REVIEWS FROM THE REV: “Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions” by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde with Sandra Blakeslee.

My artist friend Leesa loaned me this book and, sure enough, it was right up my alley.

Two neuroscientists have the inspiration to use magic as a means of discovering the intricacies of human perception.  Not that they employ magic as actual, well, magic.  They meet with professional magicians, who are, in essence, experts at getting past our critical faculties, and pump them for all that they know from their experience and, in turn, share with them the science of the human brain that correlates with particular magic tricks.  It’s a potent combination, and makes for a thoroughly engaging and informative read.

I had to forgive a few indulgences in the text, such as the multi-page description of the authors audition as magicians themselves at The Magic Castle and a rather mixed-bag of summed-up life lessons at the end.  But that is only a few pages in an otherwise excellent book that will tell you any number of secrets about how your very own brain works.

Besides the quality insight into the human mind, the book naturally shines light on larger existential issues of human belief and its many permutations.  On top of all of that, it’s a great chance to hear from top magicians as they discuss both the technical and philosophic aspects of their trade.  And, yes, the book reveals secrets.  But each such revelation is preceded by a boldly-printed warning, both to satisfy the ethical demands of the professional magic trade and to be fair to readers who don’t want to know where the rabbit came from.

“Will all this science make the magic go away?  We believe that the wonder and awe of perceiving magic will no more disappear that did the beauty of the sunrise after Copernicus discovered that the earth is a sphere rotating around the sun.  Both revelations — that we are hurtling around the sun and that magic works because our brains are inherently limited — are simultaneously deeply humbling and awe-inspiring.  Increased humility deepens the mystery rather than dispels it.”  – p. 253

Their is a companion website to the book where many videos are featured.

I recommend this book.

t.n.s.r. bob

The Rev gives is 3.5 out of 4!

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