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How to Bend a Spoon with Just Your Mind

by Michael Shermer, Jan 06 2009

Most skeptics know that self-proclaimed psychics such as Uri Geller, who claim to be able to bend cutlery with just their minds, are actually using magic and trickery to do so. Of course, if they could really bend metal with just their minds you have to wonder why at some point they always have to touch the spoon. The answer is obvious to skeptics: because the only way to bend a spoon is by physically bending it! But how?

In this video demonstration I bend spoons and forks and give you just enough information so that you can figure how how to do it yourself (without actually providing a full reveal of the trick). This video demonstration was inspired by James “the Amazing” Randi, whose miniature likeness supervises the entire process (you have to watch the video to see what I mean). As Randi likes to say, “if psychics are bending spoons with psychic power they’re doing it the hard way.”

This video demonstration was shot in the library of the Skeptics Society and was filmed, edited, and produced by Josh Timonen, the highly talented web designer and videographer for RichardDawkins.net. Josh has produced a number of excellent DVDs with Richard in conversation with a number of thinkers (e.g., “The Four Horsemen” with Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris). Go to www.richarddawkins.net to check them out.

So watch this video and then go to a restaurant tonight where they use relatively cheap cutlery (i.e., easy to bend) and amaze your friends and family!

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Rating: 3.8/5 (62 votes cast)
How to Bend a Spoon with Just Your Mind, 3.8 out of 5 based on 62 ratings

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64 Responses to “How to Bend a Spoon with Just Your Mind”

  1. Sean says:

    That Randi quote is a nice summary of one of the first things I thought of all the psychic nonsense when I first started becoming a skeptic. Bending spoons and guessing the card in my hand seems rather useless. If Geller and his ilk were for real they should be doing things more useful like bending the spoon back so I can use it or finding my car keys for me. Not a ringing endorsement for psychic powers being a new step in human evolution.
    “I have psychic powers!”
    “Yeah, what can you do?”
    “I can bend spoons with my mind!”
    “Yeah… umm, that’s great… I’m never inviting you over for dinner.”

  2. Beelzebud says:

    Great post. Keep it going with subjects like this, and stay away from your free market sermons.

  3. SeanJJordan says:

    I loved the video. I’d love to see more like it!

    My only gripe is that you aren’t demonstrating HOW you did the tricks, so it’s not too dissimilar to what a magician is doing. I know it’s an old bag of tricks to a lot of folks, but for the youtube crowd, it might be good to explain that you picked up an already broken spoon for the third trick and that you simply turned an already bent pipe for the fourth.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Brooke says:

    Fun video – clean and simple. I do agree with Beelzebud: keep it going with subjects such as these rather than free market sermons. (Sorry!) (:

  5. Cambias says:

    I for one am glad to see someone tackling economic quackery as well as other kinds.

  6. GL says:

    I love the bent spoon trickery. Count me with Cambias on the economic posts too.

  7. Jim Shaver says:

    Thanks, Mr. Shermer, for this well-made video. Your conjuring skills are apparently coming along nicely. However, and I mean this in the kindest way, I do hope you keep your day job. I’m just saying. :D

    Hey, I think you should make a video about economics next. That would be great! Cambias and I would really appreciate it.

  8. MadScientist says:

    I always use my mind to bend spoons (whenever I do bend spoons). My mind sends signals to some muscles, the muscles twitch, and the spoon bends – amazing! It’s such a complex procedure, few people on the planet have any appreciation of what’s involved – and yet anyone can do it.

    One of my favorites is based on the persistence-of-vision effect which is quite exaggerated in rooms lit with fluorescent lamps. I simply take a spoon and wave it and the spoon wobbles as if it were a string of licorice.

    I’m somewhat disappointed that people are still so hung up on spoon tricks. Isn’t there some more interesting trick being passed off as ‘psychic’? I’d like to have fun discussing the tricks rather than hearing the same thing over and over again.

  9. Ron Holmstrom says:

    Great! But, keep the economy thoughts coming, too.

  10. azure says:

    As long as there are people who are gullable, there will be Gellers and Madoffs in the world!! Thanks for debunking the spoon-bending tricks. But how to do a similar video on Madoff and his ilk??

  11. MadScientist says:

    @azure:

    It’s not so easy to explain Madoff and similar con artists. What is now known as ‘social engineering’ is a very complex topic (nowhere near as simple as spoon bending), and even being familiar with the issues will not guarantee that you wouldn’t find yourself a victim of such a scam one day. The ‘social engineering’ term is relatively new I think; con artists like Madoff have likely been operating throughout history and even preceeding written history. One tip to help protect yourself though: just keep asking people *how* they make you money – and switch on your bullshit detector. If you don’t get a sensible and verifiable straight answer, you’re probably being conned.

