Personal Illusions

Here are some illusions that you can perform and experience with "nothing up your sleeve but dirty elbows," as the magician says. No props are needed, and you can amaze yourself or your friends right now. Follow the simple directions for each of the examples below.

If you know of any "personal illusions" I'd like to hear about them. The only requirements are that they must be easy-to-do, and not use props (except body parts). Please describe the effect and how to achieve it as best as you can.

 

The Finger Sausage

Sometimes called the Floating Finger Illusion, this trick shows you what the world might look like if you only had one eyed in the center of your forehead like a Cyclops. The illusion happens in a special region of our visual field where the product of each eye overlaps. The following technique will let you examine this special region and allow your mind's eye form what is called a "cyclopean image."

Stand or sit still and extend your arms out in front, with your index fingers pointed at each other in front of your face at eye-level. Finger tips should be about 1-inch apart. Now focus your attention beyond your fingers into the distance. Between your fingers you will see a floating finger form in the overlapping region, as illustrated by the image below.

Move your fingers closer or farther apart to adjust the length of the cyclopean "sausage." Close one eye or the other and the illusion will disappear. If you focus your attention back to your finger tips the illusion will also disappear.

 

Aristotle's Nose

They say that this is one of many illusions which Aristotle discovered. I'd give a lot to go back in time and watch Aristotle fiddle with his nose. The effect is actually quite amazing, and depends upon the fact that we are extremely familiar with how we touch things.

Get comfortable and cross your fingers as if "for luck," as illustrated below. Now simply reach up and touch the bridge of your nose. Feel up and down the length, and make sure you make contact with both fingers. Weird huh? It feels strange, like someone else's nose, or that you have two noses. Legend has it that this "illusory" nose is an echo from the past; Aristotle still fiddling with his nose.

So familiar are we with our own fingers and how we use them to touch things, that crossing our fingers puts a juju on our brain's ability to reason. It simply can't cope with the "right" input coming from the "wrong" side.

 

The Gratuitous Finger

The net result of this effect is one free complimentary finger. Of course you won't be able to use the finger much, but you can admire it to your heart's content.

Hold your hand with the finger to be "cloned" pointed straight up, as shown. Focus your attention beyond your hand into the distance.

You finger, in fact most of your hand will instantly multiply itself before your eyes.

As you focus into the distance beyond your hand your eyes and brain are doing the best they can to deal with objects in the foreground. Each eye sees a finger but the mind's eye is unable to merge the two into a single digit.

Next time someone asks you how many fingers you have, tell 'em, "At least eleven."

Weightlessness

Here is a simple 30-second exercise that will give you the illusion of weightlessness. This illusion works for the same reason ball players like to warm up with 2 or 3 bats before they step up to the plate.

Start by standing in a doorway as illustrated in the picture. Just about any standard doorway will do. Make sure you can comfortably reach the sides.

Press the backs of your hands against the doorjamb as shown. Now use your arms to exert as much pressure as you can against the doorjamb; as if you were trying to raise your arms over your head. Do this for about 30-seconds if you can. It's good exercise!

Now quickly step out of the doorway and relax. Gently lift your arms as you tried to do during the exercise. They will seem to rise on their own; as if they were weightless.

Not exactly outer space; but way cool!

 

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