The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



From Russia With Light Amplified by Stimulated Emissions of Radiaton PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

In this article, I asked you to consider how the Russian in the video was making paper burn, cups melt, and assistants wince in pain. I promised I'd share with you my thoughts, and here they are.

First, I have to say that the commenters were brilliant in exploring options and considering issues. What I'm about to say agrees with many of them, but it's important to know that I was not there, I have not talked to the people involved, and I could be completely wrong.

However, what I do have is James Randi, who I consulted on this matter.

Randi and I agree that the most likely explanation for the observed phenomena is laser energy.

In the video above, you get a good look at what lasers can do. It's clear that lasers can be invisible and hot enough to burn paper and melt plastic. Pay attention to the part about "focal point." It could explain how the laser went through the balloon and warmed the assistant's hand. (Of course the man could have simply been lying.) As for the cups that appeared to be burned through a closed door... we don't know WHEN they were burned. They could have been burned with a laser before or after the door was closed. Also, Randi suggests as many of you did that chemicals could have been invovled. There are many chemicals that when mixed produce an exothermic reaction hot enough to melt plastic.

The most interesting thing I observed in the video was the way the cups melted. There was a large hole and a small hole. I don't have access to lasers this powerful, but I'd be curious to see what the melt pattern would be on a polystyrene (my guess again) cup. Given that laser light can be focused, I could imagine a larger and smaller hole just as is shown in the video.

Another aspect that can't be ignored is the sound the "magician" is making. It could be just theatrics, or it could be masking for the sound a device is making. Some CO2 lasers are quite loud.

So, have we solved this mystery? Not at all. We've come up with some possible explanations, but were we able to contact this person, its likely they'd claim we were way off and that they actually had supernatural powers. That's fine. We have $1,000,000 in incentive waiting for him to show us that he can actually do what he says he can. In fact, he did more work in that video than he'd be required to do to win the challenge.

So why won't he (or anyone else with such easily demonstrable powers) apply? Again, we can only speculate, but it seems likely to us that they can't, because they'd be found to be using tricks. Still, we're here waiting to be shown.

Enlighten us. Educate us. Humiliate us if you wish, but share your gift with the world if you indeed have it at all. If you don't want or need the money, there are plenty of charities around that would be happy to have it.

Thanks to everyone for participating. :)

Trackback(0)
Comments (16)Add Comment
...
written by MadScientist, June 04, 2009
1. "focal point" may not be an issue for a laser penetrating a balloon; the baloon might be 100% transparent to the wavelength used. You'll have to get the type + color balloon used though (and maybe a few others to see differences) and get someone to take the spectrum from the near infrared (>700nm should do) perhaps through to the thermal infrared (14000nm). I vaguely recall reading about such a demonstration in which one balloon is inflated within another, and the interior balloon is burst with a laser.

You can burn paper with under 2W of (continuous) power, but the device is not necessarily easy to conceal and needs cooling (which I guess is OK if you only operate for a few seconds at a time). The laser itself plus optics ('laser head') can be placed in a box a bit smaller in size than the old analog cell phones from the mid 1980's. You can conceal the box on your body and use a "hollow fiber" to bring the laser to your fingertips. The power supply and electronics will be several times the size of the laser head - assuming that a portable system is used.

So it's certainly possible, and if you spend time trawling through results from a search on "semiconductor infrared laser" and look for something say, between 0.5W and 10W (overkill), you might find something that's readily concealed for this job.

2. If the styrofoam cup actually catches fire, then I'd be less inclined to look at chemicals (unless the cup was pre-treated and something else thrown at it). If it simply melts, well go outside with two styrofoam cups and sprinkle a little gasoline on one and a little acetone on the other.

Can you give me some idea what size the larger/smaller holes are? I can't believe a "in focus / out of focus" idea because the optics will often end up being fairly bulky to obtain a fanning out (divergence) which is noticeable over short distances. With some semiconductor lasers there is a ball lens just in front of the laser which results in a beam which does not fan out all that quickly; without the lens the beam diverges rather than converges. Think about your visible pen laser and the size spot it makes on a piece of paper in front of you vs. the size spot it makes on a wall 20 feet away (get a friend to measure the size of the spot).

3. I doubt a CO2 laser would be used; fresh CO2 has to be flushed through at a rapid rate to ensure continuous operation, the tube is moderately large (perhaps the length of your forearm and slightly bigger around than your thumb). The whole array of gas bottles, electronics, cooling fans, etc would mean a CO2 laser will have to hide behind the scenes. Look up surgical CO2 laser units and pick out the lowest power ones to get some idea of how bulky they are. HOWEVER, if you have a CO2 laser off stage, you can contrive to deliver the laser to your fingertips via a hollow fiber.