  12. Sienna says:

    Didn’t Richard Wiseman already do a debunk spoonbending video in 2008?

  13. Jeremy C says:

    There seems to be a misconception amongst sceptics that in order to be sceptical about a subject you first have to be an expert in that subject. By the same token being sceptical about something does not make you an expert in that subject.

    I think that Mr Shermer’s heart is in the right place when he tackles economic fallacies and scams and there are as many of them as there are homoeopathic remedies, but perhaps Mr Shermer needs to get a couple of forensic auditors in the studio and get some experts to comment.

    I personally really couldn’t give a crap whether Darwin was right or wrong and put creationism into the same catagory as any other unreasonable (as in cannot be reasoned with) philosophy. The argument is tiresome, boring and has no REAL impact on the quality of anybody’s life. Economic cons and political cons do real damage. Kudos to Mr Shermer for opening the door to debate.

  14. BillyJoe says:

    Sorry, but…

    You couldn’t give a crap whether Darwin was right or wrong!
    Am I hearig you right?
    For your information, and as the multitude of evidence from a wide variety of diswciplines shows:

    Darwin was correct.

    And no real impact on anyones life!
    Whose delusion are you living in?
    Evolution is the basis of all science

    No impact on anyone’s life, my ass!

    Sorry again – well, for you, that is.
    BillyJoe

  15. Roberto G. says:

    Where may I find the video?

  16. Jay Barron says:

    The problem is that if people want to believe, they will, even if proven wrong. I was talking about (read complaining about) Uri Geller to a guy at the school I taught at, and he said Geller HAD to be real, cause he saw him change the time on a watch without touching the stem, only holding it between two fingers, and you can’t do that with a simple magic trick. I’ve studied magic for years, and I told him to give me his watch, which he did. I then did the time changing trick, as well or maybe better than Geller (the guy being less than two feet away from me the entire time) and I handed him back the watch, now reading three hours different. The entire trick took about six seconds to perform. The guy looked at the watch and said, “Yeah, but Geller uses psychic ability to do this, not magic tricks!” So much for proof.

  17. David Strutt says:

    The spoon bending was fun, but how about some more free market sermons?

  18. Skepticissimus says:

    He didn’t show how the steel bar actually got bent, as he did with the spoons and the fork. ???

  19. John in Pocatello, Idaho says:

    Keep up the good work, Michael.

    Oh – and since economists like to tell us that what they do is science, free market economics is fair game for skeptics.

  20. DataWaveTaGo says:

    Thanks.
    Of course the all-powerful spoon benders are helping mankind with their powers, such as auto body repair, or perhaps fixing pacemakers in situ – right?

    Spoon Bender’s Maxim

    “In the service of man I fleece the gullible.”

  21. Richard says:

    Evolution is the basis of all science? BillyJoe, please! Way before string theory, e=mc2, or even Darwin, there was (gasp) Christianity with this crazy idea that people were the pinicle of G-G-G-God’s (oh, there I’ve said it . . .) creation. Modern science was the natural outcome of the doctrine that Humankind was actually created to take charge of and care for this world. Investigations into the creation were encouraged as another way to appreciate the Creator and honor Him. Even if religion is crap, it sometimes lays a golden egg.

  22. DogBreath says:

    Steel bar bent? Concentrate on the slowly changing position of Michael’s left thumb.

    We can have slave market economics for some folks. You get to be the slave.

  23. Sean says:

    I tried bending a spork with my mind but I bent my mind instead…

  24. ericvb says:

    Great video ! Just keep it coming ! Your friends here in Europe are watching too…

  25. Richard says:

    Michael Shermer does good work, just a shame he isn’t more sceptical about “free” market ideology.

  26. J says:

    Anybody actually try any of these? I did, and it seems even Michael has some b.s. up his sleeve.

  27. David "Adam Smith" Myers says:

    Bending spoons is easy to understand.

    Understanding “the free-market” philosophy (self-ownership, individual dignity, and individual freedom) is apparently too much for the “pointy-headed intellectuals.”

    If we red-toothed, survival-of-the meanest, “Neanderthals” don’t persist with our demands for non-collectivist, non-socialist, non-”progressive” self-defense against the oppressive “progressives,” the world will grind to re-birth of the “Dark Ages.”

  28. David "Adam Smith" Myers says:

    It’s wonderful that there actually are several conscious, wide-awake, commentators who are interested-in and favorable-to economic study and the free market.

    One of the biggest “cons” in history is right now in the process of exposure and unraveling.

