Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Everyone Hallucinates

The vanishing ball illusion is one of the most basic tricks a magician can learn: a ball is thrown repeatedly into the air and caught. Then, on the final throw, it disappears in midair. In fact, the magician has merely mimed the last throw, following the ball's imagined upward trajectory with his eyes while keeping it hidden in his hand.

But if the technique is easily explained, the phenomenon itself is not. If done right, the trick actually makes observers see the ball rising into the air on the last toss and vanishing at its apex. As Rensink points out, this is something more powerful than merely getting someone to look in the wrong direction - it's a demonstration of how easy it is to nudge the brain into the realm of actual hallucination. And cognitive scientists still don't know exactly what's causing it to happen.
How Magicians Control Your Mind

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