Mandrake the Magician

New Hope for Black Art Magic

The Opposite of Vanna White, Sort OfArthur C. Clark’s third law states “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Consequently, we search the scientific journals daily for advanced technology we can incorporate into magic tricks.

Dark Matter is a cool concept but until we can use it in a packet trick or our 75 minute-long Ambitious Card routine, it can remain in the realm of the scientists.

Magnetar’s have compressed magnetic fields as strong as 101 Tesla.

How strong is that? How about a cool billion times stronger than anything that can be found or created on this planet.

You could do some incredible coin magic with something like that. Some of our favorite vanishing gimmicks would be greatly enhanced if we could, say, have a steel-core coin get sucked through a wooden table. We checked with some physicists about it and they said it would be unwieldy for use in a close-up magic situation. Actually, they didn’t say that exactly, they just didn’t return our emails – kind of the same thing.

But scientists in the United Kingdom (or “UK” as the cool kids call it on the webs) have announced the innovation that could revolutionize magic forever.

Surrey NanoSystems has developed something called Vantablack® — which sounds like it should be the opposite of Vanna White but isn’t – and claims that it is the darkest black ever created.

According to their press materials, Vantablack is “revolutionary in its ability to be applied to light-weight, temperature-sensitive structures such as aluminium whilst absorbing 99.96% of incident radiation, believed to be the highest-ever recorded.”

By “aluminium” they mean “aluminum” and by “whilst” they mean “while.”  It’s metric we think.

By incident radiation, they mean “light.” We think.

So imagine the possibilities. You could do a black art act in broad daylight. Light would literally (as opposed to figuratively) be absorbed into the stuff and your audience would have no idea how the magic was happening.

Plus, because it is based on nanotube technology, it can provide a strong structure; stronger than a piece of felt taped to a tin can.

It is the well-established policy of Inside Magic to never reveal magic secrets – ever. So we cannot specify just how this product would be used in a black art act or even on some of the props we bought from magic shops in the last year but you likely know exactly what we mean.

Why haven’t more magicians used super black nanotube-based materials before now? Sure, there is the cost factor – a few hundred thousand for a custom made four-inch square of the stuff. But there was the manufacturing hassle as well. As readers know, “the manufacture of `super-black` carbon nanotube-based materials has traditionally required high temperatures, preventing their direct application to sensitive electronics or materials with relatively low melting points. This, along with poor adhesion, prevented their application to critical space and air-borne instrumentation.”

Duh!

But Surrey NanoSystems hacked its own low-temperature manufacturing process used in silicon fabrication to work on aluminum.

As a result, it is not only just super black it also has “the highest thermal conductivity and lowest mass-volume of any material that can be used in high-emissivity applications. It has virtually undetectable levels of outgassing and particle fallout, thus eliminating a key source of contamination in sensitive imaging systems.”

We have been saying for years there should be a way to have high thermal conductivity without detectable levels of “outgassing and particle fallout.” Finally, that day is here.

We wrote to Surrey NanoSystems and asked if it would be practical for most black art applications. We haven’t heard back yet but we will update this article the second we hear. In the meantime, we will be reconsidering all of the tricks we no longer use now that we do not have to worry about outgassing and particle fallout.

A Magician Seeks the Rough Way

Inside Magic Image of Harry Robson's Roughing StickThe magical principle of Rough and Smooth occupies a special place in the litany of things that matter to the world. Granted, it is very low on the list and even among magicians, it is still down there with the consistency of Magician’s Wax and the tensile strength of threads.

But, for some reason, likely attributable to the amount of time we have to think of such things, it has become of paramount importance to us.

In the old days, before Twitter, we would do our own roughing and smoothing using a fine liquid we purchased by mail from Tannen’s in New York. It came in a small bottle and had a very special aroma that likely led to our demonstrable brain damage in later life. We would use cotton balls to dab, never wipe the special liquid on to our decks. Wiping would lead to ink smearing and would ruin the deck forever. We had piles of otherwise perfect decks of cards throughout our room that had been marred by improper dabbing.

Sure, we could have bought decks already treated with the special liquid but that cost money – likely less than what we were paying for new decks and the special liquid – and we thought it inhibited our creativity. And what creativity we had!

We made several otherwise commercially available decks and thousands of unworthy packet tricks over the years. In fact, we are pretty sure we never used a deck we prepared in an actual performance, anywhere.

Perhaps, we thought, we were wasting our time. Perhaps we just liked mastering the artistic technique of dabbing. Perhaps we were addicted to the fumes. There is, a wise man once said, a fine line between aroma therapy and huffing.

Then came the revolution wrought by the aerosol spray technology. It worked for processed cheese and string so it made sense that roughing fluid would be the next application. We purchased special cans of roughing fluid and made our own decks and learned that the fumes could now fill a house, a porch (when we were forced out of the house because of the fumes) and finally a garage.