    I refer to the inflation of the US Dollar. For “pointy-headed intellectuals,” that means issuing currency (FRNs — Federal Reserve Notes — money-substitutes) without the “backing” of real, true money — gold, silver, or other “precious” metal bullion or coins.

    Contrary to popular, “mainstream, monetarist economic theory,” money AIN’T what the government says it is!

    Money is what “THE MARKET” says it is. And for over 5,000 years, “THE MARKET” has said that money is gold, silver, platinum, etc., coins or bullion bars.

    Why, pray tell, do you think all those Billions and Trillions of FRNs seem to have vanished into thin air in the blink of a hedgefund?

    The sleight-of-hand and sleight-of-derivatives pulled off over the last several decades makes Houdini looks like a clumsy oaf.

    This con has gone on since 1933 when FDRoosevelt simultaneously “devalued” the USDollar and confiscated all privately-held US gold coins. Even such “free-market conservatives” such as Milton Friedman didn’t understand what they were doing. He advocated a steady 3% to 4% annual “inflation rate” so there would be plenty of “money” (actually, currency) to “grow” the economy.

    The predators among us understood thoroughly how to “game the system,” and they did it!

    All that new, unbacked currency has “value” (purchasing power) ONLY because the “sheeple” don’t know any better, and they have faith that someone will accept their FRNs in exchange for valuable goods.

    They are, however, helped along in their “faith” by legislation that declared FRNs to be “legal tender.”

    Legal tender means if someone offers you payment in FRNs, you gotta accept them or face government-administered punishment.

    But exposing this con requires reading, research, thinking, etc. Is that too much to ask of our “sheeple?”

    Apparently so.

  29. What the hell does this economist know about debunking psychokinesis?

  30. I was just thinking how I like these kinds of things, but hate it when he drifts off into Libertarian economics. I see from the comments that I’m not the only one.

  31. rouven says:

    Hi michael,

    a big hello from the german skeptics, great video, my congratulations.
    Next time, I would like to see a video about Spontaneous human combustion ;-))
    rouven

  32. MadScientist says:

    This doesn’t have anything to do with spoon bending, but many posters seem bent on economics …

    @David “Adam Smith” Myers

    The whole point of modern currency (which is just a part of economics) is that using ‘precious metals’ really isn’t a sensible basis for currency; for example:

    1. you have to stockpile the metals and can’t use them for anything else

    2. moving the metals is a horrible task and you always have a fairly good chance of losing it (aircraft crashes, ship sinks, etc)

    3. relying on precious metals chokes economies because you are now somewhat dependent on how fast you can get that stuff out of the ground. Just look at estimates of how much gold has been extracted over the course of human history – it’s really not all that much

    4. nations with large precious metal reserves have an enormous advantage over nations with little or no such reserves; this imposes a natural economic disadvantage to some nations. Admittedly nature already does a pretty good job in places; agriculture is never easy in desert regions.

    You also seem to confuse currency with the stock market. The way the stockmarket goes, you initially sell stocks to raise money for projects. Dividends are paid out to some stocks if there is a profit. Now dividends are often meager, so how can you ‘make’ more money? Well, you sell your piece of paper to some sucker at a vastly inflated price – he pays you out, he imagines that his piece of paper is worth more than the value printed on it, but if people lose interest in buying that piece of paper he hasn’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell of redeeming any of the money he paid for it. The problem is not so much with the currency itself but unrelated pieces of paper being traded for an imaginary value – there actually is not enough printed currency to pay out all the imagined values of stocks.

    Bad lenders were selling pieces of paper to all sorts of people who in turn promised to make money for other people by investing their money. There were so many intricate scams running and very few people questioning what productive work was going on to back the returns being claimed. Well, the bad lenders found themselves in big trouble and suddenly everyone who was hoodwinked into trading pieces of paper which ultimately were based on bad loans found themselves with worthless pieces of paper. Now the stockmarket got into it in a big way because many companies which trade on the stockmarket bought into this nonsense. Many people who would normally trade huge volumes of stock suddenly found they really didn’t have much money to trade with and on top of that became wary of buying any stock at all – so trading volumes collapsed.

    Personally I see no con in the modern currency system, but the stockmarket as it is currently operated is one huge con. Stock prices should reflect genuine productivity, not an emotion-driven desire to trade a piece of paper for ever increasing amounts of money with no corresponding increase in sales and profits. Stock prices for ostrich farms quickly drop to a sensible market value ($0.00), but stock in large established companies can be traded for unrealistic prices for a *very* long time until something like the current crisis pops up and everyone gets a reality check.

