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Summer Science Exhibition 2009

The magic of computer science









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Interface design is especially important for medical equipment, where errors can be deadly.

Exhibitor's Website:

Researchers from the Queen Mary, University of London have developed ways to show the links between the creation of magic tricks and designing user-centred software.

"Conjuring tricks exploit scientific principles to amaze and entertain, making the impossible possible," says Professor Peter McOwan from Queen Mary, University of London. "There is a delightful synergy between software development and magic. Both require an understanding of human behaviour as well as mathematics."

Both software design and magic utilise logic, creativity and the knowledge of human attention and memory to successfully work. The principle of ‘misdirection' in magic is also important in user-centred software. Software and self-working tricks utilise algorithms, and both are verified using logical proof to ensure the software or trick works. The research team has developed an interactive magic show to demonstrate the link between magic and computer science research. The team presents the trick, challenges the audience to work it out, and then explains how it is performed and demonstrates how this relates to computer science.

"Watching magic tricks, and learning how to do them, not only entertains but utilises important aspects of software design," says Peter.

Web links


See all exhibits from 2009

The magic of computer science The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK