Magic tricks are fun. It could be because it is fun to be deliberately fooled and there’s the bonus we get when we figure out how and why we get fooled. I have spent long hours watching videos of magic tricks. An outstanding show is Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” series. The format is standardized: magicians do their act, and then Penn & Teller have a shot at figuring out how the trick was done. If they can’t guess — if they get fooled — then the successful magician gets a trophy and gets to appear on P&T’s Las Vegas show.
Some of the acts are truly baffling. I marvel at the range of human creativity, talent and skill. It’s not mere harmless entertainment but it makes you think and learn something about human psychology. The art and science of misdirection is on full display. From it we can learn a lot about how not to get fooled when politicians, faux gurus and other charlatans chuck bullshit at us. Continue reading