    I’m a firm believer in the free market with regulation coming in as a last resort to maintain a largely beneficial system; regulation cannot possibly be entirely disposed of. I do not agree at all with the current worldwide attitude of government interference in the market – this results in artificially propping up prices, driving up inflation, and propping up unprofitable companies at the expense of the taxpayer. This all sounds too much like fascism to me. In a free market, GM would collapse due to its poor business practises and the better competitors will grow and fill in the void; perhaps new players will even come into the game. Dealing with banks though is a far more complex issue because they hold the fortunes of large sections of the population, but even there I don’t see any merit in the government’s multi-billion bailout.

  33. michael says:

    How do you get the video to work? Click where?

  34. RoaldFalcon says:

    I can tell you exactly how this trick was performed. He wants you to think he prepared those spoons beforehand, but that’s all part of the trick.

    Just before the video started filming, he sacrificed a goat and called forth all of the unholy minions of Satan in a ceremony of great fire and noise to give his human mind power over the spoons in exchange for his eternal soul.

    Just to spread the lie of materialism.

    Don’t be fooled, people!

  35. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    Look out, Banacheck!

  36. Tony (aqk) says:

    Most skeptics know that self-proclaimed psychics such as…

    Most? hmmmnn…
    OK, Michael…! I want the names of those other “skeptics”!
    ;-)

  37. TJZaman says:

    Personally, I was more fascinated by Melvin Konner’s Tangled Wing and Carol Tavris’ Mistakes were made in the background both excellent books by wonderful scientists…but what is Crying about and who is it by I wonder. And of course, thank you Dr. Shermer for showing us your magical powers, uh, I mean magician tricks.

  38. Ann Hubbard says:

    May I share my favorite spoon-bending trick? It’s always fun, and a family favorite, while sitting around the table at Denny’s–though a bit hard to demonstrate in text.

    1. Fold your hands in front of you, fingers interlocked, as though praying. (I know, I know–play along)

    2. Spoon is held, bowl down, between your hands, so that the handle is not visible. (Spoon is upright when trick begins, but only bowl visible to your audience)

    3. Lean over your hands and “press” down on the spoon so that it appears to be bending. (the trick is that you let the handle slide down, unnoticed, between your “praying” hands. All your audience will see is the bowl changing position)

    4. Everyone will oooh and ahhh, and, I guarantee, sombeody will say “Don’t wreck their silverware!”

    5. Toss the undamaged spoon onto the table.

    I swear by this trick as a conversation starter, a bar-bet winner, and a way to strike up a conversation about sleight of hand and skepticism.

    I love spoon bending, I love tricks and cleverness–just don’t go on Johnny Carson and claim it is your “mind.” (I guess it is the mind in a way–the mind of yet-another shyster)

    Enjoy–

    from grumpy_otter

    p.s. My other favorite bar bet is–”I can drink the entire shot hiding under this napkin without touching the napkin!”

  39. Yeahbutwhataboutthis says:

    Quote Shermer: “the only way to bend a spoon is by physically bending it!” If by “physically” you mean “manually” then no, Mr. Shermer, you can also heat a spoon and allow gravity to attract one end toward earth. You see, there are alternative explanations besides magic.

  40. In case you didn’t quite get how the last two tricks were done (like me) check out the wikipedia article on spoon bending, they reveal the tricks:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_bending

    The second to last one is a weakened spoon i think where it was already near the point of failure.

    The last one he is simply rotating it.

  41. Oh yeah, and since most of the comments are still referring back to your free market economics post, I must chime in to say: keep them up!

    Economics is a science, professors publish paper on it which are peer reviewed, etc. I don’t imagine Shermer or any other writers here have worried too much about offending people on the way to finding the truth – otherwise, would they post about atheism? So yes, I think free market economics is fair game.

  42. oldebabe says:

    Ever since I first heard about the spoon bending stuff, I’ve been wondering, “so what”? What is it FOR, if all that these people can do is bend (even if it were possible to do so with one’s mind)a spoon and other odd stuff like that? It’s all useless and meaningless, actually, isn’t it, except, as you (Dr. Shermer) have shown, for fun or entertainment (and of course to refute ‘magic’)? And there will always bound to be someone somewhere who will stare, big-eyed and believing, of any and all such nonsense, won’t there? Against so many of the dangers of non-reason and con, this doesn’t seem to be such a much…

  43. Cedric Rogers Ph.D. says:

    As a successful scientist and aerospace engineer with a Ph.D. in Solid State Physics I applaud healthy skepticism as a part of the scientific method. Meanwhile I am most skeptical about people who refer to themselves as “Skeptics.” They appear to be the fanatics of criticism for its own sake. They oppose psychic functioning, alchemy and astrology as if these subjects were all totally anti-science.

