PDA

View Full Version : Physiological explanation for Amazing Levitation Trick?


Fortean
09-14-2005, 07:00 AM
Thereís a party trick Iím sure weíve all played at some time or other, which works roughly as follows.

You need five people. One person sits in an ordinary chair, not an armchair or anything. This person close their eyes and try to concentrate on being as light as possible.

The other four stand at the four corners of the chair, ie two at each arm pit and one at each knee. Each then put a hand over the middle personís head and pushes down (not touching the head though), so that there is a stack of hands, not touching, above the personís head.

The hands are then quickly removed, and everyone clasps their hands, extends the two pointing fingers and puts them under the armpit and knee bend of the sitting person.

They then lift up with the fingers at the same moment and the person in the chair Ė who would normally be too heavy to lift up in this way - can be lifted extremely easily, as if they were levitating.

(A trick which has a similar effect is much easier to do. All you need is a doorway. Standing in the doorway, you straighten your arms and press them, with your palms out, to the door jamb, with as much force as possible. Do this for about 2 minutes or so and when you step out of the doorway, you will find your arms float naturally up in by themselves.)

So what is the physiological explanation for this? Is it something to do with muscles relaxing and stretching? Is some hypnosis involved?

Hope this hasnít been covered already.

Mangetout
09-14-2005, 07:11 AM
Well, one thing is for sure; pushing down on someone's head for two minutes doesn't make them less heavy (except perhaps by making them sweat a little). I'm quite confident that this will be verifiable with a set of bathroom scales.

My WAG would be this:
Many of the muscles in your limbs are arranged in antagonistic pairings; your biceps pulls your forearm up, your triceps pulls it back down; I think what's happening is that you're tiring out the muscles on one side of the pairing, then acting surprised that the opposite one is not at all fatigued, or rather, surprised at the contrast between the tired muscles on one side and the relatively perky ones on the other.

Princhester
09-14-2005, 07:14 AM
You know, every time I've seen or heard of this being done, I've never heard of the participants doing a control version, in which they just try to lift up the person in the chair, with none of the surrounding crap.

Mangetout
09-14-2005, 07:21 AM
There's also the fact that we expect the effort of lifting something to have a linear relationship with the weight of the object; this isn't actually the case, so being one of ten people lifting a chair with a person seated upon it may feel significantly easier than we might expect it to be. This is why nobody thinks they're pushing the glass around when they play ouija.

Fortean
09-14-2005, 07:46 AM
Many of the muscles in your limbs are arranged in antagonistic pairings; your biceps pulls your forearm up, your triceps pulls it back down; I think what's happening is that you're tiring out the muscles on one side of the pairing, then acting surprised that the opposite one is not at all fatigued, or rather, surprised at the contrast between the tired muscles on one side and the relatively perky ones on the other.
Yes I was wondering if it was something about a combination of muscles. But this 'surprise', why is it enough to cause this effect? I've been told that Tai Chi also does a similar thing, but don't know enough about it to comment.

You know, every time I've seen or heard of this being done, I've never heard of the participants doing a control version, in which they just try to lift up the person in the chair, with none of the surrounding crap.

I have read of instances (when this was discussed somewhere else) of people trying to lift the person without the preparations, without success. Although some of the ritual is probably there just to add a bit of mystery to the thing (chanting 'up up up!" etc) presumably the thing on the head has some effect. And I still am wondering if hypnosis is involved.

Fear Itself
09-14-2005, 07:53 AM
They then lift up with the fingers at the same moment and the person in the chair Ė who would normally be too heavy to lift up in this way - can be lifted extremely easily, as if they were levitating.Why do you come to this conclusion? If you can lift them, you can lift them; there is nothing "too heavy" about it. The evidence contradicts this conclusion.

Mangetout
09-14-2005, 07:54 AM
Yes I was wondering if it was something about a combination of muscles. But this 'surprise', why is it enough to cause this effect?Suprise doesn't cause the effect; it just make you take notice.

rayh
09-14-2005, 09:00 AM
This sounds a lot like the Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board (http://castleofspirits.com/levitation.html) stunt so beloved of paranormalists.

The actual explanation for this is that the second time they try it they are acting in unison, the weight is distributed evenly between all four people. Each person only has to pick up one quarter of the weight. Which is a lot easier.

Randi says this (http://randi.org/jr/011604tam.html) about the trick.

Yes, the effects do appear remarkable, but not at all beyond explanation. First, it's obvious that the weight has been distributed fairly equally among the four lifters. Thus, each person lifts one-quarter of the total, though "no heavier than a feather" hardly describes the reality. But how do we explain the apparent dramatic decrease in weight? Lifting a relatively "relaxed" or floppy weight is much more difficult and awkward than lifting a more rigid load. When all five participants take in a deep breath, and particularly when that action is performed in unison, the lifting procedure is much easier. The person being lifted is naturally much more rigid than previously, thus more easily handled, and the lifting action is synchronized.

Fortean
09-14-2005, 10:01 AM
Hmm, I wonder if that is all there is too it? I'm still intrigued by Mangetout's semi-explanation. (Ok, what causes the 'surprise', then? Lifting a quarter of the weight makes sense - but still, with two fingers? And the lifting that can take place is remarkable - really quite high. I've also read reports that suggest that if someone loses concentration, the effect is lost - perhaps because the muscles shift slightly?

