Thursday, August 30, 2012

Science, magic and monsters meet at book fest

The giant green dinosaur will once again rise above Decatur Square for Labor Day weekend, with the return of the Decatur Book Festival and its inflatable monster mascot, Bookzilla.

One of the most popular aspects of the festival is the Science Track organized by Atlanta Science Tavern. Emory psychologist Scott Lilienfeld has been tapped to give a short intro for a talk by Alex Stone, a physicist and a magician who will speak at 5 pm on Sunday about his new book “Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks and the Hidden Powers of the Mind.”

Stone notes in his book, “the world of magic is filled with scientists and the world of science is filled with magicians.”

Lilienfeld is just one example of this phenomenon. “I’ve always loved magic tricks,” he says. “I like being fooled by them, and I like trying to figure out how I got duped.”

Magicians have contributed a lot to the science of psychology, Lilienfeld says, by demonstrating the powers of “change blindness” the “illusion of choice” and other mysterious cognitive patterns.

“One of my keen interests is the psychology of deception,” Lilienfeld says. “To me, that’s what science is all about, to minimize the possibility of deception.”

A trailer for the sci-fi book "Year Zero," one of the titles at the book fest.

The potential of thorium as a super fuel, theories of consciousness, lithium batteries, electric cars and astounding tales hidden in the human genetic code are some of the other science subjects that will be highlighted at the festival. Click here to see the complete listing of Science Track authors.

The festival also has an Environmental Issues Track including novelist Lauren Groff and Georgia ecologist Janisse Ray. A Health and Wellness Track includes a panel discussion on "Tackling Obesity Issues," moderated by Emory psychologist Linda Craighead.

Science-fiction fans will have a chance to hear Lydia Netzer talk about her metaphysical novel "Shine, Shine, Shine," and Rob Reid on "Year Zero," his novel about music pirates from outer space. (Check out the trailer for "Year Zero" in the video, above.)

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