Edward De Bono based his book "Practical Thinking" around an experiment called the Black Cylinder Experiment. There's some students attending a lecture. There's a black cylinder on the table, the lecturer makes no mention of it. About ten minutes into the lecture, the cylinder suddenly falls over. The lecturer stops and then asks everyone to think about what they saw, and individually write down why they think they cylinder fell over. He collates and analyses the results.
The actual reason why the cylinder fell over is irrelevant. The purpose of the experiment is to determine how people think about such things, and how they create explanations for such things, the different ways they can be wrong and the different ways they can be right.
I suspect the explanations people give for your illusions would run a similar gamut.
Magnetism and electricity seem like magic to people who haven't a technological or scientific background or even bent of thought. Even those of us with such a background can still think there is a bit of magic in there. De Bono points out that to truly "understand science' - you must of necessity understand the mathematics behind it. There is no "alternate language" that can be used to precisely describe what is going on. This brings to mind Penrose's description of the "three worlds" - where our "mential world" can only use the very deep isomorphism between the "Platonic world" (mathematics) and the "real world" to understand what is going on. It does seem a little "magical" that such an isomorphism even exists. Yet as De Bono points out in an interview - knowing how to say the name of a bird in multiple languages is not knowledge of the bird itself. Do we truly understand electricity and magnetism in the real world (whatever that might mean). De Bono's black cylinder - he clearly is after that part of what we do - "how we understand?". We are faced with an ordinary situation that suddenly acts in a curious way (black cylinder on a table suddenly falls over). Analyzing the answers from thousands of people may give you a clue as how this process works in the mind. People want to know "the right answer" - but there is no "right answer".... there is only how you came to an understanding of what went on. But one might say it certainly acted that way because of the way it was constructed. It had to be a rotational force created by some mechanism. This sounds a bit like a magic illusion. You see something that your "common sense" says - that can't be - and you search for an explanation of how it might be accomplished, calling upon your store of knowledge acquired over your lifetime. The difference is that the magician tries to lead you down a path that makes what happens even more non-common sense.
A more flashy example of farting in gravity's general direction. Seems like a neat magnet trick at first, then gets a little mind boggling in the end.
Helicopters hover but that doesn't make them anti-gravity devices. Just to be clear, the same reasoning applies here.
This is an example of the decades old superconductivity phenomenon... with a twist. They found a superconducting material that interacts with the magnet it's hovering over (or under) in such a way that it appears locked in position. As opposed to the original superconductors which allowed magnets to wobble as they were levitated. The explanation involves quantum field theory voodoo that is still not well understood, AFAIK.
Last edited by Trigger Hippie; December 30th, 2012 at 09:11 AM.