Is seeing really believing? How sure are you that the things you think you see are real? What about the thoughts in your mind? Did you think them up on your own, or could they have been planted there by someone else?
In a new playlist from TED, master practitioners from the realms of magic, math, and science astound and entertain with amazing illusions, deceptions, and super-human achievements that will have you rethinking what's real, and also what humans are capable of.
Here's what you can learn from some of the best:
1. Context is everything.
Everything we think we see is actually a combination of the images hitting our retinas and the conclusions our brains draw about those images based on past experience. The result is that changing the context of an image has a huge effect on not only our understanding, but how it actually looks, as neuroscientist Beau Lotto explains in this fascinating talk that shows, among other things, how we may be able to hear color.
2. Your brain is remarkably easy to fool.
Magician Keith Barry calls himself a "hacker of the human brain," and in this entertaining talk, he shows exactly how powerful that can be. Using a combination of sleight-of-hand, hypnosis, and I'm not sure what else, he deceives people into thinking he's driving blindfolded, gets one person to feel when he's touching another and performs a version of the cup-and-ball illusion with unusually high stakes. And if anyone can figure out how he does the first trick with the tangled up arms, could you please tell me?
3. You're a born solver.
The desire to solve problems is hard-wired into human nature says illusionist and crossword puzzle constructor David Kwong. In this highly entertaining talk he shows how the human desire to solve and understand everything around us is hard to resist. There are more deceptions here than you may at first think.
4. The human brain can do math faster than a calculator.
"Mathemagician" Arthur Benjamin proves it can in this talk, during which he does amazing feats of mental mathematics--and lets the audience in on his thought process.
5. You can do absolutely anything, if you're willing to pay the price.
How did magician David Blaine manage to hold his breath underwater for more than 17 minutes? With months of difficult, painful, brain-threatening experimentation and preparation that only someone truly obsessed with achieving a goal would go through. How badly must he have wanted to break the world record of 16:32 to go through what he went through and take the risks he did? Is there anything you want badly enough to make that kind of sacrifice?
6. Smartphone app + sleight of hand = amazing.
Techno-illusionist Marco Tempest uses three iPods borrowed from audience members to explore deception and magic in this brief but captivating talk.