13:16
TED2014

Helder Guimarães: A magical search for a coincidence

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Small coincidences. They happen all the time and yet, they pass us by because we are not looking for them. In a delightfully subtle trick, magician Helder Guimarães demonstrates with a deck of cards, a dollar bill and a stuffed giraffe.

- Magician
Using a deck of cards and other simple props, Helder Guimarães gets up close to play with your perceptions and preconceptions. Full bio

I'd like to start my performance by saying
90 percent of everything is crap.
00:12
(Laughter)
00:18
It's called Sturgeon's law,
and what that means
00:20
is that the majority of anything
is always bad.
00:22
I have a giraffe here.
00:29
I'm going to throw the giraffe
behind my back
00:31
and whoever catches it is going
to help me on this next thing.
00:33
Sir, you caught the giraffe.
00:38
I have a playing card in my hand.
00:41
Freely name any card in the deck.
00:44
Audience member: 10 of hearts.
00:49
Helder Guimarães: 10 of hearts.
00:51
You could have named any card in the deck,
00:52
but you said the 10 of hearts.
00:55
Ninety percent of everything is crap,
00:57
so there's this to prove that
Sturgeon was correct.
00:59
(Laughter)
01:03
(Applause)
01:05
(Laughter)
01:09
Sir, this is not your show.
01:13
(Laughter)
01:16
Keep the giraffe for a moment, okay?
01:20
Jesus.
01:24
(Laughter)
01:26
Crazy people.
01:28
Well, the truth is,
01:30
why is the majority of everything bad?
01:34
And my answer is: I think we stop
thinking too soon.
01:38
I'll give you a clear little example,
01:43
something that people used to do
around the turn of the century --
01:45
not this century, the other one.
01:49
The idea was to take a piece of paper
01:51
and fold it inside out
using only your weaker hand,
01:54
in my case, the left hand.
01:59
Something that would look like this.
02:01
By the way you reacted, I can see
your lack of interest.
02:13
(Laughter)
02:17
But that's okay, I understand why.
02:19
We stop thinking too soon.
02:21
But if we give it
a little bit more thought,
02:22
like a paper clip.
02:24
A paper clip makes this a little bit
more interesting.
02:26
Not only that, if instead of using
my hand with the fingers,
02:31
I use my hand closed into a fist,
02:34
that makes this even a little
bit more interesting.
02:36
Not only that, but I will impose myself
a time limit of one second,
02:40
something that would look like this.
02:45
Now -- no, no, no.
02:52
Sturgeon may be correct.
02:54
But he doesn't have to be correct forever.
02:57
Things can always change.
02:59
Sir, what was the card?
03:01
The 10 of hearts?
03:03
There's this to prove that things
can always change --
03:05
the 10 of hearts.
03:10
(Applause)
03:12
Secrets are important.
03:15
And secrets are valuable.
03:19
And this is the best secret
I've ever experienced.
03:22
It starts with a deck of cards
onto the table,
03:26
an old man and a claim,
03:29
"I will not touch the deck till the end."
03:33
It doesn't matter who the man was,
03:37
all that matters was that sentence
ringing in my head:
03:39
"I will not touch the deck till the end."
03:44
Now, during all this time,
03:48
he was holding a small notebook
03:50
that sometimes he would open
and flip through the pages
03:52
and look at something.
03:55
But I was not really
paying attention to the book
03:56
because I was paying attention the deck
and the claim he had made before,
04:00
"I will not touch the deck till the end."
04:05
Now sir, you have the giraffe.
04:08
Go ahead, throw it in any direction
04:10
so that you can find
someone else at random.
04:11
Perfect. Sir, you're going to play
my role in this story.
04:15
The old man turned to me and he said,
04:19
"You could pick a red card
or a black card."
04:21
My answer was ...
04:23
Audience member 2: The black card.
04:25
HG: Indeed!
04:26
It was a black card.
04:28
He said, "It could be a club or a spade,"
04:30
and my answer was ...
04:32
Audience member 2: Spade.
04:34
HG: Indeed! It was a spade.
04:36