    My 34-year career in cryogenics, infrared, microwaves, semiconductor manufacture, reliability and satellite communications was saved from failure by my being taught to function in the mysterious “psychic” world. I found that science management in the 1970s put demands on me that were scientifically impossible to achieve, and the psychic functioning enabled me to produce miracles and keep my job. Management doesn’t ask for scientific explanations if the results are successful; only when there is repeated failure do they demand a full accounting of the science. I have many long stories to tell another time.

    Once in the seventies I watched Yuri Geller bending spoons on television. I have never trusted demonstrations on television so I too was skeptical but his display was impressive, as was the video by Michael Shermer. When Yuri Geller asked a member of the audience to draw a picture and hide it from him, there was another chance to be skeptical, knowing all the tricks that can be pulled on such a situation. On the other hand with my having trained for this one also, there was no doubt that psychic functioning does happen. I already had guessed the picture from miles away in my home that the person had drawn and hidden from us and from Geller, before he told us his answer there in the studio. Anyone can be taught to do that one, even a skeptic.

    Another time the same year, I heard Yuri Geller on the radio suggesting the audience at home get out their broken analog watches and place them on the radio and he would start them up. I put four old watches that hadn’t worked for years on the radio and at the end of the program I noticed they had all started up. I have used the power of the mind to heal disobedient machines in my job several times, and once developed a whole new procedure for processing semiconductor devices using this method.

    My skepticism of self appointed “Skeptics” is for the following reasons. A book about Yuri Geller described how he was constantly challenged in that he had started his public career as a “magician,” one who acknowledges that he is using “sleight of hand” or “cheating” so cleverly that no one can spot what he has done. Apparently his right to change his game was denied. When he turned to psychic phenomenon, no one would believe he was demonstrating that phenomenon I know so well. His choice to bend spoons, an entertaining but useless occupation didn’t help his case.

    By coincidence (as we say in the psychic community), I was also reading a book at that time about Houdini, who wanted the world to know he was the greatest “magician” and never claimed to be anything by a “genuine fraud.” The skeptics of that time would not believe him either. That’s what skeptics do. They said no one could fool anyone that well and that his tricks were a clear demonstration of psychic powers. This annoyed him immensely because he was not a psychic. Skeptics can be very annoying.

    I did not have any natural psychic ability that I knew of before I took a course in the subject and I was very embarrassed as a scientist listening to this “pseudo-science” as I called it, and maintained my healthy skepticism to this day. The results proved otherwise and I was wrong. Just as Relativity doesn’t fit into Newton’s science so too psychic functioning doesn’t either. One must fit Newton’s science into Relativity and accept the larger picture on faith until it stands the test of time. So too science must fit within the spiritual world as a very powerful and restricted picture of how some things in the universe are connected. To be skeptical of my declaration is to believe that my life didn’t happen. I don’t believe it myself; so to prove it to you is impossible.

    Most scientists in the United States believe in God. Newton was discredited by some because of the same belief which actually drove his quest for knowledge. The majority of Americans (~90%) believe in God. The rules of science are not formed by a majority opinion; or are they?

    Cedric Rogers, Ph.D.

  44. George Kimball, Ph.D. says:

    Cedric, what the f&*) are you talking about?

  45. Yikes, Cedric passes more logical fallacies than my Uncle Bunky passes gas. Hopefully, it’s not too late for Dr. Rogers to get his money back on that ‘Ph.D’.

  46. rocco says:

    Thank you I shall discuss your trick on cable access tongiht while at the same time obtaining my Ph.D. from silverspoon International.

  47. Joe NYC says:

    “I have used the power of the mind to heal disobedient machines in my job several times, and once developed a whole new procedure for processing semiconductor devices using this method.”

    A doctor indeed!! Can you get my old Nintendo system to work properly over a phone call???

  48. Joe NYC says:

    By the way…what “method” are you referring to Cedric? Placing malfunctioning watches on a radio for a bit of time and getting them to work? Do photocopiers fit on top of radios if they’re not working?

    And if you truly are a Ph.D. in SS Physics, then did any other explanations other than psychic powers come to mind in the case of the “fixed” watches? Maybe something like considering the type of radio they were placed on and whether there were any magnets in them strong enough to perhaps dislodge stuck moving parts? I know you could do that by hand by smacking around the watch, but I still don’t understand what “method” of psychic ability you are talking about……..

    Put up a video on youtube and maybe we’ll buy it……………………..but don’t get your hopes up.

    metaphysics = junk

  49. Max says:

    I have the power of foot to heal disobedient machines.

  50. Big Jim Slade, PhD, DDS, MD, LMNOP says:

    Has nobody seen the Matrix? There is no spoon.

