Magic Spells


Fun Things You, Too, Can Do with Science

(Revised 10/15/98)

As part of my Herald-Mage training, I've been learning a lot of magic tricks and learning how to debunk "miracles" and "magic" as keen illusions with perfectly rational scientific explanations. So I thought I'd compile a list of some of the neater little effects I ran across. (No, these aren't the ones on the Herald-Mage sheet. Those you have to find a way to learn for yourself.) If you know of any illusions like this, though, message me at


Cantrips are useful little spells that apprentices learn when they begin to work with magic. These are illusions that are particularly entertaining for children.

Rainbow Swirl

Effect: Colors swirl in a bowl of white milk.
  • 1 cup milk
  • Five drops food coloring, various colors
  • Liquid diswashing soap
  1. Put the milk in a bowl.
  2. Have an audience member drop the food coloring onto the milk. Spread the drops out. Don't put them all in the same place.
  3. Drop the liquid soap one drop at a time to the milk and food coloring.
Explanation: As the soap causes the surface tension of the milk to decrease, the colors are able to swirl together.
Credit: You can find this trick explained in the October 1998 issue of Parents Magazine, p. 134.

Magic Potions

Effect: Potions change colors as ingredients are added.
  • 1 head purple cabbage
  • Hot water
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Milk
  • Tea

You will also need:

  • 1 kettle
  • 1 strainer
  • 1 pitcher
  • 6 jars
  1. Coarsely chop the cabbage.
  2. Soak the cabbage in the kettle in very hot water for 1 hour.
  3. Strain the liquid from the cabbage into the pitcher.
  4. Line up the six jars and fill them with the liquid from the pitcher.
  5. Beginning with the second jar, drop the lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, milk and tea into the jars, one new ingredient for each jar.
Explanation: Just as a litmus test paper changes color to detect acidity, so does the cabbage juice. Acid ingredients cause the potion to change pink. Basic ingredients cause the potion to change blue or green. How acidic or basic the ingredient is and how much you add determines how much the color changes.
Credit: You can find this trick explained in the October 1998 issue of Parents Magazine, p. 134.

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