Patt Morrison

<em>Patt Morrison</em> is known for its innovative discussions of local politics and culture, as well as its presentation of the effects of national and world news on Southern California. Hosted by

‘Fooling Houdini:’ The science behind the art of magic

by Patt Morrison

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Patt Morrison learns some new tricks from magician Alex Stone. Jonathan Benn/KPCC

The art of magic is a lot more than just pulling a rabbit out of a hat or sawing a person in half. It is a time-honored tradition that uses the limitations of the human mind and body to make people believe that they’re seeing things they know to be impossible.

When amateur magician Alex Stone made a spectacularly poor showing at the Magic Olympics in 2006 he initially vowed to hang up his cape for good. But he found he couldn’t bring himself to put down the wand and decided to combine other skills from his bag of tricks to become an elite practitioner of the art form. Apart from being a struggling magician, Stone was also a journalist and held a master’s degree in physics; these disciplines put him in a unique position to deconstruct the closely guarded skills and secrets of magicians and illusionists and take a look at the science behind the trickery.

In his new book, “Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind,” Stone takes us on his journey through magic tournaments, conventions, lectures, shows and encounters with eccentrics, skeptics, scholars, cheats, criminals, geniuses, legends and prodigies on his odyssey to peel back the curtain on the world of magic.


How has magic changed over time? What can science tell us about the world of illusion?


Alex Stone, magician, journalist and author of “Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind” (Harper 2012)

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