Was It an Illusion? Quantitative Analysis of an Instance of Spoon Bending | Willem H. van den Berg

Was It an Illusion? Quantitative Analysis of an Instance of Spoon Bending [SSE]

Willem H. van den Berg

Howard, Pennsylvania, USA

There are many entertainers who use sleight of hand or specially prepared trick cutlery to give the appearance of psychokinetic metal bending. However, there are some who seem to have a genuine psychic ability in this regard, and furthermore there are reports of many inexperienced people acquiring this ability when appropriately coached.

In an effort to determine with certainty whether metal bending by intention alone is possible, one instance of spoon bending was analyzed quantitatively. A stainless steel spoon purchased from a restaurant supply company was marked to guard against substitution and given to a professional “mentalist” for bending. A close range video recording- was made of the spoon during the entire time it was handled by the mentalist.

At first the spoon was bent in half about an axis perpendicular to the long axis of the spoon. This was accompanied by several flourishes of the mentalist’s hands, during which one might argue that extremely deft sleight of hand had caused the bending.

Next the mentalist used obvious muscular force to re-straighten the spoon. Then he wrapped the fingers of one hand around the handle of the spoon and held the other hand about 3—5 cm away from the protruding bowl of the spoon. When the bowl had rotated 180 degrees about the long axis of the spoon (without the handle rotating), he relinquished the spoon thus permanently deformed.

Although it appeared that this twisting occurred without the application of any mechanical torque, it must be asked whether the mentalist had surreptitiously caused the 180 degree rotation while straightening the spoon. Furthermore, it is possible that the prior bending and re-straightening of the spoon might have weakened the metal. To investigate these possibilities, the following experiment was conducted on an identical spoon to which a bolt was welded so that a torque wrench could be applied. After bending in half and then re-straightening the spoon, it was found that a torque of over 20 inch-pounds (2.26 newton-meters) was required to rotate the bowl of the spoon as described above. However, the maximum torque that could be exerted by this author (an adult man) using both hands was less than4 inch-pounds (0.45 newton-meters). When this bare-hands torque was applied, the spoon bent a few degrees but then snapped back to its original conformation. In fact, nearly 20 inch-pounds could be exerted without permanently deforming the metal.

These results strongly suggest that human intention is sometimes capable of permanently deforming steel without application of mechanical force or heat.

Recorded at the Society for Scientific Exploration Conference in Boulder, Colorado 2016.

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Published on November 22, 2018