Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Illusionism, SE and busting 3 Dynamo tricks

Illusionism is just another form of Social Engineering (SE): The magician attempts to draw attention away from the trick to create an illusion of making the impossible possible.

During the weekend I saw three fun tricks by Steven Fryne (aka Dynamo), the first one (walking on water) additionally shows the power of the media as a social engineering tool which I believe is quite interesting on its own.

The tricks I will "bust" here (SPOILER ALERT!) are:
1) Walking on water
2) Matrix lean
3) Benching 155kg being out of shape from a weight lifting perspective :)

1) Walking on water 
What makes this very interesting from my point of view is that the media turned a FAIL into a WIN, have a look at the "official" video first (one of the highest ranked ones in youtube):
Here you may notice: 
  1. Paid actors
  2. The canoes going over the area where he walked: Trying to prove there is nothing
  3. The police picking him off the water as if there was nothing where the boat was 
  4. (After watching the unofficial video) The video is actually manipulated (!): It takes off the bit when the police boat bumped against the plexyglass platform: Pay attention to the place where the boat drives off and compare that with the unofficial video below (the boat did not go in that direction first) :)
Now let's have a look at the unofficial video where the police boat was damaged and people watching laughed:

Here you notice:
  1. River waves looking funny for a couple of seconds where Dynamo walks in the first few minutes, especially around minutes 0:00-1:30: This alone is enough proof to detect he is walking on something, probably plexiglas.
  2. Dynamo is wearing a red jacket and putting his arms in a cross-like position, drawing attention away from his feet and the river waves, this enforces the illusion.
  3. Dynamo is clearly dragging his feet to check where the plexiglas platform finishes and where there are gaps, he is using touch to guide his feet through the platform: He is clearly not walking like a normal guy on the street :).
  4. Dynamo stops walking at the end of the plexiglas platform to be picked up by the police: He could not have continued to walk from that point, it was all organised :).
  5. At minute 2:30 the police try to make an odd turn over the area where Dynamo walked, to prove a point beyond what the canoes tried to do (i.e. there is nothing under the water), however the depth and/or plexiglas gap to drive through was not calculated well enough and they hit the platform probably damaging the boat :)
  6. People start to laugh, the FAIL is hilarious :)
What is amazing to me is that a lot of London people witnessed this hilarious FAIL, yet Discovery Channel and news outlets show it as a WIN, and the WIN is ranked higher than the FAIL on youtube, etc! :).

Creating an illusion of walking on water is actually quite hard as can be seen in the following mythbusters' "buckets of fail" where they just cannot find a reliable way to walk on water:

Here the mythbusters just give up and create a goo-thing to walk over that instead of water, hence busting absolutely nothing :)
Here the mythbusters try "running on water" instead of "walking on water" failing miserably too :)
The plexiglass trick (probably) used by Dynamo is explained quite well here:

From the videos above, it looks like the most reliable tricks to create an illusion of walking on water depend on having the ability to manipulate the environment: The platforms must be setup in advance and the magician must know where to walk.

The Jesus Christ Lizard is however able to run over water without setting up the environment in advance, hence beating all human magicians to the ground :)

But if magicians really want to challenge the feat of walking on water by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago (awesome Bible verse comparison by wikipedia here), they should create an illusion of:
  1. Walking from the shore into a boat controlled by others without any coordination with the magician (no environment control!)
  2. Being able to do this on bad weather conditions (the Bible talks about wind, etc)
  3. Have a random volunteer (without any idea about the trick) walk to you over water (Peter in the Bible)
  4. When the other guy (Peter) starts to sink because of "lack of faith" the magician must be able to lift them off the water and have them walk with them into the boat
If a magician can make 1-4 believable that'd be really awesome, that is some homework for you, youtube links welcome :)

2) Matrix lean
For this one I do not have a counter video to prove the trick, but there are a couple of hints on how he (possibly) made this work. High ranked video first for background:
If you stop the video at minute 1:05 you may notice the back of his right foot appears to be hooked to the ground: How can he lean all the way back on one leg without the tips of his right foot touching the floor? :)

A nice explanation of the hook technique is done in the following video. The illusionist is also required to setup the environment in advance to disguise the hook on the floor (disguising the hook on the red carpet at the beginning of the video above would have been harder, could a light guy like Dynamo get away without a hook?):

3) Benching 155kg

The trick here is how could a small guy like Dynamo bench 155kg, the original video is here:
Again, having full environment control, there are so many tricks that the following is not an exhaustive list:
  1. The plates could be fake, hence weighting near 0: The plates on the bar are different than those in the gym, hence being probably fake (you could also have fake plates that look like the ones in the gym, obviously :))
  2. Dynamo could be wearing a benching shirt underneath, hence getting up to approx. 100kg+ help
  3. The spotter is just laughing at minute 3:00 :)
  4. There is no slight bending on the bar as it should be at 155kg
  5. The lift is just not clean with the spotter getting the bar off Dynamo's chest using a mixed grip (yes, not using all the fingers but that guy can easily deadlift 100kg+ that way)
  6. If you stop the video at minutes 3:45-3:50 you can see Dynamo's right wrist being bent at an angle while his left wrist is mostly straight: It is unlikely for such a small wrist to hold that kind of weight and not bend further (i.e. to parallel). Also if you are performing a maximal lift, you are unlikely to perform at your best with one wrist straight while the other is bent, this is another minor proof of lack of weight on the bar.

Did I miss something? I'm sure I did! thoughts welcome :). I'll update the post with suggestions if you have them :).