New York Post’s Private Inquiry

By phoffman October 6, 2012

After a New York Post reporter asked me about the science behind David Blaine’s performance, he returned a bit sheepishly with one last question: “This being the Post, my editor wants me to ask you a very Posty question: ‘What’s protecting David’s private parts?’”

The live video stream can be seen at

David’s Precautions

By phoffman October 6, 2012

This is the reason that David is taking more precautions than he normally does. He’ll be tethered to the 20-foot-tall pole, so that if he falls asleep and topples off, he’ll merely be dangling and not crashing to the ground.

“If He Starts Nodding Off, Try Another Million Volts”

By phoffman October 2, 2012

[Check back here for the live stream of David's performance once it begins!]

David Blaine, the magician and endurance artist, is ready for more pain. With the help of Liberty Science Center, a chain-mail suit and an enormous array of Tesla electrical coils, he plans to stand atop a 20-foot-high pillar for 72 straight hours, without sleep or food, while being subjected to a million volts of electricity. [Read more at The New York Times.]

See below for an image of David rehearsing the act:

NJ’s Zachary Karlin Wins Magic Contest

By phoffman May 1, 2012

Zach Karlin, 12, a resident of Manalapan and student at the Ranney School in Tinton Falls, NJ, is the winner of a national contest to suggest a new trick for magician and endurance performer David Blaine to perform underwater.

“Zach’s idea was the winner because as most people know, solving a Rubik’s puzzle
underwater while holding your breath means you’d better be fast,” laughs Mr. Hoffman. “Also,
as we honored Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the Cube at the Gala, it made sense on that level as
well. Others made the same suggestion, but Zach’s entry was first”

Standing near a cylindrical tank of water in which Mr. Blaine had immersed himself along with
a small alligator and some fish, Zach watched, amazed and thrilled, as the winning trick was
performed. Two years ago, Mr. Blaine set a world record by holding his breath for more than
17 minutes on the Oprah Show. He is now he is developing an underwater show where he
performs many seemingly impossible feats underwater. He recently moved into Liberty Science
Center as its magician in residence – most certainly an industry first.

Zach’s winning entry was one of hundreds submitted by people ages 5-65 from across the
country. Dana Karlin says, “My son is obsessed with the Rubik’s Cube. There is always one in
his hands.”

DB Performs, Talks Science and Eats Birthday Cupcakes with NJ 8th-Graders

By phoffman April 9, 2012

In order to celebrate his birthday last week, David put on a surprise performance at LSC for a class of 8th-graders of his underwater endurance and magic act.

David and his team also took some time to talk underwater science with the class, explaining the calculations they used to determine the optimal salinity level of the water and showing off the specially-designed contact lenses that allow him to see during his act.

See below for photos:

Happy Birthday DB!

By phoffman April 4, 2012

(LSC  wishes its Magician in Residence, David Blaine, a happy birthday. Stay tuned for updates.)

The Science of 17 Minutes

By phoffman April 2, 2012

As you can hear about in his TED Talk, David’s record-breaking 2008 feat was the result of detailed scientific planning and months of careful experimentation. (The performance he’s rehearsing at LSC incorporates the same principles – only while trying to leave some oxygen over for entertainment and fun).

Below are some of the scientific keys to extreme breath-holding:

  • Loading up on pure O2. Before submerging, extreme breath-holders take in pure oxygen for as much as 30 minutes in order to prepare the lungs for the upcoming challenge. The record for holding one’s breath after breathing pure oxygen is almost double the record for those who prepare with normal air (around 9 minutes).
  • Lung-packing”: the divers’ technique of swallowing oxygen beyond breathing capacity. Although uncomfortable, humans can actually swallow additional air even after completing their deepest possible breath in. This technique, which deep-sea divers have been using for decades, allows the breath-holder to take in another quart of oxygen above their normal lung capacity.
  • Overcoming the body’s painful oxygen conservation responses. The human body responds to being plunged into cold water by cutting off excess blood supply to the extremities in order to direct maximum oxygen to the abdomen and brain. This diminished blood supply in the extremities creates painful muscle spasms which last and intensify until oxygen flow is restored.
  • The Zen factor. As David explains in his talk, getting nervous or excited only increases your heart rate, requiring additional oxygen and making it more difficult to remain functioning underwater. As a result, one of the most crucial ingredients to a successful hold is simply staying calm in order to reduce the pulse – not an easy task.

(More on the science of breath-holding in Time Magazine’s related article.)

“Why Magicians Are A Scientist’s Best Friend”

By phoffman April 1, 2012

James Randi’s recent Wired article explores some of the history of using magicians (and proprietors of illusion) in order to expose fakes and frauds – be they scientific, political, economic or otherwise. A choice quote from the article:


Harry Houdini stood on the floor of the U.S. Congress and stridently denounced a variety of hoaxers, flaunting his cash prize for an example of a supernatural feat that would prove him wrong. Magicians like Penn & Teller and others have stepped forward to express their expert opinions concerning expensive and wasteful pursuits of chimeras.

What we need now is to formalize this.

LSC Contest Update!

By phoffman March 12, 2012

Now that we’re two weeks into LSC’s Help Invent Magic! contest, we wanted to update you on some of the fun submissions we’ve received – and on our impressive group of entrants!

But first, a few stats: we’ve received posts from people ranging in age from 5 (!) at the youngest to 63 at the oldest. Geographically, we’ve received suggestions from as close to LSC as right here in Jersey City — and as far away as Westminster, California. Suggestions have ranged from as short as 2 words to as long as 61 with an average word length of around 12.

Which brings us to a quick note: many of our favorite entrants so far have been the ones who explain the science behind their idea (i.e. how it would work, or how David could experiment and figure it out). So for those considering submitting an idea, the more science the better!

And now, a selection of some of the creative ideas you’ve submitted:

- “David Blaine should build a working scale model of the Hoberman sphere inside the tank!”
- “Eat a donut.”
- “To spin around under water fast and go from one corner to another with the click of his hand. You are in the middle all the sudden you are in the other corner… that will be cool!”
- “I would like to see David e-file his Tax Return underwater on April 15th.”

Welcome to The Science of Magic: A New LSC Blog

By phoffman February 27, 2012

We’re proud to announce that David Blaine has moved into Liberty Science Center as our first magician in residence.  On April 30, 2008, David set a world record on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for holding his breath underwater.  He did not breathe for an astonishing 17 minutes four seconds.  Now David is developing a show where, submerged in a tank, he smokes a cigar, eats a meal, and does other improbable things underwater.

We’ve given him a private practice space, but visitors to Liberty Science Center may get lucky and catch him giving an unscheduled performance.  He wants you to suggest ideas for his underwater show, and LSC will fly in the person whose suggestion David deems as the best — for a private performance featuring your effect.

For more details and to submit an idea, click here to access the contest page on