Last Thursday, Blaustein 210 was bursting at the seams. At 6:55 PM, the classroom’s entrance was bustling with students slicing off pieces of free cake, munching on free donuts and grabbing a free cup of joe. But these students were in for a treat much bigger than a few sweets and cider. That night, magic was in the air.
The presentation started at 7 PM with three pieces of rope, which at one point magically turned into one piece of rope… and then back to three. Or was it one piece of rope all along? Or three pieces all along? The audience will never know.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, the audience was then flabbergasted as the performer ripped off a piece of a dollar in front of everyone’s eyes and made the dollar from which it was ripped appear in a Tupperware box that was wrapped securely in wrapping paper. There was no way the dollar had been placed there before the show. I saw the dollar after the trick was over and trust me—that dollar fit perfectly with the ripped corner.
If these occurrences don’t make sense to you, you’re not alone. Many of us who were at the show left a bit disturbed because even the mathematics major in the back row, the philosophy major in the second row and our very own Professor Turner just couldn’t put a finger on how these things happened. I guess that means the magician really knew how to do his job…
But Brian Miller is more than your average magician. Working not just at colleges but also at corporate events, Miller has developed a name for himself in the field of magic. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is check out the videos and reviews on his website, www.brianmillermagic.com. There’s a reason, though, why Brian only performs for colleges and corporate events, steering clear of children’s shows.
Miller’s performances are not limited to dumbfounding tricks, but also include very thought-provoking mini-lectures on the philosophy of magic. This comedic and quirky magician has been honored with two national amateur philosopher awards. Also included in his arsenal of things many people wish they had is his dual Bachelor of Science in philosophy and mathematics.
Eager to discuss his passions with us further, Brian stayed after his show so students could ask him anything that they wanted to about magic and philosophy. One student cut right to the chase and asked Brian about the morality of magic. Are magicians liars? What about fortune-tellers? Brian responded eloquently: “You are being lied to when you go into something thinking that you will be hearing the truth, but then the truth is not given to you. I assume that all of you came into this show knowing that I was going to trick you, so I haven’t lied to you. But with fortune-tellers, you go in thinking that you’re going to hear your future or thinking that you’re going to talk to your deceased grandmother, so in that case, I’d say you’re being lied to.”
People believe that fortune-tellers have a special power because if they predict something for our future and it does happen, we’ll remember it because we remember coincidences. But if it doesn’t happen, we won’t remember what the fortune-teller said because it’s no longer noteworthy. More often than not, these fortune-tellers have told us something false. We simply don’t remember what was false, only the vague prediction that may have come true.
There was one thing, though, that students weren’t allowed to ask: “How did you do that?!” But here are a few things Brian did tell us. He filled us in on a few secrets that can make a good magician a great magician. First off, great magicians allow members of their audience to examine the props being used. In our case, Brian let three students touch each strand of rope that he used for his first trick so they could physically see that there were three separate pieces of rope, confusing them when he then made the rope look like it was all of one piece.
Secondly, great magicians emphasize open-handedness. Many times, audiences assume that magicians have something hidden up their sleeves, but Brian’s sleeves were rolled up. He was also sure to open his hands before he somehow made an object disappear.
The third trick Brian told us is that “repetition creates the psychological impression of maximum info.” The audience saw the rope trick more than once. The first time, the audience didn’t really know what to expect, but the second time, we were able to really look and try to figure out what he was doing. When left confused after a second demonstration, it is much easier to think that your eyes couldn’t have missed anything and that it must have just been the power of magic.