Michael JasonSmith (mpj17) wrote,
Michael JasonSmith

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Learning the Magician's Tricks

I like figuring out how things work. I like learning the magician's tricks, or how a salesman sells.

We finished our morning shopping, so Michele headed off to throw a disc with some friends. I headed back to our flat with the goods. I took a slight detour to pick up some snacks and a toothbrush. (I am a conflicted man.) I walked through the Canberra Centre letting the sights and sounds wash over me ― it is much like any other mall, so I did not need to pay too much attention to my surrounds. A man with Arafat-like stubble, a brochure, and a cosmetics stand caught my eye.

Do you know how to get dates easily? he asked.

Yes. What? Pardon‽ I responded over the din of the mall.

He tried again: Sorry, it is my accent. Do you where the Dead Sea is? His smile was as broad as his accent as he reeled in his catch.

I was about to launch into a monologue that would illustrate my extensive knowledge of West Asia, its geography, and geopolitics, but he did not seem interested. Yes I stated. I had time, and I wanted to see how the magician pulled his trick.

As he used his miracle product on my wrist he talked about how it was sourced from the Dead Sea. He talked about all the wonderful vitamins and minerals in its waters. I was going to ask why is it dead if it is so great, but that would have ruined the show. First cream on; first cream off. Second cream on. Now for the reveal: lets compare my wrists!

Actually there was a difference. The one with the cream looked far more pale than the other. Was it the cream? Was it that one wrist was elevated and the other was hanging down by my side for the last few minutes? Should a person as pasty as me become more pale? What would the experimental-design for the evaluation look like? (Could I get away with a between-subjects evaluation?) I left the questions unasked, because he had a special offer.

The special offer was an eye-cream. I have had medicines for my eye, and it is awful. I was relieved that it was for my eyelid and that apparently the webbing between thumb and forefinger would provide an adequate analogue. Cream three on.

Look at the difference it makes with using it just once, exclaimed the West Asian cosmetics pusher. He was right, the skin had become less wrinkled. Disturbingly so: if each application was as great as the first time I would soon be left with the same range of expressions as the news presenter on Win.

I figured out that he had given my hand a massage applying the cream, which would have increased the blood flow, smoothing out the wrinkles. Cute trick. While he explained the prices (ouch) I worked on the design of another experiment: between subjects at two levels would require 60 participants…

Sure enough there was little difference between the wrinkles on my hands after fifteen minutes. I did not buy any of the creams, but I am glad I learnt something from the magician.

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