4. Closed door - so what. The setup can have a laser or a nozzle to squirt some chemical to get the job done. If the cups are constantly watched and they do not move then I would favor a laser over chemicals which will pelt the cups and move them unless there's a heavy weight in the bottoms.


Hmm - the lasers have shrunk even more since I last looked many years ago:

http://catalog.osram-os.com/catalogue/catalogue.do;jsessionid=0E1E6A27CC2F0659CE3A0BBDD789E893?favOid=0000000200019e79001a0023&act=showBookmark

That "TO-220" is a designation for a common transistor package which consists of that little black plastic bit that's about 10mm x 10mm x 5mm with a tab that's about 5mm long and 1mm thick. At 2W output at 940nm that can get pretty warm.

If you follow the link and look at the "Applications" this little beast or something like it sounds very promising. Now where to hide it and its control electronics. Perhaps the performer is making a noise when he activates the device in hopes of concealing the whirr of small fans which he'd need to prevent some things from overheating.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
Where to hide
written by Dr.Sid, June 05, 2009
At lest some tricks could seems to work only on fixed spot in the space (close to the table), not related to position of magician's hands. So I guess at least with some tricks the laser is somewhere in the room, fixed .. it's actually smart because camera is always focused on hands .. so it logically would be the place where the trick does not happen.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Or maybe buy a nice laser?
written by Metatron, June 05, 2009
Laserglow in Canada sells ready made handheld IR lasers in the half watt range for $900. About the size of a flashlight and powered by two C-cell batteries. Of course, the operator can be another person hiding off-camera or off-stage, too.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Are we giving this guy too much credit?
written by Sadhatter, June 05, 2009
I have been thinking about this for a while. And while i do believe the laser theory is very plausible i think a simpler method could be being employed.

My best guess ( being no lens grinder, i don't know how easy this would be exactly, but it seems something i could do with a little practice and some old magnifying glasses) is that the man is using a combination of camera tricks, ( mostly for the look of where things are in the room, and producing things burned in a cupboard) and simple magnifying glasses at focal points around the room. This could help explain the cup having 2 different size holes, it could easily be two ( or more) different sources, if his equipment is no more complicated than a well placed lens.

My guess is that the theatrics are there just to keep people from noticing small things like time of day, light angles, etc etc. Or he could be simply interrupting the flow of light with any available part of his body, giving the material a less steady, and recognizable burn pattern.

I would like to learn Russian so i can ask him to do this in a lightless room.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
A friend of mine has witnesses this
written by mdcatdad, June 06, 2009
A Russian friend of mine in Kiev told me about this trick (perhaps
the same guy) over a year ago. He witnessed it personally,
so it's not done with camera (or mirrors).

He's a bit credulous but honest
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Lens and day light ? No way ..
written by Dr.Sid, June 06, 2009
Lens can burn things only with direct sunlight. And the spot would be the brightest thing in the room, it would even make troubles for the camera to focus on it. So no, lens alone could not possibly burn anything. You need strong radiation source. Even strong halogen bulb can burn things when properly focused, but again, that would be awfully lot of visible light. It must be invisible radiation. And that means laser.
Even spot from common semiconductor IR laser would be visible on CCD camera (as it is in the YT clip).
If it is IR laser, it must have longer wavelength. CO2 laser with optical cable could be solution I think, but that calls for a test. Speculations alone are useless. Unfortunately I don't own such device.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by kodabar, June 06, 2009
Hmmm... I think we're all maissign the point. It's a little like Douglas Adam's book; who cares if the results can be emulated by conventional means? So he can achieve something that can be matched with a laser? So what? I've got a laser. If he can achieve something I can't copy with science, then I'll be interested. But right now, he can almost copy something anyone can do with a laser. So what? Show me something I can't easily achieve without conventional means - then I might be impressed. But being able to copy something I'm able to do with conventional means, is pointless.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by MadScientist, June 06, 2009
@Dr. Sid: The light bulb + lens idea is not so bad; a "long-pass" filter is all that's needed to remove the visible light; everything else can be in a box and it really is very easy to block absolutely all visible light.

The semiconductor lasers do not necessarily have a red dot, and even if they did it is trivial to block the visible light.

I guess I'll have to push myself to watch the video to find out what might be cause this 'big/little' burn mark on the cups.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Lasers
written by Dr.Sid, June 07, 2009
Most lasers radiate on one single discrete frequency. This applies for red and infra-red semiconductor lasers. Filters won't help (except on camera). They can only pass or dim the beam, not frequency shift it.

Some other colors (like green) are obtained using several stages with different wavelength, which can show in the resulting spectrum. For example green is usually obtained with with near IR semiconductor laser, which pumps crystal which produces more distant IR laser, which is then frequency-halved in yet another crystal. But if you only wanted those invisible, you wouldn't need those extra stages in the first place.

For strong halogen bulb, IR-pass filter could work, most bulbs radiate most of its power below visible band. That actually could be tested quite easily, will try. I mean for that large area of paper darkened at once (near the end of the video), which would be tricky for small semiconductor laser.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Do you want to contact this guy?
written by mdcatdad, June 07, 2009
>Are we giving this guy too much credit?
written by Sadhatter, June 05, 2009...
>I would like to learn Russian so i can ask him to do this in a lightless room.

If you can get an e-mail address for him I'll write the letter
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Too much credit ? I think he deserves it !
written by Dr.Sid, June 07, 2009
Unless somebody duplicates all these tricks, the guy has all the credit.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by MadScientist, June 09, 2009
OK, I'm torturing myself and watching the whole thing. Short story: definitely a laser.

1. Burning hands: The laser is concealed in the right hand sleeve. Look at how the right arm is positioned around the time that the sitter feels the heat.

2. Burning cup in hand: This confirms the laser in the right hand sleeve - look carefully at the right arm and note the line the laser must shine at to burn the cup at the given positions. This is consistent with what is observed with burning hands.

3. Red on yellow cup on floor: A different laser is used or else the performer is one extremely rare person in his ability to hold still for several seconds. The larger hole is not due to the divergence of a laser; the large hole appears on the side of the cup from which the laser approaches. A large area is heated up and begins to burn; when a hole actually burns though the laser then heats and starts to burn the other side; at this point the damaged portion on the entry side is already fairly large while the damaged section on the far side is much smaller - the laser is switched off at this point so the 'small hole' doesn't have time to develop into a larger hole. Unfortunately the camera angles do not reveal more information on where the laser may be concealed in the environment and the video quality makes it difficult to review the film and search for the laser.

4. Cups behind closed doors: Once again this is yet another hidden laser (3 lasers so far - 2 in the environment and one on the performer).

5. The balloon trick: watch that right arm again! The balloon obviously does not absorb enough energy to deform and burst; a simple spectrograph of a similar balloon should indicate compatible laser frequencies. Different pigments may absorb in different spectral regions so for a fair comparison use a clear balloon rather than a green one - you may have a different green pigment. Or go ahead and test a variety of colored balloons.


6. Burning sticky notes A: The burn pattern is very different from the original burning cup; this can be produced via a diaphragm or a colinear collimating device (easily and cheaply built and concealed if we're dealing with near-IR lasers), but I can't be sure of the orientation of his arm vs the pads and his pesky right arm keeps disappearing from the view - who knows what it's doing. It is possible that this is a fourth laser in the environment - that would spare the inconvenience of adjusting the burn pattern of the laser up the sleeve.

7. Burning sticky notes B: Definitely back to the laser up the sleeve.

8. White plastic cup melting: Laser on right arm again

9. Paper burning again: Possibly environmental laser (small dot) plus laser on arm (big spot)

10. Plastic cup yet again: Note slightly before the cup is shown, the laser assembly is evident as a fairly bulky tubular device on his forearm - look at how it deforms the sleeve. In previous shots the laser may be partly responsible for the somewhat unnatural-looking movement of his right arm; that can be due either to the deformation of the sleeve or to the performer's unease with the bulky thing or a combination of both.

Gah ... 1 hour for 2 or 3 measly tricks repeated once or twice? You can see why this guy isn't performing in Vegas.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by MadScientist, June 09, 2009
D'oh: I meant 'spectrogram', not 'spectrograph'.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Konstantin, June 10, 2009
You can see why this guy isn't performing in Vegas.

written by MadScientist, June 09, 2009

But why take time to learn a skill when u can make money doing cheap tricks under the guise of "special powers"? smilies/wink.gif

The phonecalls which he keeps on getting are all, without exception, people calling about setting up an appointment (i speak Russian), to which he asks them to call back in forty minutes after the current one is over... so he seems to be popular enough as it is...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
I don't know what they have available in Russia...
written by Naomi666, June 12, 2009
...but my xenophobe-center says that their state-of-the-art consumer goods are still stuck in 1958. smilies/wink.gif

Check out the videos on the website Wicked Lasers. http://www.wickedlasers.com/

Any one of the WLs would be small enough to be strapped to his forearm, which is conveniently gapped above the inner wrist.

I admit that I was too bored to watch it all and frustrated by the language-barrier -- which convinces me that the "patter" is necessary for entertainment...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by Able, June 17, 2009
Thank goodness for fast forward. Loved his “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.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy