May 3, 2011, 6:00 pm
When the illusionist David Copperfield soars gracefully through the air, then seemingly through a series of hoops, audience members might be pardoned for a momentary belief that what they’re seeing is real.
Perhaps, they think to themselves, modern science and technology have finally made levitation—that old magician’s standby—truly possible. After all, there must be some explanation.
It’s pretty simple, writes James D. Livingston in Rising Force: The Magic of Magnetic Levitation, just out from Harvard University Press. Copperfield’s illusion depends upon a harness attached to an array of nearly invisible wires. But levitation itself is no trick. Livingston, who lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that it can be done, albeit modestly, with the aid of magnets.
The Chronicle spoke to him about his new book:
Q: One of your previous books, Driving…