  51. Richard Cadot says:

    I am neither a “believer” nor a “skeptic”…

    Of all the “official skeptics”, I tend to like Michael Shermer best for the respectful way in which he talks about science, beliefs and such. I may disagree on certain epistemological claims he makes but I’m sure we could have a very interesting conversation.

    But as a closeup magician, I have spent years and years of training, practice and lots of money (courses, books, DVDs, workshops, props, etc) to become one. It takes an awful lot of skill and experience to transform any “magic trick” into a magical and entertaining experience for the audience.

    So I must admit that I am very disappointed to see Mr Shermer, obviously a non-magician, perform a spoon bending trick (rather badly, I’m affraid to say) to reveal the trick to his followers and beyond. Having magicians perform miracles and, without revealing the trick, just tell the audience that what he does is an illusion should be enough.

    Of course, there are those who use these tricks and pretend that whatever they do is real. But if frauds use magic tricks to make a name for themselves and skeptics reveal their tricks to expose them, what will become of our beautiful art? The masked magician exposed many stage illusions and because of his show, many magicians lost a LOT of money: they couldn’t present their illusions anymore and lost contracts, had to rebuild new illusions which is very expensive and retrain themselves and their staff for the new illusions.

    I know the magician James Randi doesn’t refrain from exposing tricks if it means exposing frauds. One could make a case for this. But let us be clear: James Randi isn’t a spokesman for the magical community. Other eminent magicians (Jamy Ian Swiss comes to mind) have noticed that even after showing a spoon bending trick to believers, they tend to say that this was just a trick and that there are still real psychics out there doing it with the power of their mind… In other words, exposing tricks is harmful to magicians and useless as a debunking techique. Only people already skeptical are convinced by such exposure but they are not the people skeptics should worry about.

    In short, I wish Mr Shermer would remove this video from circulation out of respect for magicians and find a more effective way of debunking frauds.

    Thank you,

    Richard Cadot

  52. tmac57 says:

    Richard Cardot- It occurred to me reading your objection to Dr. Shermer’s reveal of the spoon bending trick, that first of all, he only gave away the most obvious method of which there are several other more subtle ones. But beyond that, what irritates me about the complaints by magicians, is why weren’t you guys out there in full force taking down people like Geller yourselves instead of leaving it to Randi to almost single handedly having to debunk his ‘psychic’ claims? You would not have had to give anything away, just show, as Randi did that it could be a trick. And yes, there are those that would continue to believe anyway, but I disagree that “In other words, exposing tricks is harmful to magicians and useless as a debunking techique” ,for the simple fact that there WILL be those that will realize that they had been taken in, and others that will have a seed of doubt planted in their brain whether they realize it or not. That’s all that it take sometimes, just a little nudge.
    The complaint about the masked magician is a totally different matter, and I agree with you on that, but why didn’t professional magicians come out against the people defrauding the public like Geller and James Hydrick? Weren’t they worried that their craft was being misused and lead to their tricks being exposed? I know that you all must have talked about this among yourselves, but to allow people to be misled was where Randi drew the line, and he almost never had to tell how it was done,only that it didn’t have to be done with supernatural powers.

  53. Richard Cadot says:

    tmac57 – You ask where I was (for I cannot talk for other magicians) when Uri Geller was “defrauding” the public… Well, I was about only 10 years old playing with a magic set… :-)

    But seriously, I think it is unfair to expect magicians (or anybody else for that matter) to become “active skeptics” (i.e. part of what looks to my secular point of view like a religious movement) if we are to protect our secrets. Nowadays, anybody can learn about magic because for the first time in history, magicians’ secret are widely printed. I suspect that if it becomes abused, it will slowly fall back into secrecy. It’s already happening. I have learned tricks which are not anywhere in print and I consider them precious treasures.

    You say you are irritated by magicians’ complaints because we are robbed of our creative tools simply because most do not share apparently your view of the situation. I am against poverty but I don’t go around robbing rich people because “I” feel they should share with poor people!

    Which leads me back to your response when you said that by exposing tricks: “there WILL be those that will realize that they had been taken in, and others that will have a seed of doubt planted in their brain whether they realize it or not” Althought I do not have a scientific study on this, at least Mr Swiss shared a personal experience as a magician with a spoon bending believer and it clearly didn’t work. The believer remained a believer. You “assume” that there “WILL” be those who will see the truth. Where’s the proof? And then, you say that the others will have a seed of doubt planted in their brain… Your claim is unfalsifiable. Whether it works or not, exposing tricks is always, in your mind, helping the public. Sounds to me like a cold reading claim you guys are so desperate to debunk as well… It can go either way and yet, the claim will always be right. Besides, I personaly often have to remind people that my tricks are illusions and yet, some still believe I must have some psychic powers… Those are the very people you are trying to “save”. Not very effective, is it?

    Finally, I suggested Mr Shermer find some other way of debunking than by showing how a trick is done only because he is a leading figure in the skeptical community and a model. If he validates this debunking method, it makes it all right for other “skeptics” to expose tricks too. I wish Mr Shermer who, with all due respect, is the offending party in this case, would at least respond to my objections and give us his point of view on the matter.

    Richard Cadot

  54. tmac57 says:

    Richard-Your response was so full of logical fallacies that it would take more time than I want to spend pointing them out. Other readers will readily see them, but to your specific assertion:”You “assume” that there “WILL” be those who will see the truth. Where’s the proof? “..no I am no assuming here because in 1980 I was watching James Hydrick on “That’s Incredible” TV show, performing ‘psychic’ feats of moving objects with his mind, and I was totally buying into it, until he did a ‘feat’ where he caused a toothpick laid crosswise across another to hop up and down. I’m sure that you know the trick, and so did I, and I instantly realized that the guy was a total fake. Randi famously exposed him on another TV show, without disclosing any secret by the way, other than showing that he couldn’t perform under controlled conditions. But the thing that did it for me ,was knowing that one trick, the rest came tumbling down like a house of cards.
    I have heard many similar stories since joining the skeptics movement, and although I can’t ‘prove’ them I do believe them based on my own experience. I am not advocating that we all go out and expose every magic trick, but do you really want people to actually believe that your craft is real? I can’t help but get the impression that some magicians really want people to sincerely believe that they are doing something supernatural so that it enhances their abilities, which is why they(for the most part) remained mute when they saw con men (and women) out there fleecing the public (hey, why should we blow their cover,they have to make a living too you know?) In any case, just like the fact that my learning the simple toothpick trick didn’t bring down the magic industry, I don’t think exposing an already widely known spoon bending trick will either. I still enjoy magic very much because 99.9 % of it is still mysterious to me, and I personally like it that way. I turn off the ‘magic tricks exposed’ shows whenever I see them, because I don’t want them spoiled for me, just like I don’t turn to the last page of a mystery novel to spoil the ending.

  55. Richard Cadot says:

    tmac57 – When someone says I’m being illogical but does not care to prove this point, he or she may as well tell me he or she believes my magic is the work of the devil but does not care to prove it other than by saying that it will be clear to other christians… You said: “Other readers will readily see [my logical fallacies]” It is thus clear to me that other people who “think” as you do will “see” what you see, not that it is true. And you talk about “my” logical fallacies?

    This is exactly what irritates me… Most so-called “skeptics” make as many unsubstanciated claims as believers, are just as condenscending in the certainty of possessing the “Truth” and rely as much on their “gang” for support. That is why (among other things) I consider the so-called skeptical movement as being religious.

    That being said, I totally understand how seeing a magic trick may have changed “your” mind on psychics but what I meant to say was that neither of us has “scientific proof” that exposure helps or not, just personal anecdotes. But you seem to acknowlegde this point which is a good starting point for a fruitful exchange.

    As for how other magicians react to all this, I cannot talk for them. But again, you appeal to a sense or a lack of morality (like christians often do) on the part of magicians for their silence. Do I need to remind you that “morality” has to do with “beliefs” whatever they might be? So again, hurting the trade of magicians who rely on those secrets to put bread on the table to feed their children may seem quite immoral to others. The world is not black and white as religious believers seem to think; there are many other valid points of view and disagreeing with skeptics don’t make others “illogical”.

    I agree with you that spoon bending has already been widely exposed. But there must still be a lot of people who don’t know about this trick since it continues to be exposed by skeptics… Hmmm… Sounds pretty logical to me. And my point (I encourage you to read my last comment again) was not specifically about the “spoon bending trick” but rather about a highly regarded skeptic exposing a trick… Any trick. How many other tricks will need to be exposed before the world is “converted” to skepticism?

    Finally, I’m happy that you don’t try to learn tricks the “easy way” and that you realize that magic can be so much fun. Unfortunately, as a magician, I can tell you that given the opportunity, a great number of people WILL want to learn the secrets of our trade because uncertainty is hard to cope with for most people… And yes, uncertainty is part of the magical art and should remain this way.

    If you want to make a difference, I suggest you should concentrate on exposing financial, scientific and political frauds… They harm us more than anything else in this world. Remember that most of us all want to do good in this life… We are all aiming at the same goal from different perspectives and nobody has a hold on Truth with a capital “T”.

