A PhD candidate in physics at Columbia University, Alex Stone is also part of the underground magic circuit, an exclusive community whose members convene regularly in pizza parlours and coffee shops to swap tips and develop new illusions. Determined to take his lifelong hobby to the professional level, Stone embarks on a personal quest to reach the pinnacle of this bizarre world, and become a master magician.
But he has some learning to do.
In Fooling Houdini, we journey through a strange and colourful subculture of obsessive, brilliant and dysfunctional geniuses - blind card sharps, street-hustlers and Las Vegas showmen - learning the principles and history of some of the greatest tricks ever performed. Seeking answers to broader questions about decision making, the limits of perception, and the nature of deception, Stone helps us understand what happens as we attempt to distinguish reality from illusion, and discovers the link between magic and psychology, physics and even crime.
From back-street scams to laboratories to the Magic Olympics, Fooling Houdini reveals the mysterious world of magic as never before.
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An enthralling journey into the world of magic. Alex Stone writes with a winning voice that you'll want to follow anywhere. - Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein
Bursting with energy, inventiveness, and a sense of wonder on every page. - Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics
Fooling Houdini is a delight. He writes with wit and scientific sharpness and grand humour. He immerses us in a fascinating world few have entered. - Buzz Bissinger, author of Father's Day and Friday Night Lights
Mr. Stone’s chequered history in magicianship sets the stage for Fooling Houdini, his cheery, inquisitive book about a world where math, physics, cognitive science and pure geeky fanaticism intersect. While it nominally describes the author’s efforts to improve his sleight of hand and regain his self-respect, Fooling Houdini is more than a series of anecdotes. It’s an effort to explore the colourful subculture of magic devotees and the serious, theoretical basis for the tricks they do. - New York Times
In Fooling Houdini, Stone recounts with humour and humility his love affair with magic and the experience it affords him... To wrtie a captivating and charming book all about magic is a hard trick to pull off, but like all good magicians, Stone makes it seem effortless. - Catherine de Lange, New Scientist
This is a rare book on magic: it doesn’t unmask tricks. Instead, it exposes the strange subculture surrounding magicians and magic and the murky realms they rub up against…This book is clever and winning — and it’s well written, too...In turning our attention away from the magic and towards the magicians, Stone has pulled off an excellent trick. - Sunday Times
A journalist with a background in science neatly describes the tricks of the magician’s trade…The book, of course, treats magic more as science than superstition, and here Stone’s point is well made…A peek behind the curtain…As he shows us the limits of our logic, Stone’s enthusiasm rubs off. - Financial Times
fascinating … As an American science journalist, Stone is certainly interested in what magic reveals about our mental make-up – and very good indeed at writing comprehensibly about it. But as a magician himself, he’s a huge and infectious fan of the whole business. As a result, he plunges us deep in the history, traditions and lore of a world that, by its very nature, is normally kept secret from the layman. He exposes the techniques used by people who pretend not to be magicians – including psychics of all kinds. He also introduces us to an enormous cast of colourful characters, past and present. - Readers Digest
The book is not a how-to guide, but it delves into the psychology and cognitive science behind magic…Aspiring pick-pockets will enjoy his explanation of how to misdirect someone’s attention while removing their watch. - Times 2
The real pleasure of his beguiling, meandering narrative is not the destination but the rococo scenery en route. **** - Mail on Sunday
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About the Author
Alex Stone has written for Harper’s, Discover, Science, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in New York City.