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Epidemics & Bioterror/ Magic & Illusions

Date Monday - July 16, 2018
Host George Noory
Guests Dr. Jonathan QuickJim Steinmeyer

Dr. Jonathan Quick is an instructor of medicine at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chair of the Global Health Council. In the first half, he discussed the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu epidemic which killed 50-100 million people, manmade pathogens and bioterror, Ebola and weaponized pandemics. The 1918 outbreak was a type of swine flu that hit right around the end of WWI-- it may have originated in Haskell County, Kansas, and was spread to other parts of the world through transport planes which left from Kansas and were being used to fuel the last war efforts, he detailed. There were no antibiotics back then, he added, and that contributed to the large number of deaths.

He expressed concern that scientists are developing super-viruses in their labs, using sophisticated DNA slicing to make them even more deadly, as a way to create more effective vaccines. While there's a top level of bio-security, the track record for such things is somewhat unsettling, Quick pointed out. For example, in 2009, live anthrax samples were sent accidentally to labs across the US, and to a US Air Force base in South Korea. However, as far as a devastating new epidemic, he finds it less likely to be brought about by a bioterror attack, but rather from what the World Health Organization has called "Disease X," a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease that unexpectedly spreads before we've developed treatments.

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In the latter half, renowned historian of stage magic Jim Steinmeyer talked about his new work on the real history of magic and the people who created the deceptions and illusions, and how they kept the secrets alive generation after generation. Magic is a form of trickery – "it's either something that's suggested to you, and then you walk away with that illusion," he explained, "or it's some form of sleight of hand or some kind of mechanical device." But, he added, a performer who excels, cleverly disguises the illusion making it seem like it's mind reading, a spirit effect, or something inexplicable.

One of the great luminaries in the field was the 19th-century French magician Robert-Houdin. The famed American magician Harry Houdini actually took his name from him as an homage, Steinmeyer revealed. Having a resurgence right now is what is known as "close-up magic" where a performer does tricks and sleight of hand, such as with cards or coins, just for a table for people. This close-up work requires a high level of skill, he noted. He also touched on such people as the Amazing Kreskin, who always closes his show trying to guess which person in the audience they've hidden his paycheck with, Uri Geller, whom some believe uses magic techniques, and Carl Ballantine, who deliberately foiled his tricks to get a laugh from the audience.

News segment guests: Howard Bloom, Steve Kates

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Bumper music from Monday July 16, 2018

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