The spray worked wonderfully. We could do entire decks at a time and never worried about smearing the ink. Now we had perfectly produced decks that we still never used in real-world performances.

At a convention, we learned that one could buy commercial products for the lay consumer that did what the roughing spray did and at a tenth of the cost. We bought cans of the product from our hobby store and went to work. Same quality, less cost but we still never used a single deck or packet in real performance.

Recently, the magic world learned of a new substance from Card Shark called Science Friction. It was a roughing fluid applied by aerosol technology. It got rave reviews from critics and chemists weighed in on its likely composition and less expensive alternatives. We almost bought it but balked given our new living situation in a small apartment in West Hollywood next to a bakery for dog treats. We did not want to be evicted because of the odors – the dog treat bakery actually smells wonderful – and had no desire to buy a special, portable spraying booth just for roughing and smoothing.


Continue reading A Magician Seeks the Rough Way

John Luka Leaks Line-up for Motor City Close-Up Magic Convention

John Luka's MagicArguably the finest close-up magic convention in the world hosts a great line-up this year.

John Luka was kind enough to give Inside Magic readers a sneak preview of this year’s the Motor City Close-Up Convention.

The Detroit magic shop, Wunderground and Mr. Luka will present the 17th annual iteration of Motor City Close-Up Convention the weekend of November 14-16, 2014 in Woodhaven, Michigan (just outside of Detroit).  Tony Cabral and David Gabbay have already signed on and there are two more performer to be announced.
All events take place at the Best Western Woodhaven Inn (http://www.bestwestern.com/woodhaveninn) located at 21700 West Road, Woodhaven, MI 48183. Phone (734) 676-8000.

Be sure to call the hotel for room reservations or hotel information. There is a special room rate of $73 plus tax per diem for the convention. To qualify, when you make your reservations request the Motor City Magic rate.

Those who have attended the convention in the past know that the line-up of performers has always been outstanding. Mr. Luka has brought in some amazing folks in the past, Pop Haydn, Greg Wilson, Max Maven, Gazzo, Jon Armstrong, Rick Merrill, Joshua Jay and so many others.  The format is perfect: three close-up magic shows, four magic lectures, optional workshops and great people and dealers.

For more information go to: www.johnlukamagic.com

This is a don’t miss type of event.

Lisa Cousins Takes Us Back to Magic of 1909

Inside Magic Image of Lisa Cousins in the Magic Castle's Parlor of PrestidigitationWe love magic and we love history. Ergo, we love Magic History. We love it so much that we went to see Lisa Cousins perform in the Magic Castle’s Parlor of Prestidigitation more than once last week.

Ms. Cousins is an accomplished performer, librarian along with Bill Goodwin in the William W. Larsen Memorial Library and has an infectious appreciation for the history of our craft.

She took audiences back to 1909 when the Lane Mansion – the physical home of the Academy of Magical Arts a/k/a The Magic Castle – was made ready for its first residents. In a well-scripted and delightfully presented show, audiences learned about some of the magic props and styles of the time.

Of particular interest to history buffs like yours truly, Ms. Cousins introduced us to Alice Roosevelt – daughter of Teddy – and her passion for magic. Along the way, we saw the types of magic being sold in brick-and-mortar magic stores and taught through books available to amateurs like the president’s daughter.

Ms. Cousins ended her performance with a wonderful effect set to music originally recorded on an Edison Wax Cylinder in which five watches vanished and reappeared.

The landscape surrounding the Lane Mansion changed almost as soon as the home was made ready for its first residents. The orange groves and dirt roads that made up the Village of Hollywood was claimed by studios and buildings for the nascent film industry.

It is fitting, Ms. Cousins observed, that the Lane Mansion would become a place where magicians could perform as their former venues transformed into “movie houses.”

Ms. Cousins promised to transport audiences back to 1909 and was entirely successful.

We hated to leave that magical time.

The show should be nominated for the Parlor Performer of the Year award.

Special Message to IBM-SAM Members

IBM SAM FISMGreetings to All I.B.M. & S.A.M. Members!

Click the link below for a special message from the Incoming I.B.M. International President – Shawn Farquhar and Incoming S.A.M. National President – Kenrick “Ice” McDonald.

http://vimeo.com/96735905

If you haven’t registered yet, don’t wait!  There are some registrations still available, but the registration price increases $100.00 on June 15th.

The Combined Convention offers a unique opportunity for both of our organizations to come together to celebrate and promote our love for magic. As an added feature the 2014 Combined Convention will host the North American FISM Championships to determine who will represent North America at the 2015 FISM Championships in Rimini, Italy.  You can’t see this at any other convention.

So join us for all the fun, excitement and magic in St. Louis this June 30 – July 5, where It’s All About the Magic.  Register today at:  http://ibmsam.com/registration

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Bill Wells & Mark Weidhaas
Co-Chairs – 2014 I.B.M./S.A.M. Combined Convention