I grew up in the 80’s. Before David Blaine and Chris Angel there was David Copperfield. Over the course of several prime time specials he made the Statue of Liberty disappear, walked through the Great Wall of China and escaped from Alcatraz. Part of his appeal came from his sense of humor and showmanship on stage, but people tuned in to see the “magic.” The magic of course was really illusion; he wasn’t really sawed in half on stage. But you know what they say – Seeing is believing.
It is so easy to believe what we see. Illusion, special effects and camouflage all depend on it. That very fact can also get us into trouble at times. We had to see bacteria with a microscope before germ theory really caught on, and there’s an ever-present warning in your side mirror not to believe exactly what you see (objects are closer than they appear). We all know there is more going on than can be seen. Wind, gravity, magnetism, microbes, radiation, DNA and so on cannot be seen, but we either perceive their effects through other senses or else detect them with scientific devices. The earth appears flat, and the sun seems to move across the sky from east to west. Our understanding is no longer limited to what we can see with our eyes; but the tendency to do so will always be there. Continue reading