TEDTalks: Eric Mead: The Magic of the Placebo

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Sugar pills, injections of nothing -- studies show that, more often than you'd expect, placebos really work. At TEDMED, magician Eric Mead does a trick to prove that, even when you know something's not real, you can still react as powerfully as if it is. (Warning: This talk is not suitable for viewers who are disturbed by needles or blood.)

What's your opinion? It looked rather contrived to me: The placebo discussion was only remotely related, and seemed only an excuse to perform some simple magic. On the other hand, how do you think the hatpin trick was done?

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the "Sixth Sense" wearable tech, and "Lost" producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts.

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I'm not sure what his point was. That people believed or felt it was real even though it wasn't? Did they?

I think this trick can be done by making your arm sticky, laying the needle against it and then pinching your skin over the needle. I think the blood is into the 'handle' of the needle (it seems to be like a pipette) and when he squeezes it, the red stuff goes through the needle until it comes out somewhere in the middle where he knows his "wound" will be.

Well...is sticking yourself in the arm like that such a big deal? In which case, the routine sets everyone up to believe that it's all skillful deception...but it's not.

The Placebo theme was all about taking something FAKE and turning it into something REAL.

My thought watching this was that he's playing with that by taking something REAL and turning it into something FAKE.

No big deal to just stab himself a little to make the point that the reality of a thing is simply our perception of the thing.