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August 29, 2014
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There’s science behind that magic

Volunteer assistant Jeffrey successfully demonstrated how to remove a tablecloth from a table without disturbing a pitcher of water and other items.


For a handful of tricks, Friedhoffer chose willing assistants from the crowd of youngsters. To a young assistant named Alden, he explained, “Your center of gravity is basically around your belly button,” and then he went on to have Alden demonstrate two balancing tricks that appeared to defy gravity.

Finally, with the help of a young assistant named Jeffrey, who was leery at first but after some persuasion, successfully yanked a tablecloth from a table without spilling a pitcher of water sitting on top. The Professor explained that a body at rest will stay at rest unless it’s affected by an outside force, one of Newton’s laws of motion.

Several times, Friedhoffer encouraged the kids to try their own hands at magic. “You don’t have to buy anything to do magic,” he said, explaining that most libraries have books about doing magic tricks and how to make some of your own. To do magic, he told the crowd, “All you have to do is to know how it works, and to practice.” For those who could read between the lines, he was also making reference to science.

[Fascinated by science and magic since childhood, Bob Friedhoffer earned his living as an accountant for many years before returning to school, where he earned his MA degree in Science and Society/The History and Philosophy of Science and his PhD in Science Education at the City University of New York. Friedhoffer has also presented more advanced science/magic demonstrations for students of science.]