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Magic From Russia - How'd He Do That? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

We received an inquiry on the forum from Dmitry:

Looks like circus magic to me. Can you have your staff take a look at it and drop me a short message as to how it's done?

In this video from Russia, we see a man waving his claw-like hand, chanting, and burning things with no obvious explanation.

Why not turn this into a group activity? Watch the video (which is over 30 minutes long - well suited to fast forwarding) and consider how this man might be accomplishing this feat. I do not speak Russian, so I don't know what he's saying, but as I imagine what he's saying is misdirection, this is actually to my advantage.

Consider the following:

  • Plastic melts (which appears to be polystyrene)
  • Plastic appears to melt from a distance
  • Plastic appears to melt behind a closed door
  • Paper burns
  • He apparently causes heat on a man's hand
  • He apparently sends heat through a balloon to a man's hand

Those are the facts here. The performer wishes you to believe that he is projecting heat from his hand using the power of his mind (or chanting). What explanations can you think of for this phenomenon? What interesting things are there to observe in this video that might offer a clue?

Post your comments below, and I'll share with you what I think in a couple of days. Wouldn't it be fun if someone like this applied for the challenge?

 

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MMM ... cooked hands
written by psyzorro, May 26, 2009
I vote for some sort of directed microwave device.
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written by CasaRojo, May 26, 2009
A chemical that is agitated by cell phone microwave radiation producing heat. ??? Did he forget to put his phone on silent or vibrate at some point?
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I've heard of this before
written by garyg, May 26, 2009
from a Russian friend in Kiev, Ukraine, but he's into Eastern mysticism anyway
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I think it's a trick ... ;)
written by pxatkins, May 26, 2009
Carbon tetrachloride (sp?) will do that to thin plastic and won't hurt your skin. Sure, it's carcinogenic, but it's also great for degreasing guitar strings.
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written by chillwell, May 26, 2009
The only thing that I noticed is that he seems to have a "sweet spot" when heating or melting anything while seated at the table. Other than that, I'm totally baffled. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on this Jeff.
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written by Zounds, May 26, 2009
Interesting. Looks like a few different techniques used.

He burns paper in very precise, tiny points. There are plenty of devices which can create heat like this in small locations especially if the paper has been pre-treated. It may be a matter of running a small electrode along his thumb or finger which he runs behind the paper (and camera).

For the cup melts, it looks like there are two general styles. The first are somewhat unattended, where he tinkers with the cup and then walks away or he holds it and the cup melts in a uniform ring. The heat points here are wide and dispersed and happen simultaneously. This could come from a short-term chemical which creates an exothermic reaction when agitated. He certainly has plenty of opportunity to apply this before the demo.

The second style seems to be much more directed, happening in a narrow line extending ostensibly from his clawed hand (or sleeve), but could also come from the hand (or sleeve) holding the cup. Here the cup melts in an arc and the cup must be spun. When the cup is spun, the former melt site stops melting and something new starts. Are there portable, compact ultrasonic and infrared emitters which could create this effect? I couldn't find any though ultrasonics are used to seal plastics. Powerful heat lamps could do this easily but would be spotted by the crowd but as countless tv magic shows have demonstrated, the audience is very often in on the trick smilies/smiley.gif


So I'm not sure, but the way he fondles the props so much, flaps his hands about, wears conspicuously long sleeves and uses cups which he produces (and probably has prepared) make me doubt this is a "genuine" ability.
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written by Dr.Sid, May 26, 2009
Microwave wouldn't melt plastic so easily I think. It only melts conductive materials. I won't try that in my oven smilies/grin.gif

But otherwise it could be microwaves, I've seen videos where microwave transmitter simply taken out of an oven was used to cook (and pop) popcorn through table (the device was under the table, by a chance it was very similar table).

He could also use some pipe in his right sleeve as a nozzle, I guess it could even hold enough microwaves if it was bendable (calls for a test). He aims the force all to well for the tramsiter to be fixed (possibly the thing on the table, fixed phone ?)

Such device would hardly be battery operated and it would make noise (as microwave oven). But if only the transmitter on the cable was in this room and the rest was in other, or if some modifications was made .. I guess it could be done.

My Russian sucks, but he warns people in there from waving and moving their hands and legs, so he does not hit them with the energy.
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written by CasaRojo, May 26, 2009
"A chemical that is agitated by cell phone microwave radiation producing heat. ??? Did he forget to put his phone on silent or vibrate at some point?"

To clarify, either the guy he makes hand hot is either a shill or his hand has been prepped with a chemical. Someone in the next room or that is monitoring the 'show' calls his cell phone at the opportune time. The thin plastic cups would be easy. The chemical is agitated when the phone rings or vibrates. His phone actually audibly rings towards the beginning of the vid, two different times. The paper could be similar to flash paper (thicker paper, weaker solution?) with the extra added microwave sensitive chemical. ???
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Seen more ..
written by Dr.Sid, May 26, 2009
Eh .. microwave not possible .. it could not project to such long distances, it could not burn paper with such focus.
That looks more like laser. He could use several such, with different focus width. To burn paper 0.5w would be enough. But there would be smoke, like burning paper with lens. For the cup he would need wider beam, and more power.
The balloon would not pop with wide beam.

Also the amount of act must be considered. It can be all act, with actors and stage. Or just stage. In such case 2 or 3 lasers could be placed there, controlled remotely. In case of actors, ignore all reactions and hand heating.
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Yet one thing
written by Dr.Sid, May 26, 2009
The claw hand would make his forearm bend and his hand would clear the optical line from his sleeve. The cap and the smoked paper would be then quite consistent with 1W class laser in his sleeve. It would have to be far infra red, close infra red would be visible on semiconductor camera.

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written by jimgerrish, May 26, 2009
If this performer is not defrauding people with his act, then he is sumply a magician and magicians like myself should not get involved in exposing his secrets for ethical reasons. However, that doesn't stop non-magicians from trying to guess his secrets.
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misdirection?
written by halidai, May 26, 2009
Haven't watched all the way through yet, but from the first couple of tricks it looks like he's got some kind of small, low power heat gun up his *right* sleeve.
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written by gebobs, May 26, 2009
We can only hope that he uses his powers for good instead of stupid.
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Laser
written by Son of Rea, May 26, 2009
I say it's an infrared laser and at least one assistant.
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Laser
written by halidai, May 26, 2009
Correction - it's a laser he's got up his right sleeve, not a heat gun. There are pen-sized, battery powered lasers that can do the things shown in this video. One of my son's classmates popped balloons at this year's science fair with one.
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What is magic...???
written by alexthemagician, May 26, 2009
"Magic From Russia"

This is not magic...!

Professional magicians knows very well and exactly "what it is"...,
and what is real magic-from Russia...smilies/smiley.gif

Just ask Randi about "that"...smilies/smiley.gif

Terrible... smilies/smiley.gif


Thanks for that video material Mr. Jeff...smilies/smiley.gif


ALEX, S.H.
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No comment
written by swordsbane, May 26, 2009
The bottom line is that it could be any number of things he's doing (or someone else is doing using that stupid sound he makes as a queue), and it doesn't really matter how he's doing it. What matters (or will matter) is if he can do it in a setting he doesn't control, using people and objects he's never interacted with before?

Any speculation outside of that amounts to nothing more than an interesting curiosity.

At least his 'trick' is something that has the potential for practical use. How many times has anyone really wanted a spoon bent? When someone can bend steel re-bar or the bars on a cell door, THEN I'll take notice, and it won't really matter how he's doing it.
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Not so simple with laser
written by Dr.Sid, May 26, 2009
There are at least 2 kinds of force. Point focused, and wide beam, about half an inch.
I own 200mW red laser. It can do the point focus thing. It's perfectly in it's power. Popping balloon is even simpler. But it must be focused. Unfocused it will leave the balloon intact, while it could be still felt as warmth on your hand.
But that force comes from the focusing. Focus it to least possible point and it can burn through CD case. Focus it to 5x5mm and it can't do anything (well maybe except for ruining your sight, these lasers are dangerous).
I think for the half inch hole in cup and for darkening large area of paper you need more power. 1W or maybe even more. It still could be made pocketable I think.
On the other hand, while 200mW red laser is easy to get, I don't know about 1-2W far infrared band laser.
Close infrared, which is used in CD burners could be maybe overloaded for at least short time this power, but close infrared band, while invisible to the eye, is visible for CCD and CMOS cameras (check with your TV remote control).
It could be also UV laser, but those are even more rare if I'm not mistaken.
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written by Dr.Sid, May 26, 2009
Hey .. I found nice video abour infra red lasers.

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1287510/ infrared_laser_pointer_ir_pointers_808nm_980nm_lasers_l azer_l/

We can se two 400mW infra red lasers, two different wave length. You can see that both are visible on the camera, but 980nm is much less visible. These lasers wouldn't work for the Russian video. But they are close to it.
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written by Caller X, May 26, 2009
No comment
written by swordsbane, May 26, 2009
The bottom line is that it could be any number of things he's doing (or someone else is doing using that stupid sound he makes as a queue), and it doesn't really matter how he's doing it. ....


At least his 'trick' is something that has the potential for practical use. How many times has anyone really wanted a spoon bent? When someone can bend steel re-bar or the bars on a cell door, THEN I'll take notice, and it won't really matter how he's doing it.
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"It doesn't really matter how he's doing it"? Or you can't figure it out therefore you won't play? And people bend rebar all the time; it comes in various lengths and thicknesses.

Why not turn this into a group activity? Watch the video (which is over 30 minutes long - well suited to fast forwarding) and consider how this man might be accomplishing this feat.
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Danger: Bot!
written by bigjohn756, May 26, 2009
This video site installed a bot on my computer.
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Hm .. still not sure at all
written by Dr.Sid, May 26, 2009
Hm .. as he shows small hole on one side and large hole on other side of stacked cups .. that actually too could be perfectly normal reaction to laser. The beam could get diffused by several layers of plastic, which could make the 'exit' hole bigger. He also could swap the cups while he's blocking the view ..

But still I haven't find anything of this power on the internet. In case of laser, sight of all people in the room would be at huge risk.
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written by freeidealstudio, May 26, 2009
Its got to be simpler than that, it always is (like blowing on a pencil!)
Consider the importance of his hand and its position when creating the effect. From the part I viewed - he never attempted the trick without positioning his arm. I would offer the suggestion that the device used to heat the materials is in his sleeve. The shape of the burn also offers a clue to the item, Im sure I can recall a heat gun used to strip wallpaper which had a ring / circular element at its front end.
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Hmmm
written by Psylm, May 26, 2009
looks to me like a few different chemical reactions, slight of hand, some prep work and a good knowledge of reaction time.
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written by MadScientist, May 26, 2009
I died of boredom before I saw a single trick - this guy will never make it in showbiz.

However, looking at people's comments, I agree with Psylm; this sounds like a multitude of tricks.

Melting styrofoam? Any number of chemicals can dissolve it.

Paper catching fire? Oh, gee - there are so many ways to do that; one that comes to mind is a little alcohol, acetone, water, etc. etc. sprinkled onto paper which has a little sodium peroxide on it. In the case of alcohol potassium permanganate may also do (is there a purplish flame?)

If the guy ever employs a torch of some sort, any number of substances can be burned to produce little to no visible flame.

Anyone care to produce an edited version that won't bore us to death before we get to the tricks?
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1
written by PuMi, May 26, 2009
More video author
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2-Fn0kcRNc
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written by Otara, May 26, 2009
I found a site selling handheld 13mm*167mm long 1064nm IR lasers with a power range of up to 400mw, and a very narrow beam. I dont know whether thats high enough that a video wont see it. It sells UV lasers as well, but they seem to be much more bulky.

So they are available, whether its the answer, I dont know. Chemicals seem like an option as well for at least some, and of course theres always 'whole thing faked'. He seems to make sure he touches everything he effects, making me think chemicals mostly, but I didnt watch the entire video.

If a laser is being used, he's being quite reckless in my view, those things are quite dangerous for eyesight.

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written by MadScientist, May 26, 2009
@Jeff: Can you get a handle on where that asshole Markuze is connecting from - seriously, get in touch with his ISP and get him kicked.

Now back on topic: since everything on stage is rigged, there are just numerous ways that guy could have done his tricks and all are nice and simple.
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The biggest problem
written by Dr.Sid, May 27, 2009
Near the end of the video he first makes small holes into paper, then he makes paper dark from heat in pattern of large hollow circles. And he has hand very close, practically shadowing the paper from anywhere.
Still 'it' could be in his sleeve .. but laser with such power over such big area, and even focused to 'ring' shape ? Really problematic.
Heat gun can't be focused to ring either. Microwaves not an option, he has his head behind the paper, and microwaves would warm his hand much more then paper.

Few other notes:
- everyone should really watch the whole movie .. don't worry to skip a bit.
- chemicals could be used. But not alone. They at least must be triggered, and effect limited to an area. The effect of paper darkening/burning really copies movement of his hand. That could be done with lower power UV I guess, but I have no experience with such chemicals.
- he might make that humming sound to cover noise of the device.
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Entrance vs exit holes
written by gfpatterson, May 27, 2009
Interesting that the smaller diameter holes in the cups always seem to appear on the side OPPOSITE his "magic" hand. I don't have any special knowledge of lasers, but in general, I would think the smaller diameter hole would be the Entrance and the larger, the Exit, putting any heat-generating device behind the curtain & outside of the frame of the camera. No sleeving necessary; just have to stop humming before you get a burnt hand.
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written by Bruno, May 27, 2009
I think we can forget about lasers. Small lasers can heat up a small patch because their light can be focused. To do what he's doing you need several (tens of) watts of optical power, which is never going to be a hand-held device and isn't something you want to fool around with anyway. Besides, any good magical trick stands by minimal expenditure of low-tech devices.
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written by Dr.Sid, May 27, 2009
I agree, I don't know laser like that .. on the other hand the small holes looks exactly like laser.

Anyway this goes beyond normal trick I think. It's all too visible. It's either genuine (we all hold such hope, right ? smilies/grin.gif), or high-tech (while it still probably is mixed with low-tech tricks).

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let's join forces
written by Psylm, May 27, 2009
If prop's are pretreated he could use a light spectrum or a gas to cause the reactions. This would allow a much lower powered laser or something like pure oxygen to be used. However as Teller explained at an amazing meeting, magicians well often change methods to avoid any one explanation from applying to the hole. we should really be looking at each trick individually and not assume there is only one method being used.
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written by halidai, May 29, 2009
@Bruno

I disagree. My father is a laser physicist, and I grew up around lasers. Everything this guy is doing simply screams "laser". No, I don't know specifics, but I'll look into it and see what I can find out.
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written by Somnolent Aphid, May 29, 2009
Now I didn't watch the whole thing. I think there are several things going on. The cups behind the door could have easily been switched. The guy who gets burned is an assistant. And if there's a microwave device or IR laser doing the burning then it's likely mounted in the video camera itself. Treated paper, treated cups. I like that he burns a hole in the middle piece of paper, but that kind of gives away the chemical treatment aspect. Without some chemical treatment he'd be getting burned as well.
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written by Steel Rat, June 02, 2009
Magic tricks in the Urology waiting room?
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Im a low tech kind of guy.
written by Able, June 17, 2009
Thank goodness for fast forward. Loved the sound effects. Since the “audience” was so small and the camera angles so shifting I would assume that everybody (all six? of them) in the room were in on the act. Wouldn’t need any hidden lasers with that crowd. Don’t know how all the tricks were done but for my money, I say it was somebody holding a butane pencil or other small torch. It would explain why the paper and such seems to heat up on the side away from the guy (I burned a lot of stuff with magnifying glasses and torches when I was a kid, follow the smoke). With the shifting camera angles being what they were they could be very close and not be seen.
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