Science Magic Tricks

Many of you have written to ask me "what exactly is a science magic trick?" In this article, I define "science magic trick" as well as explain my criteria to identify and teach a trick that's based on science. As you will see, some of the tricks are actually stunts that are science lessons, while others are tricks that have secrets based on scientific principles. And still others are simply optical illusions or exploit a quirk in mathematics. 

Science magic tricks look like...MORE "magic," an effect with a secret. But with science magic tricks, the secret is a scientific principle or concept - from either chemistry or physics - that looks like a "magic" trick.

Magic Versus Science Quiz

Can you tell the difference between a magic trick and a scientific principle? And what is the difference between a magic trick and one based on science? Take our fun quiz to find out.

You can perform science magic tricks as straight-out tricks or use them as opportunities to demonstrate or teach a scientific concept of physics or chemistry. Here are science magic tricks that you can learn and perform. In this collection of tricks, "magic" is "science" and "science" is "magic."

  • 01 of 11

    Science Magic Tricks - The Paper Band

    The Paper Band.

    In this science magic trick, you make loops out of newspaper strips and cut them down the center - effectively splitting them - with varying results: 1) two separate rings, 2) one long ring and 3) two interlinked rings. The science magic trick is based on a field known as "topology" and employs a well-known concept called the "Mobius strip."

  • 02 of 11

    Science Magic Trick - Steel Straw

    Steel Straw.

    In this science magic trick, an ordinary straw penetrates deeply into or through an apple. All you do is thrust the apparently flimsy straw through the apple. But how can a simple straw - it may be examined before and after -  become so rigid? Was it a basic magic trick or science magic trick? With great aim and technique, you can cause an ordinary straw to pass completely through the apple. Learn how to do this science magic trick.

  • 03 of 11

    Science Magic Trick - Floating Metal

    Floating Metal.

    This science magic trick asks the question, "does metal naturally float on water?" When you know the secret (surface tension) and the right technique, the answer is "yes." Learn how to float metal on water in this science lesson (magic trick).  

  • 04 of 11

    Science Magic Trick - The Tube

    The Tube.

    Here's a science magic trick that relies on a visual principle that warps perception and fools the brain. This trick is called "The Tube" and its brilliant optical illusion encourages assumption on the part of spectators, which shrouds its secret. This one is not only a great trick for kids but a great craft/activity. Kids can make the tube out of household materials and decorate it as they wish.

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  • 05 of 11

    Science Magic Trick - The Bill Drop

    The Bill Drop.

    This science magic trick is more of a challenge than a magic trick, but the secret is all science that combines the physics of gravity with human physiology. Here, you ask a spectator to simply grab a bill before it falls out of reach. And despite the spectator's best efforts, the bill falls to the floor.

  • 06 of 11
    Card Magic.

    Here's a card trick that is actually a science magic trick. In typical magician form, you have a card selected but later find it in an unusual way. This card magic trick relies on a well-known compound that marks the position of a spectator's selected card in the deck, and with a light push, separates the deck at that point. This turns a card magic trick into a science magic trick.

  • 07 of 11

    Science Magic Tricks - Boomerang

    Boomerang.

    This science magic trick is based on an optical illusion that fools the mind's ability to judge. The science magic trick teaches a lesson in optical illusions. It's an easy magic trick that is often found in magic sets and beginning magic books. If you like, you can make your own out of cardboard or heavy paper - I'll discuss how to do this.

  • 08 of 11

    Magic Science Trick - The Wheel

    The Wheel.

    Here's a science magic trick that may be adapted for "real world" use that's based on a mathematical principle. In this effect, you can see and learn how a math concept is manipulated to create a "magical" effect.

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  • 09 of 11

    Here's a science magic trick that's based on a mathematical concept. No matter what three-digit number your spectator selects, after performing a series of functions, the resulting number matches a prediction that you had written long before the spectator even selected a number. Try this one out with a calculator. It really works.

  • 10 of 11
    Vanishing Water.

    If you're going to perform a science magic trick, you may as well cause some water to vanish. Here, you pour water into a cup and after suddenly turning the cup over, there's no water to pour out. This science magic trick is based on a basic principle and the secret is a commonly found compound that has lots of useful purposes.

  • 11 of 11

    In this science magic trick, you literally learn how to lasso an ice cube. Well, you don't actually lasso the ice cube, but latch onto it using a scientific principle. And depending on the winter weather you encounter where you live, the secret is something that you may encounter on a daily basis. Yes, ice is slippery and doesn’t lend itself to being caught in a loop, but with a little knowledge of science, you’ll be able to successfully capture some ice.