All 5 books, Edward Tufte paperback $180
All 5 clothbound books, autographed by ET $280
Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations
Beautiful Evidence
Seeing With Fresh Eyes
catalog + shopping cart
Edward Tufte e-books
Immediate download to any computer:
Visual and Statistical Thinking $5
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint $5
Seeing Around + Feynman Diagrams $5
Data Analysis for Politics and Policy $9
catalog + shopping cart
New ET Book
Seeing with Fresh Eyes:
Meaning, Space, Data, Truth
catalog + shopping cart
Analyzing/Presenting Data/Information
All 5 books + 4-hour ET online video course, keyed to the 5 books.
Magician in Visual Explanations

I heard that you worked with a magician for the chapter on magic in Visual Explanations. Who was that?

-- Anna Rothko

Jamy Ian Swiss Interview at CardMSG | MAGIC

I conducted a pretty in-depth interview with Jamy Ian Swiss a while back on my site, CardMSG | MAGIC, complete with pictures!

Check it out here:

-- Mike Guerra (email)

Excerpt from "How magicians control your mind," Boston Globe, August 3, 2008: " 'I think magicians and cognitive neuroscientists are getting at similar questions, but while neuroscientists have been looking at this for a few decades, magicians have been looking at this for centuries, millennia probably,' says Susana Martinez-Conde, a neuroscientist at the Barrow Neurological Institute and coauthor of one of the studies, published online last week in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 'What magicians do is light-years ahead in terms of sophistication and the power of these techniques.'" Related story, "Prepare to be amazed"

-- Jim Linnehan (email)

I recall the New York Times discussed the conference in 2007, and I located the article after it was described in a Wired article in April this year.

Serendiptously, my workshop at Macworld 2008 was entitled "Presentation Magic" after the suggestion was put to me it be called Presentation Zen. Since a good friend uses that title for his blog and book, I decided that my inclusion of many visual illusions and discussion of cognitive neuroscience underpinnings with respect to the visual aspects of presentation, should see the term Magic included. This is in the sense that presenters, when they understand more of how the brain works, can lead or direct an audience to their intended conclusions (cf. boring bullet points, clip art and screenbean people), analogous to the way magicians direct or misdirect their audience at will.

Funnily enough, after Macworld I caught up with Dr. Kim Silverman, Apple's Principal Research Scientist, who is a professional magician. He hosted me for dinner at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. Kim and I attended University together in the 1970s in Melbourne before he went to Cambridge to specialise in what was to become speech recognition. If you have an iPhone, much of the "guessing" of your word when you spell it is due to Kim's research.

As a postscript, I am attaching a pdf of the New York Times article, which features pictures of Teller in action.

Les Posen Clinical Psychologist Melbourne, Australia

-- Les Posen (email)

The CIA's manual about magic is now available. It served to teach staff about recognizing mis-direction and other "evidence" masking deceptions. Article is here:

Boston Globe summary is here:

CIA's Lost Magic Manual Resurfaces By Noah Shachtman November 24, 2009 | 1:37 pm | Categories: Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance At the height of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency paid $3,000 to renowned magician John Mulholland to write a manual on misdirection, concealment, and stagecraft. All known copies of the document -- and a related paper, on conveying hidden signals -- were believed to be destroyed in 1973. But recently, the manuals resurfaced, and have now been published as "The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception." Topics include working a clandestine partner, slipping a pill into the drink of the unsuspecting, and "surreptitious removal of objects by women."

This wasn't the first time a magician worked for a western government. Harry Houdini snooped on the German and the Russian militiaries for Scotland Yard. English illusionist Jasper Maskelyne is reported to created dummy submarines and fake tanks to distract Rommel's army during World War II. Some reports even credit him with employing flashing lights to "hide" the Suez Canal.

But Mulholland's contributions were far different, because they were part of a larger CIA effort, called MK-ULTRA, to control people's minds. Which lead to the Agency's infatuation with LSD, as David Hambling recounted here a few weeks ago:

In the infamous Operation Midnight Climax, unwitting clients at CIA brothels in New York and San Francisco were slipped LSD and then monitored through one-way mirrors to see how they reacted. They even killed an elephant with LSD. Colleagues were also considered fair game for secret testing, to the point where a memo was issued instructing that the punch bowls at office Christmas parties were not to be spiked.

The Boston Globe has put together a great visual summary of some of Mulholland's best tricks for the CIA: the shoelace pattern that means "follow me"; the hidden compartment to smuggle in an agent; the best ways to appear dumb and non-threatening. Because there's no better misdirection than appearing to be a fool.

-- Daniel Meatte (email)

Threads relevant to magic and illusions:

Privacy Policy