Science – 1; Magic – 0

By Ann Fenech, on 13 June 2010

Science vs Magic Yesterday a boy told me “you cannot make a perpetual motion machine” while discussing water rockets and Newton’s laws. But today I think I’ve seen one! Running around the stage at breakneck speed Alom Shaha has just presented Science vs Magic.

For Alom, magic school took 10 weeks and £250; Science, including time at UCL, cost him 20 years and over £15,000. Which was worth it?

With a card trick we delved into ‘How does that work?’

  • Magic? Simple explanations!
  • Science? It’s about “fundamental things”

Another difference?

  • Magic = cheap props…”Magicians are obsessed with handkerchiefs”
  • Science = real phenomena…”Understand the nature of reality at its fundamental level”

From vanishing handkerchiefs, to mind-blowing mind-reading, we saw it all. But of course there is a scientific reason behind everything…and a scientific phenomenon which is even more exciting than the magic trick!

Alom Shaha said, “Science is hard”, but there is the “satisfaction of getting to grips with it”. I think that is one of the most important messages. It is more the satisfaction of getting my teeth into a problem and solving it that I appreciate about science, rather than necessarily the learning of ’stuff’. And I think that is what we need to get across to the general public: the ‘good feeling’ you get from finally seeing the light in any problem.

I want to end by echoing Alom Shaha’s excellent sentiment at the end of the event:

I don’t care that I’m just a physics teacher, because that is what I want to be”