  56. tmac57 says:

    Richard- Paraphrased “Shermer is wrong to expose spoon bending as a trick, because it can ultimately cause magicians to lose money” I see this as argument from final consequences,with a little dose of slippery slope.
    Richard-”The masked magician exposed many stage illusions and because of his show, many magicians lost a LOT of money: they couldn’t present their illusions anymore and lost contracts, had to rebuild new illusions which is very expensive and retrain themselves and their staff for the new illusions.” This strikes me as a straw man argument, since this is not what Shermer is doing and I doubt that he has cost anyone any money, but I take your bigger point about the masked magician.
    Richard-”But seriously, I think it is unfair to expect magicians (or anybody else for that matter) to become “active skeptics” (i.e. part of what looks to my secular point of view like a religious movement) if we are to protect our secrets.” This is just a misrepresentation of what I said :”You would not have had to give anything away, just show, as Randi did that it could be a trick.” Fair or not fair, I never said anything about giving up your secrets. On the contrary, my point was that if you proactively showed, without giving anything away, that these feats could be done without supernatural powers then that might not have led to other non-magicians feeling that they needed to show explicitly what was happening.
    Richard-”I am against poverty but I don’t go around robbing rich people because “I” feel they should share with poor people!” False analogy. Shermer is not robbing anyone, the trick is already widely known and not ‘owned’ by anyone. He is merely showing how a common parlor trick is being misused as psychic powers. A worthy goal in my mind.
    Richard-”Althought I do not have a scientific study on this, at least Mr Swiss shared a personal experience as a magician with a spoon bending believer and it clearly didn’t work. The believer remained a believer. You “assume” that there “WILL” be those who will see the truth. Where’s the proof?” Well I told you my own story which while anecdotal ,is proof enough for me.I’ll tell you what, you accept my anecdote, and I’ll accept your’s about Mr. Swiss.Deal?
    Richard-”And then, you say that the others will have a seed of doubt planted in their brain… Your claim is unfalsifiable. ” Well only to the extent that any study in psychology is dependent on the subjective experience of the subjects. But sometimes you just have to accept what people say about changes in their belief.Remember your anecdote?
    Richard-”I personaly often have to remind people that my tricks are illusions and yet, some still believe I must have some psychic powers… Those are the very people you are trying to “save”. Not very effective, is it?” You seem to have set up a false dichotomy between those that don’t believe at all, and those that will never be shaken from their belief. This leaves out a full spectrum of people who just aren’t sure, and could go either way. I full understand that ‘true believers’ are a difficult case.
    Is that enough? I doubt it.

  57. rory says:

    the steel bar is easy to do. just get a bar, bend it in your hands and rotate it so it looks straight. then, as you start to rub it with your fingers, roll it gently away from you and it looks like its bending there and then before your eyes. piece of piss. cant explain the spoon breaking though, would love to know how its done

  58. Jim Zwinge says:

    Kinda boring.

    We’ve all seen magicians fake real phenomenon.

    I say, “If you want to use magic tricks to bend spoons, you’re doing it the hard way.”

    If you haven’t experienced a real ‘spoon bending,’ you have no right to criticize it – from a distance – as cowards do.

  59. Occam's Spork says:

    The only problem with the bent bar trick is it only works on camera, I doubt that an illusionist could manage to maintain the bar’s angle to his audience long enough to convince them that it is straight.

    Rory: the broken spoon would have been weakened beforehand, so that the heat from the light wobbling Shermer was subjecting it to broke it, allowing for the rest of the trick.

    Also, scientifically speaking, simply because a phenomenon CAN be faked, doesn’t mean it IS. We need studies of the psychics claiming to have these abilities, rather than editorials by stage magicians showing us how they would achieve the same results.

  60. matrix says:

    good magic show !! just a simple trick

  61. Herris says:

    I tried to bend spoons and it’s amazing! (I’m a 14 year old girl) I was a skeptic, because I thought you could just bend the spoon based on pure strength. So i tried to bend a 3mm thick spoon at the neck with pure strength, and couldn’t do it at all. Then when i watched this “tutorial” on spoon bending on youtube, and tried to mentally prepare myself, I could actually feel the spoon warming up at the neck after a while! And then i twisted the spoon easily! Everyone should try it out before they say it’s a trick!

  62. Kelli says:

    The only time I have bent metal with such ease was less than a month ago while I was on LSD. I was twisting my sterling silver ring around while on my finger with only my pointer finger and thumb until I noticed it felt loose. I looked and it was split open. I was a little shocked at first and thought I may have possibly bent and broke it mentally but thought “eh, I’m on LSD… it’s all in my head.” But continued to roll it around my 2 fingers and I noticed minutes later it was in half. And again, in threes… ONLY when I wasn’t paying too much attention to it like it kept happening on accident. All I know is that it broke way too easily and silver has always been a metal that I found attraction to since I was a kid.