The magician climbs into the cage to perform a show for one. For this special event, he eschews coins and cards for peanuts. He rolls his sleeves and faces his captive audience: a corvid bird by the name of Stuka. He shows Stuka a peanut and waves it through the air, sweeping it from one hand to another. Stuka tracks the treat, moving its head like a spectator at a tennis match. Then the magician opens his right hand and shows … nothing! The nut has disappeared! Stuka seems to look around for the missing legume, but the magician pulls it from inside his mouth. Was it there all along? Now the magician vanishes the peanut again, pulling it from his ear next. The peanut keeps magically switching from one place to another, and a second bird approaches to watch, perhaps out of curiosity. The question is, what are those birdbrains thinking?
Elias Garcia-Pelegrin learned to perform magic as an undergraduate student studying drama at University College London (UCL). Upon graduating—and realizing that acting wouldn’t pay the bills—he worked as a bar magician. He also took a job as a zookeeper in an aquarium and grew fascinated with the possible role of social transmission in the mating rituals of penguins. By then, he had gone back to college for a second degree in psychology. Now a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge, Garcia-Pelegrin is set to apply his multifaceted background in psychology, zoology and magic to the study of animal cognition.
Garcia-Pelegrin’s approach, presented in a recent Science perspective co-authored by Alexandra Schnell, Clive Wilkins, and Nicola S. Clayton, follows in the footsteps of research deploying visual illusions to better understand perception in such disparate species as lions, horses, monkeys and bees. Their framework also extends prior explorations of the intersection of magic, psychology and neuroscience in subjects ranging from human audiences to nonhuman minds.
About 250 attendees from all walks of life arrive at Googleplex in Mountain View, California, on a Friday for a weekend educational program — except there’s no program in place for them. And that’s intentional. Science Foo Camp — the “Foo” stands for “Friends of O’Reilly,” referencing publishing company O’Reilly Media, which hosts the event in collaboration with Google, Nature Publishing Group, and Digital Science — has been held annually since 2005 as part of a series of Foo Camps, including Social Science Foo Camp and the original Foo Camp that launched in 2003 as a hacker “unconference.”
The Cambridge Centre for the Integration of Science, Technology and Culture (CCISTC), establishes interdisciplinary research projects across a variety of platforms and organises conferences, seminars and programmes designed to bring people from distinct and disparate disciplines together. In light of the current trend towards globalisation, the aim is to promote discussion and collaboration among academics, students, and international partners (eg. policy makers, higher education institutions, societies, association, etc.) across the globe.
Prof. Nicola Clayton, of The Captured Thought, Fellow of Royal Society and Professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, is the Founding Director of CCISTC, in consultation with the Co-Directors Prof. Clive Wilkins, also of The Captured Thought, and Artist in Residence in the Department of Psychology, and Dr. Ruigang Michael Zhou, the President of UK Branch at the China UK Development Council.
To find out more about this exciting new initiative, visit
Nicky and Clive are looking forward to continuing with their programme at the earliest possible time.
Due to Covid 19, The Captured Thought's public events, other than live online presentations and discussions, have been postponed until further notice. see 'Coming Events' for more information #FlattenTheCurveOctober 2, 2020