Maths and Magic

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Maths and magic go back a long way - the oldest written card trick was by Luca Pacioli, a friend of Leonardo, and appears in a treatise which also contains the first account of double entry book keeping. Many tricks in the working magician's repertoire rely on maths.

But this is surprising. Maths is about logic, magic is about illusion. How can it be possible to fool someone with logic? What does it tell us about the way our minds work? Can things seem magical just because we don't understand them?

Magician Jolyon Jenkins investigates the link between these two apparently disparate worlds. He learns of the simple algebra-based trick that repeatedly fooled Albert Einstein. And he sets himself the challenge of learning a maths-based trick that can not only fool working mathematicians, but seems genuinely magical. It culminates in a public performance in front of a group of mathematicians at the MathsJam festival.

Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

Release date:

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28 minutes

Last on

Wed 28 May 2014 21:00

The nuts and bolts

The programme featured a number of maths-based magic tricks, but it wasn't always possible to explain them in detail. Here are some links to video explanations which may make things clearer.

Rule of 9 calculator trick

The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Also a video demonstration here

De Bruijn Sequences

This is the version of the trick which was performed by Jolyon Jenkins. This is by James Grime

You can find a more complicated version of the trick (and much more) in Magical Mathematics by Persi Diaconis 

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