7 Science Phenomena That Are Basically Magic

Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law states that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”. This is a pretty fair assessment of a lot of scientific phenomena.

Although in our heart of scientific hearts, we know that everyday occurrences can be explained through rational logic, but sometimes they really do seem like legit magic. Some of these are trick of the mind, some of these are quirks of chemistry, some of these are weird, icky biological processes, and some of these are down to the bizarre physics that govern the universe.

There are a couple of tricks here that you can whip out at a party and impress all of your friends and there are a couple that you can use to quietly blow your mind in your own time.

7. Imaginary Colors

Stare at the lighthouse on top of the island in the picture above. Really stare at it and don’t look anywhere else. After a little while, the image will appear to flip back to its normal color… until you move your eyes that is and realize that you must’ve been briefly put under a witch’s spell instead.

You’ve probably seen this illusion before, but the actual reason why the effect occurs tells us a lot about how we perceive reality. Technically, there’s no such thing as color. The colors that we experience are a result of your brain’s interpretation of different wavelengths of light – there’s nothing inherently “red” about the color red, your brain has just decided that’s what it looks like. We see color using cone cells in the backs of our eyes.

There are three different types of these cells that are sensitive to red, blue and green light. When these cones are overstimulated by a single colour, they get “tired” and stop working. This temporarily leaves you blind to that color and your brain relies on the the other cones to “fill in”. The upshot of this is that you see the “opposite” complementary color for a short time. Red is the opposite of green, yellow is the opposite of blue and so on.

For all intents and purposes, you are really “seeing” those colors in the same way you see any other. Reality is an illusion and colour is all in the mind, after all.

6. Instant Magic Ice

Give yourself the powers of Queen Elsa herself with this neat little trick. Freeze a bottle of purified water to at least -8°C, then carefully remove it from the freezer. You can then be slightly less careful as you smack it against a hard surface and watch it magically turn to ice before your very eyes.

So, how does it work? Water will usually freeze at 0°C, but that’s because normal water is full of impurities. In order for ice crystals to form, they need a nucleus to build up from. Purified water is free from any of these impurities and can therefore be chilled far below zero without freezing. Bashing the bottle down on the counter causes little bubbles to form, giving the ice crystals something to hang on to and causing a runaway freezing effect.

5. The Anti-Gravity Levitating Wheel

In this video, Veritasium’s Derek Muller appears to defy gravity by lifting a 42lb weight at the end of a rod above his head like it’s no big deal. Usually it would be practically impossible to do this unless you were literally Thor, but, when the circular weight at the end of the rod is rotated very quickly, it just alters the forces that are acting on it.

The weight isn’t floating, it feels apparently lighter due to a phenomenon called gyroscopic precession. When the weight at the end of the rod is spinning, it has angular momentum. Gyroscopic movement is pretty mind-bending stuff, and their nature is often still up for debate amongst scientists but, basically, if you apply torque (i.e. you push) a gyroscope in a particular direction, the motion of the spinning object is actually at 90 degrees from the direction of torque. It’s momentum will make it “feel” lighter, despite the mass remaining the same.

Still confused? Watch the video below of Muller’s explanation.

4. Phantom Words

Listen to the audio above. It doesn’t matter whether it is through headphones or speakers, so long as they are in stereo. Oh, and you need to have an open channel to the spirit world. To begin with, it might just sound like two sounds oscillating between your ears, but after a period of time, you might begin to pick out different words and phrases.

The sound might seem to morph and change. You can amplify the effects by concentrating on certain words whilst you listen. If you focus on some of the words listed below, they will seem to magically emerge from the sound. See if you can hear any of these words: No Way Nowhere Randall Rainbow Over and over and over Hangover Bueno No no no no no (with short buzzing in between) One ear: Love me love me love me love me Other ear: no way no way no way no way.

The illusion is created by your brain’s pattern-spotting abilities. Your brain has a tendency to take random information and desperately tries to rationalize it into a pattern. In the same way that you might see figures in the clouds, or the face of Jesus on your burnt toast, you will try to draw out meaning from seemingly random noise like a kind of auditory Rorschach test.

3. Frankenstein Butterflies

There’s definitely something magical about the miracle of metamorphosis, but no matter how amazing it looks from the outside, that’s nothing compared to what’s going on in that mysterious cocoon. You might think that, when a caterpillar retreats into its cocoon for some quality alone time, it probably sprouts wings and a few legs out of its body.

In fact, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar is less of a growth spurt and more akin to melting down scrap metal. Within the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s entire body breaks down into what can only be described as an organic goo of proteins. Floating around in this goo are things call imaginal cells which, like stem cells, have the potential to become anything. These get to work and build a new body that is structurally distinctfrom a caterpillar’s.

The most amazing thing is that, somehow, the resultant butterfly that emerges from this goo actually retains the memories of its past life as a caterpillar. In tests, it has been shown that caterpillars that have been conditioned to avoid certain smells retain this aversion as butterflies. This rather raises the question of where the hell caterpillars keep their memories.

2. Possessed Pendulums


This mesmerizing demonstration of wave dynamics looks like it must have been programmed or controlled (or bewitched) in some way, but in reality, the only thing that is governing the movements of the pendulums is good old physics. The key to the effect is the length of the pendulums.

The longest pendulum has been adjusted so that it completes 51 oscillations (swings) in a minute. The next one along is slightly shorter and can therefore complete 52 in a minute and so on until the 15 pendulum, which completes 65 in a minute. Due to the different lengths of their oscillations, they quickly fall out of sync with one another.

However, the regular and precise intervals between them mean that they create a range of different wave patterns (travelling, standing, beating etc.), before coming back together after a 60 second cycle.

1. “Spooky” Quantum Entanglement

Quantum entanglement, whilst not a magic trick that you can wow your friends with at parties, is actually some legit fairy magic. That’s the technical term by the way. In a nutshell, entanglement seems to boil down to either telepathy or teleportation. It occurs when two particles created in the same event, such as atomic decay, become inextricably linked so that one particle can always “know” what the other is doing.

This means that by measuring the state of one of the particles, you can know state of the other particle without measuring it even if it is at the other end of the galaxy.Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance”, because it appeared that the particles were actually communicating with each other at incredibly fast speeds.

This is impossible, as the information would seem to be transferred faster than the speed of light. This means that the particles must somehow be able to tell each other’s states without passing any information between them. Quantum entanglement, along with pretty much all of quantum mechanics, is still a bit of a head-scratcher. Frankly, I’m not convinced that it’s not just wizards.

Does science make you tingle in your special place?

Please wait...

And Now... A Few Links From Our Sponsors