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Twose Company | Nosey

By Dominic Twose - Monday, April 22, 2019

Martin Gardner was a prolific writer, authoring over 100 books, covering mathematics, philosophy, religion, psychic phenomena and magic. He and I wrote to each other on a variety of topics before he died in 2010.

In 1989 he shared with me a highly unusual, curious and inherently amusing effect. I have had a lot of fun with it over the years; on occasion it has held the attention of everyone in a bar. He published it in his ‘New Ambidextrous Universe’ so I don’t feel I am breaching a confidence by sharing it here.

Hold your arms out in front of you. Rotate your wrists so the backs of your hands face each other. Now cross your arms so the palms of your hands face each other. Intertwine your fingers so your hands are clasped together.

Keeping the hands clasped bend your elbows outwards, bringing your hands towards your chest. Rotate your hands so the fingers are upwards, with the first fingers near your nose.

Extend your index fingers upwards, but keeping them crossed. Press the nail side of each finger against the sides of the nose.

Keeping the first fingers against the nose, raise your elbows. The hands naturally move apart and separate. This seems easy to imitate, but when anyone tries to copy you, the first fingers lock, making it impossible to straighten the wrists without removing one of your fingers from your nose.

As Martin said, the secret is mystifying even when you know it. When you first clasp your hands, you must clasp them the ‘wrong’ way. By this I mean, when I told you to cross your arms you probably instinctively crossed your right wrist over your left wrist. Instead cross your left wrist over your right. When you intertwine your fingers, your left little finger should naturally end up at the top of the intertwined fingers. Now the hands will ‘unknot’ easily.

Even with repetition, people are unlikely to spot what is going on. And the sight of a bunch of people in this position is an entertaining one.

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