Welcome to Illusion Chasers! We are Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik, two neuroscientists and laboratory directors at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. We are interested in how our brain constructs our experience of the world and of ourselves, and illusions are a great tool to get at those questions. We started our collaboration on the study of illusions in 1997, as postdoctoral fellows in the laboratory of David Hubel (1981 Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology) at Harvard Medical School. In 2002, we decided to expand our relationship by marrying each other, so we could have endless discussions about the neural correlates of consciousness 24/7, for the rest of our lives.
Some years ago, we became interested in how illusions created by magicians could contribute to the study of neuroscience. We started a productive collaboration with several world-acclaimed magicians that led to several research papers and to our internationally bestselling book Sleights of Mind. In the process of taking magic to the lab, we had to learn a few tricks ourselves. We tested our (minimum) proficiency in the art of magic by auditioning to become magician members in the Magic Castle of Hollywood (the Academy of Magical Arts). We are also members of the Magic Circle in the UK, the Society of American Magicians, and the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
Beyond our day-to-day research, we organize the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest, which celebrates the intersection of science, art, and illusion. The next Contest will be on May 13, 2013 in Naples, Florida, but in the meantime, you can see the winners and finalists from previous years in our illusions archive.
We started writing for Scientific American in 2007, when one of our main pieces of research to date was featured in the August issue of the magazine. We loved the experience and knew that we wanted to remain part of the Scientific American family. We are now Advisory Board members and write the Illusions column for Scientific American Mind. You can see a selection of our writings about the neural bases of illusion in the 2010 Scientific American Special Issue. If you like it, please subscribe!
We are excited to increase our collaboration with Scientific American by becoming part of its blog network. We plan to blog 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. Three of the days will have set themes: Tuesday (neuroscience and illusion of hunger, satiety, and weight loss), Wednesday (illusion of the week), and Friday (neuroscience and illusions in fiction). Monday and Thursday will be free-form.
We hope you'll enjoy the chase!
Susana Martinez-Conde & Stephen Macknik