Dollar bill levitation
April 10, 2006 8:00 PM   Subscribe

How is this small object levitation magic trick done?

I saw a magic trick in an airport and it's driving me batty trying to figure out how it's done. The trick was being performed by a salesman at a small kiosk that was selling various tricks. I know a small bit about magic tricks but I still can't figure it out, and I wasn't about to pay $30 to find out. Hopefully MeFi can help me.

The trick is basically a small object levitation. The guy was able to levitate a small LED keychain, a dollar, a borrowed coin, a borrowed tissue, and a pen. He said that the trick allowed you to levitate anything up to the weight of the pen.

Before you start thinking about wires or strings, let me describe this. He spun the LED keychain horizontally, like a little frisbee, but just in mid-air in front of him (a few inches). Then he touched his index fingers and thumbs together to make a circle and passed the circle back and forth several times while the keychain, spinning, moved (seemingly by itself) in a gentle figure-8 pattern around his hands. After each pass, he flipped the circle and went back the other way. His hands were moving more than the keychain.

He then took a dollar, floated it, put it inside of a glass jar with a lid, floated it inside the jar, opened the lid, and then caused it to leap out of the jar. Again, we were standing right in front of him.

One part of the answer is that he definitely put a small (half-pea) sized blob of a grey material on all objects he floated. So, as we were talking, I essentially said to him that it looked like it was done with magnets. He said, 'yeah, but if it was a magnet the object would just be pulled in a straight line to the hidden magnet. How do you explain this?' And then he proceeds to take the dollar, float it, and do that thing where it gently bobs and weaves as he moves his hands all around it, including a circle.

The items that he seemed to really have good control of were spun before he let go of them. I don't know if that has anything to do with the effect or not, but it probably does because otherwise why would he spin the penny? The trick would look cooler if it were not spinning as he moved it around.

The trick was sold with an explanatory DVD, and all of the items that allow you to do the trick fit into a 2" x 1" manilla envelope.

Can someone smarter than me help me out here?
posted by underwater to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Magician's code and all... I'm sure no magician is going to tell you how precisely how this is done, and neither am I, but I will tell you this: You almost figured it out already. The blob is important. The fact that his hands are constantly in motion is important. Watch more hands and less of the object being floated and you can figure it out. Or, better yet, give the guy $30 and consider it money well spent for being entertained. Magicians need to make money too. :)
posted by jwhowa at 8:23 PM on April 10, 2006

I already knew the answer to this one, but did you check the first response in Google for "magician secrets"? Or small object levitation?
posted by acoutu at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2006

Screw magician's code.

It's a very, very thin string. The blob was some wax to adhere it to the object.

The string is nearly invisble. The closed container takes effort.
posted by filmgeek at 8:43 PM on April 10, 2006

Since filmgeek already spilled the beans... Yeah, it's a very thin thread. From what I know it's usually a dark blue color.

You can buy it from here, for $5.95. With some digging, I'm sure you can buy it even cheaper.

It's not really a deep, dark magician's secret anyway... If you went to a magic supplies website and searched under "floating bill", you would have found out for yourself.
posted by defenestration at 8:55 PM on April 10, 2006

The invisible string is run horizontally and the object hung on it. You expect the string to come from above, that's why there is a lot of fancy handwaving above and below to confound your expectations. Probably why he was in a kiosk, to provide a place on the sides for attaching the string.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:01 PM on April 10, 2006

Sigh, okay, the secret's out. You can make your own invisible thread by separating polyester thread until you have a very thin strand. Soak it in salt water overnight. Dry it out. Bingo.
posted by acoutu at 9:21 PM on April 10, 2006

Probably why he was in a kiosk, to provide a place on the sides for attaching the string.

You can can also tape the end of the string to the back of your ear.

When the wax end of the string isn't connected to an object, the wax blob waits on a fingernail or--when hands have to be completely free--on a shirt button.
posted by dontoine at 9:34 PM on April 10, 2006

Another version of this trick has one end of the string anchored to a point in front of the performer (edge of a table, etc) and the other end attached to a loose button in the performer's mouth. The performer can then make the object dance and move around by moving his tongue.

Obviously, you can't talk during this version.
posted by The Deej at 9:44 PM on April 10, 2006

First off, it's not going to cost you $30 to learn the secret of this trick; just $9.99.

Take a look at the videos on this page and you'll see what your salesman was doing. Basically he's using one thin thread of kevlar probably stuck behind his ear (I stick mine to my sunglasses) and an incredibly strong and thin string.

Really, it's that easy.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:47 AM on April 11, 2006

I've seen this illusion where the card is spun around the performer's body. I've never quite been able to do anything that coordinated.
posted by achmorrison at 1:40 PM on April 11, 2006

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