Fooling Houdini: Alex Stone on How Magic Works

This Thursday at 11:30 a.m on Oct. 31, in the Great Hall, there couldn’t have been a more fitting guest speaker for this Halloween. Author and magician Alex Stone spent the hour explaining how and why magic works. He also entertained the audience with magic tricks.

Stone graduated from Harvard and earned a master’s degree in physics from Columbia University. The author addressed several questions such as:  “How does magic fool us?” and “How much of what we actually perceive is real?”

The magician explained that his love for magic came at a young age. His father was interested in magic, and he liked fooling his dad. “He was a scientist, and I found it interesting that he never wanted to know how the tricks were done. That was interesting to me as a man that pursued truth for a career,” he said. 

But who does want to know how the trick works? It literally takes the magic out of it. It was fascinating to know how magic worked, but it was sad to listen to him explaining that magic, well, isn’t real. 

“Magic is a kind of applied psychology,” Stone said. He explained that the tricks are in the mind of the spectator, not in the hands of the magician. Basically, magic relies on your brain being slower than what it is perceiving. 

One of the reasons that magic works is because of “inattentional blindness.” This results when an “individual fails to perceive an unexpected stimulus in plain sight.” Basically, the brain is focusing on something else and misses what is right in front of it. 

Because of this, Stone explained that he feels it’s harder to fool children than adults. Children are accused of not being able to focus, but in reality, it’s that they can focus on many things at once and can’t give their full attention to one thing. For adults, they’re good at focusing on one thing and ignoring the rest. 

Hopefully this didn’t take away the fun in magic. Although Stone was up there explaining how and why we were getting tricked, the bottom line is that we all still fell for it. Looking to still believe in magic? Halloween is just the night for that. 

The next A.P.E.X event will be held Nov. 7 at 11:30. Chuck Aaron, an Aerobatic Helicopter Pilot with be in attendance.


Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Elizabeth Armstrong