Science Magic Tricks

Science magic tricks look like magic—an effect with a secret. But with science magic tricks, the secret is a scientific principle or concept from either chemistry or physics that looks like a magic trick.

Some of the tricks are actually stunts that are science lessons, while others are tricks that have secrets based on scientific principles. And still others are simply optical illusions or exploit a quirk in mathematics.

You can perform science magic tricks as straight-out tricks or use them as opportunities to demonstrate or teach a scientific concept of physics or chemistry. Here are science magic tricks that you can learn and perform. In this collection of tricks, "magic" is "science" and "science" is "magic."

  • 01 of 06

    Steel Straw

    Apple with a straw
    Steel Straw.

    Wayne Kawamoto

    In this science magic trick, an ordinary straw penetrates deeply into or through an apple or potato. All you do is thrust the apparently flimsy straw through the apple. But how can a simple straw—it may be examined before and after—become so rigid? The answer lies in using air pressure with a simple technique and good aim. You'll know the trick but your friends won't be able to reproduce it easily.

    Hold the straw in your dominant hand, grasping it near the end so you can unobtrusively cap the end with your thumb, trapping the air inside. Now swiftly stab the apple or potato with the straw. Because the air trapped when the straw encounters the hard surface of the fruit or tuber, the straw will be able to pierce through it until the end comes through to release the air. Once through, the straw will again be flexible and your friends will be amazed.

  • 02 of 06

    The Tube

    The tube experiment
    The Tube.

    Wayne Kawamoto

    Here's a science magic trick that relies on a visual principle that warps perception and fools the brain. This trick is called "The Tube" and its brilliant optical illusion encourages assumption on the part of spectators, which shrouds its secret. This one is not only a great trick for kids but a great craft/activity. Kids can make the tube out of household materials and decorate it as they wish.

  • 03 of 06

    The Bill Drop

    The bill drop experiment
    The Bill Drop.

    Wayne Kawamoto

    This science magic trick is more of a challenge than a magic trick, but the secret is all science that combines the physics of gravity with human physiology. Here, you ask a spectator to simply grab a bill before it falls out of reach. And despite the spectator's best efforts, the bill falls to the floor. You can even make it a bet that if they catch the bill, they can keep it. This can be quite dramatic if you are using larger denomination bills.

    Hold the bill by your thumb and forefinger from the top end and have your challenger place a finger on either side of the bill near the lower end. Tell your challenger to catch the bill between their fingers when it drops.

    Because of gravity, an object will fall at 9.8 meters per second. The human reaction time between perceiving with the eye and responding with an action is 0.2 seconds. The challenger will not be able to respond in time as the bill will fall 20 centimeters in 0.2 seconds and U.S. bills are 15 centimeters in length.

  • 04 of 06

    The Paper Band

    The Paper Band project
    The Paper Band.

    Wayne Kawamoto

    In this science magic trick, you make loops out of newspaper strips and cut them down the center—effectively splitting them—with varying results:

    • Two separate rings
    • One long ring
    • Two interlinked rings.

    The science magic trick is based on a field known as topology and employs a well-known concept called the Mobius strip.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Vanishing Water

    Vanishing Water project
    Vanishing Water.

    Wayne Kawamoto 

    If you're going to perform a science magic trick, you may as well cause some water to vanish. Here, you pour water into a cup and after suddenly turning the cup over, there's no water to pour out. This science magic trick is based on a basic principle and the secret is a commonly found compound that has lots of useful purposes.

  • 06 of 06

    Floating Metal

    Floating Metal project
    Floating Metal.

    Wayne Kawamoto

    This science magic trick asks the question, "does metal naturally float on water?" When you know the secret (surface tension) and the right technique, the answer is "yes." Your friends won't be able to get the paper clip to float because dropping it into the water will disrupt the surface tension. You'll show how using a bent paper clip can allow you to place another one on the surface and have it float.