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/Magic is helping to unlock the mysteries of the human brain
25-10-2019, 07:04 AM
Post: #1
/Magic is helping to unlock the mysteries of the human brain
n a brightly coloured shipping container in east London, Rubens Filho is asking me to pick a card. “Any card,” he says, fanning the pack out face down. “And don’t worry, you can show me. That’s not the point of this trick.”

I pull out the seven of spades, and show it to him; he gets me to sign my name on it with a marker pen. Then he slides it back into the middle of the pack, puts the cards back into their box and puts the box on the table in front of us. “Now,” he says with a grin, “the magic begins.” Filho is 51, tall, handsome and infectiously enthusiastic about the power of magic tricks and illusions. Born in Brazil, he’s been a keen magician since adolescence. He came to Britain in 2012 to work in advertising, before, in 2015, setting up Abracademy, a startup dedicated to bringing magic – and in particular the skills needed to perform it – to the rest of us. “I think magic has a such a positive twist,” he says. “It brings this soft approach that’s hard to explain, this role of creating something beautiful.”

But he is also fascinated by the relationship between magic and neuroscience and psychology, and set up Abracademy Labs, an offshoot of Abracademy, to explore this connection. “Magic has lived in the ‘glitches’ of the brain for a long time,” he says. “How you see things, how you form beliefs, how you experience wonder. And it has the capacity to create wonder by creating something that people can’t explain. You just say ‘Wow,’ and then comes: ‘How do you do that?’ So we explore what happens when we experience something like that. We’re very interested in going deep, deep down into the brain.”


On this summer afternoon at Abracademy’s base in Hackney’s Container Park, Filho has been trying to create something beautiful, and new. We stand on either side of a small felt-topped table – the cards, tucked away in their box, between us – and Filho is a little nervous. There’s music playing from the office MacBook, one of his colleagues is filming the whole thing, and a couple of others are looking on. It turns out they have been rehearsing the trick most of the day.

“Now, there are three ways we could get your card out of the box,” he says. “We could use telekinesis and draw it out… but we’re not going to do that. We could make it rise up to the top of the pack… but we’re not going to do that either. Or…” he looks me in the eye, that grin turning into an expression of puzzlement. “Do you hear that? Do you hear anything?”

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To be honest, at first I don’t. The music, the cameraman bustling around, the fact that I’m not really sure what I am listening out for, confuse me for a second. And then, a faint buzzing behind me, as if Container Park has a wasp problem. It’s getting louder and it’s a little alarming. “Look behind you,” says Filho, with mock amazement. “What’s that?”

And there, flying gently towards me from the far end of the room, is a drone, with my signed card hanging from it by a wire. The room collapses into laughter and applause, and a big sense of relief. “We really weren’t sure if it was going to work,” he says

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/magic-neuroscience
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