that the man most commonly associated with this phenomenon could be using exactly these techniques to do just this,
– and a complete lack of verifiable examples of the phenomenon actually taking place in a way that can’t be easily replicated by conjurers or practised amateurs doing tricks.

Let’s stop being impressed by this now.

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