Can anyone explain the second 'trick' I mentioned?

Hampshire
09-14-2005, 10:12 AM
Hmm, I wonder if that is all there is too it? I'm still intrigued by Mangetout's semi-explanation. (Ok, what causes the 'surprise', then? Lifting a quarter of the weight makes sense - but still, with two fingers? And the lifting that can take place is remarkable - really quite high. I've also read reports that suggest that if someone loses concentration, the effect is lost - perhaps because the muscles shift slightly?

Can anyone explain the second 'trick' I mentioned?


Let's see.. 130 pound girl, 4 lifters, 32.5 pounds to lift with 2 fingers? Not that impressive. My dining room table weighs about 100 lbs. and we move that with two people using our fingertips to lift.

Quercus
09-14-2005, 10:12 AM
In the second trick, it's just your arm raising muscles taking a few seconds to turn off. Perhaps a physiologist can give a more detailed explanation about whether it's the muscles or the nerves, with cool phrases like 'depletion of inhibitory neurotransmittters'. But the bottom line is that your arms keep trying to push against the doorframe for a few seconds, since the doorframe is gone your arms naturally go up. I don't think there's much similarity to the group lifting thing.

And my comment on the group lifting thing is, again, have you tried lifting someone this way without the mumbo-jumbo? (But still making sure you're all lifting in unison)

rainy
09-14-2005, 11:19 AM
Just a WAG here, but maybe the real 'trick' is the proper application of each of the four people's efforts. I bought a big honkin' roll of carpet once for a retail store I own, me and 5 guys took it off the truck and put in a building to store it until we were ready to install it. It damn near killed us it was so heavy.

I hired a guy, Stan, who knew how to install carpet properly to be the crew chief of me and my fellow grunts I had recruited to do the install. Install day arrives and we move the carpet again, this time with only 4 of us total. I express my dismay to Stan about the fact that I didn't think we'd be able to move it with just 4 guys since 6 of us thought we were having hernias.

Stan said, "No problem. You probably just don't know how to lift it correctly." He had us pair up and reach under the roll and join hands. We were able to lift it as though it weighed no more than a sack of groceries. It was surprising enough that all three of us who had already lifted this carpet once simultaneously commented on it.

Perhaps something like this is the case. Could you explain the way the lift takes place once again, I've never seen this trick and am a little unsure I understood it fully the first time you described it.

-rainy

tomndebb
09-14-2005, 01:39 PM
You know, every time I've seen or heard of this being done, I've never heard of the participants doing a control version, in which they just try to lift up the person in the chair, with none of the surrounding crap.When we did it, we made two lifts. The first failed and the second succeeded.

I could tell at the time that the difference was the rigidity of the guy in the chair. On the first attempt, as everyone lifted their hands, his arms and legs raised, but his body sat in the chair. After the mystical mumbo jumbo, he was rigid and the lift went quite easily because he was not dead weight and his torso came along for the ride. I was never sure what about the mumbo jumbo made him tense up, but there was no hint of magic or the supernatural involved.

(When we pushed down, it was definitely on the subject's head. I have heard the version where no one touches the sitter, but I have never actually seen that in action.)

drhess
09-14-2005, 02:18 PM
You know, every time I've seen or heard of this being done, I've never heard of the participants doing a control version, in which they just try to lift up the person in the chair, with none of the surrounding crap.

that's odd, that's the only way we did it as kids. otherwise, what's the point?

why it works? i think power of suggestion/self fullf. prophecy is it, as well as the other reasons on antagonistic muscles. finally, your muscles can lift more as the fibers get used to firing together, so if the 2nd lift improves this you might see a remarkable rise in strength. this is why people who first start doing weight lifting see a remarkable improvement after a few weeks: their muscles are learning to respond more efficiently.

yerba buena
09-14-2005, 03:39 PM
When we did it, we made two lifts. The first failed and the second succeeded.
I'll throw in my two cents -- when my friends and I did something similar in high school, we went 0 for 2.

Best Topics: female jazz pianists vallet key croker sack definition shick shadel julia child accent cracklin rosie wine flesh eating monster needle through arm titleist x outs drumline beats mason's children sat in canada ebay police scanner stanton twins excel consultants number in cursive heroin intramuscular murphy potatoes funny stripping songs meaningless phrase do sloths fight save opportunity imdb flightplan floor mount urinal meclizine for tinnitus soldering eyeglasses vaporizing metal transitional lens i can't wink willie bennett obituary aarm the office synonyms for lame mount shoria retarded looking people what does vodka sauce taste like this end up com how long until it is safe after a nuclear bomb when did the british monarchy stop ruling what do bronco fans chant does rogaine work on the front celebrate me home lyrics meaning "assholes and elbows" the addams family gomez jennifer connelly eating disorder what is an excuse bent tire rim repair cost comcast cable works but not internet how to pronounce won did gandalf know bilbo had the ring my airbags deployed is my car totaled can lack of oxygen cause seizures why does incense smoke follow me why do hummingbirds fight beer and tomato juice drink what is the safest way to dispose of old bank account statements? how to pronounce lich harold and maude jaguar hearse north slope jobs pay windows live mail error id: 0x800ccc67 how to pick a hon filing cabinet lock how long does pepper spray last in the air paypal hacked what to do what happens if you run a toll in oklahoma propylene glycol for sale can you microwave clothes