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6 Scary Tricks That Amazed Us as Kids (Explained by Science)

#3. The Psi Wheel

This trick begins with someone, probably a douche, claiming he can move stuff "with my mind, baby." If this person doesn't put his hand on your knee next, then he's likely going to pull out three things: some kind of base, usually an eraser; a pin, which he sticks in the eraser; and a small piece of paper or tinfoil folded into a sort of umbrella-looking shape.

Wikipedia
Pictured: Tiny people relaxing at Eraser Beach.

The would-be mystic puts his hands around the contraption and focuses really hard. Lo and behold, the paper umbrella begins to spin without anyone touching it. He really does have magical powers! He puts his hand on your knee.

Check out this kickass demonstration:

The Science:

Simple convection is what is "psychically" moving the wheel. Simple convection and hubris, but mostly convection. And convection, in case you didn't retain any science class at all, is that thing where heat moves molecules in a gas or a liquid. It's why water gets bubbly when it boils and how hot air balloons rise and why you've really got to be careful when handling a hot crack pipe. Here's what convection looks like:

Wikipedia

So in the case of a psi wheel, the mystic cups his hands around the base of the gadget and heat coming off his hands rises, which draws in cool air, creating a current that turns the paper. The same effect can be achieved by placing hot cups of any liquid around the setup: The heat rises around the paper, cool air rushes into the gaps between the cups and magic time begins.

atheistmovies
Or these cups are just full of magic.

Believe it or not, one guy made something of a living out of convincing audiences he could move tiny objects with his mind. James Hydrick didn't even bother with the convection thing, either. He just blew on shit. Here's the national appearance that killed his career. Would it shock you to know that a guy dressed like this is now a convicted sex offender? Didn't think so.

RationalResponse
Step away from the phone book, Hydrick.

#2. The Orange Kangaroo Game

If you didn't do this at parties, or weren't invited to any parties, then you've probably seen this one in an email:

Pick a number between one and 10.
Multiply it by nine.
Add the two digits of the resulting number together.
Now subtract five from that.
Take your number and match it up with a letter of the alphabet (so 1 would be A, 2 would be B, etc.).
Pick a country that begins with that letter.
Pick an animal whose name begins with the last letter of the country name.
Pick a fruit that begins with the last letter of the animal's name.

You got Denmark, kangaroo and orange, right?

MAGIC!

Getty
Hey, it's a nice change from the racist tirades your Dad usually sends.

The Science:

No matter what number you pick, they all end up as four. So you get four every time, and four gives you D. Turns out, there are only four countries in the world that start with D.

Most people go with Denmark. The last letter of Denmark is K, and since there are few animals that start with K, most choose kangaroo. From there you get O, and thus, orange. Essentially, you're more forced into the answers than you think.

Getty
If someone gets Djibouti, impala and amber, you're free to hit them in their smug faces.

But wait! Answer these questions for us:

What day is Christmas?
What number comes between 10 and 12?
What kind of meat is hamburger?
Which side of the road do you drive on in England?

Now QUICK! Think of a color and a tool!

Did you think of a red hammer?

If so, you need to acknowledge your party host is psychic or forward our email to amaze your friends!

Getty
Forward to 10 people and your life will be better. Forward to your boss and you'll get a pink slip.

What's the amazing science behind that one? When asked to pick a color, most people say red. When asked to name a tool, most say hammer. That's it. If you don't give people time to think, they're not very original in their answers. They'll go for the easy one. So if we scream "GIVE ME A FOUR-LETTER MAN'S NAME! RIGHT NOW!" you're more likely to say "John" than "Omar." So you could make your own "psychic" game based around that.

Getty
If you're suddenly thinking of crocodiles, then stop it. This is an alligator, dumbass.

Also, when you ask somebody to pick a number between one and three, most say three. Try it!

#1. The Pinocchio Effect (And Other Freaky Body Distortion Games)

There are several versions of this:

Sit behind your friend, close your eyes, then reach around and grab his nose. (Note: Make sure you have friends that won't put their dick at nose level once your eyes are closed). Rub your friend's nose with one hand and your own with another. Eventually, your nose will feel incredibly long.

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And really girthy.

Or, you can also hold the backs of your hands firmly against a door frame for a minute, then walk away and marvel as your arms rise on their own.

Or, you might have a friend hold your feet up for a few minutes and then lower them slowly and be amazed as your feet feel like they're sinking below the ground.

And finally you can hide your hand in a box and place a rubber hand in plain sight while a friend gently touches both, then smashes the fake hand with a hammer. (Note: Make sure you have friends that won't smash your real hand with a hammer.)

BBC
Or they'll soon have that weird sensation that their nose is spread all over their face.

In each case, your body will behave in ways you know are completely irrational. What's going on? It's magic this time, right?

The Science:

Have you heard of phantom limb pain, where amputees swear they can feel sensation in their nonexistent limb? Basically, the part of the brain that keeps track of your limbs is easily fooled. That sense is called proprioception, and we've talked about it a bit before. The cerebellum is the part of your brain you're fooling, and it's responsible for stuff like motor control. When it gets feedback it doesn't expect (like when you make it think your friend's nose is your nose), it tries to correct itself. But, much like a smartphone's autocorrect, it often does so in hilarious ways.

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Grab a broom handle, close your eyes and put your hand down your pants. You can thank us later.

So for example, when you press your hands against a door frame your arm muscles tense up. Step out from the frame and your brain tells your muscles it's still tension time and -- whoopsy daisy -- up go the arms. Even the smallest changes to your proprioception throws the whole thing off.

It's not just us humans, either. The same thing has been shown to happen to monkeys when they undergo the fake rubber hand trick mentioned above. Then again, monkeys always freak out around hammers due to what scientists refer to as the "Donkey Kong flashback effect."

For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. Paul K Pickett is a Canadian writer. Contact him at paulkpickett@hotmail.com.

For more terrifying science experiments, check out 5 Deadly Sci-Fi Gadgets You Can Build At Home and 9 Inventions that Prove Leonardo da Vinci Was a Supervillain.

And be sure to check out Cracked's Page of Horror for hilariously horrifying articles like 6 Signs You're About to be Attacked by Zombies and Dealing With The Guy Who's Clearly Hiding a Zombie Bite.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see what happens when Brockway and Bucholz experiment on each other.

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