Physics of Magic

Dr. Dave Wall
Professor Emeritus
City College of San Francisco

Physics demonstrations and magic tricks may share characteristics. Many a good physics demonstration produces unexpected results and many a good magic trick is based on obvious physical principles.  The author will present a number of physics demonstrations dressed up as magic tricks and will use some obvious and some not-so-obvious performance magic (1) in explaining physical principles.  Although no great secrets of magic will be revealed, the optical principles behind a whole class of
magical effects will be demonstrated and discussed.    The author, who is co-author of a textbook at the introductory level (2), regularly co-teaches workshops for physics teachers (3) on the use of performance magic in the classroom. He is an emeritus professor of physics at the City College of San Francisco and an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Arkansas. The present road show has evolved from the Physics of Magic and Vice Versa (4), a paper he presented at the American
Association of Physics Teachers meeting in Anaheim, California, in 1975.

(1) Performance magic is the honest kind performed by stage magicians as opposed to the supernatural kind sometimes invoked by frauds and con artists. Honest magicians have a tradition, dating from the days of Harry Houdini, of debunking those frauds who use performance magic to deceive people and take their money under false pretenses.
(2) Introductory Physics, A Problem Solving Approach, Jesse David Wall and Elender Wall, Analog Press, San Francisco, ISBN 1-890493-04-X
(3) Tom Zeph and I have been invited to present this popular workshop at AAPT national meetings over five times. The latest version was at the Albuquerque meeting. Our workshop is always the first to fill of all the workshops offered.