Spoon Bending

In Travels Michael relates his experience at a Spoon Bending Party. We excerpt a portion of his story here.

I looked down. My spoon had begun to bend. I hadn't even realized. The metal was completely pliable, like soft plastic. It wasn't particularly hot, either, just slightly warm. I easily bend the bowl of the spoon in half, using only my fingertips. This didn't require any pressure at all, just guiding with my fingertips.

I put the bent spoon aside and tried a fork. After a few moments of rubbing, the fork twisted like a pretzel. It was easy. I bent several more spoons and forks.

Then I got bored. I didn't do any more spoon bending. I went and got coffee and a cookie. I was now far more interested in what kind of cookies they had then anything else.

Of course, spoon bending has been the focus of long-standing controversy. Uri Gellar, an Israeli magician, who claims psychic powers, often bends spoons, but other magicians, such a James Randi, claim that spoon bending isn't a psychic phenomenon at all, just a trick.

But I had bent a spoon, and I knew it wasn't a trick. I looked around the room and saw little children, eight or nine years old, bending large metal bars. They weren't trying to trick anybody. They were just little kids having a good time. Staying up past their bedtimes on a Friday night, going along with the adults, doing this silly bending stuff.

So much for the controversy between magicians, I thought. Because spoon bending obviously must have some ordinary explanation, since a hundred people from all walks of life we're doing it. And it was hard to feel any sort of mystery: you just rub the spoon for a while and pretty soon it gets soft, and it bends. And that's that.

The only thing I noticed is that spoon bending seemed to require a focused inattention. You had to try to get it to bend, and then you had to forget about it. Maybe talk to someone else while you rubbed the spoon. Or look around the room. Change your attention. That's when it was likely to bend. If you kept watching the spoon, worrying over it, it was less likely to bend. This inattention took learning, but you could easily do it. It was comparable in difficulty to, say, learning to count off exactly five seconds in your head. You practiced a few times, and then you could do it.

Why do spoons bend? Jack Houck had theories, but I had long since decided to concentrate on the phenomena, and not worry about the theories. So I don't know why spoons bend, but it seemed clear that almost anyone could do it.

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