He said, "It could be a high spade
or a low spade."
04:39
And my answer was ...
04:42
Audience member 2: A high spade.
04:44
HG: Indeed! It was a high spade.
04:46
Since it's a high spade,
it could be a nine, a 10,
04:49
a jack, king, queen or the ace of spades.
04:51
And my answer was ...
04:54
Audience member 2: The king.
04:56
HG: The king of spades, indeed.
04:58
Now sir, let's be fair.
05:02
You selected black, you selected spade,
05:03
you selected the high spade,
and you selected -- sorry?
05:06
Audience member 2: King.
HG: King of spades.
05:09
Did you feel I influenced you
in any decision?
05:11
Audience member 2: No, I just felt
your energy.
05:13
HG: But it was a free choice, correct?
05:16
Because if not, we could start
all over again.
05:17
But it was really fair?
Audience member 2: Absolutely.
05:20
HG: Now, the old man turned to me
and he asked me one more question,
05:22
a number between one and 52.
05:25
And the first number I thought of was ...
05:29
Audience member 2: 17.
05:31
HG: Indeed! It was the 17.
05:32
The old man only said one more thing:
05:36
"This is the end."
05:39
And I knew exactly what that meant.
05:42
I knew that he was going
to touch the deck.
05:46
Everything that you're about to see
is exactly as it looked.
05:50
He took the deck out of the box.
05:57
Nothing in the box.
06:00
He counted, "One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10."
06:03
The tension was building.
06:13
(Laughter)
06:16
"11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17."
06:19
And on the 17, instead of
the king of spades,
06:29
something appeared
in the middle of the deck,
06:33
that later, I would realize
was actually a secret.
06:37
The old man stood up, he left.
06:43
I never saw him again.
06:46
But he left his notebook
06:49
that was there from the beginning.
06:52
And when I picked it up,
06:55
that was the best secret
I've ever experienced.
06:57
We are defined by the secrets we keep
07:04
and by the secrets we share.
07:08
And this was his way
of sharing a secret with me.
07:10
(Applause)
07:15
Crazy shit! Now --
07:24
(Laughter)
07:26
I believe that amazing things
happen all the time.
07:30
I really do.
07:36
And the reason why we don't see
them as often,
07:38
it's because we don't
place ourselves in a position
07:41
to search for those amazing things.
07:44
But what if we decided to search
for those amazing things,
07:47
for those small coincidences
in life that are truly amazing?
07:52
So you have the giraffe,
07:58
go ahead, throw it in any direction
so you find one last person at random.
08:00
Sir, I'm going to ask you,
08:06
do you have, with you,
a United States $1 bill?
08:09
Audience member 3: I think so.
08:15
HG: Yes? You see, a coincidence!
08:16
(Laughter)
08:19
Let's make sure you have it.
08:22
Do you have it?
08:24
Audience member 3: Yes.
HG: Yes! Perfect.
08:25
Now, I want you to do exactly the same
thing I am about to do.
08:27
I have a dollar bill here to explain.
08:30
I want you to take the dollar bill,
08:32
and fold the Washington part
inside, like this.
08:34
So you get this kind of big square, okay?
08:37
Now, I want you to take the bill
and fold it like this, lengthwise,
08:40
so it becomes like a rectangle,
08:44
and then again --
really fold it, really crease it --
08:46
and when you have it,
08:48
please fold the bill again
into a little square like this
08:50
and let me know when you have it.
08:53
Do you have it? Perfect.
08:56
Now, I'm going to approach,
08:57
and before we start,
09:00
I want to make sure that we do this
in very, very serious conditions.
09:01
First of all, I want to ensure that we
have a marker and we have a paper clip.
09:05
First of all, take the marker
and go ahead and sign the bill.
09:10
And this is the reason why:
09:14
later, I'm going to be doing
a bunch of stuff on stage
09:15
and I don't want you to think,
09:18
oh, while I was distracted by Helder,
09:20
someone came onstage and swapped the bill.
09:22
So I want to make sure
it's exactly the same bill.
09:24
Now not only that, I want you
to take the paper clip
09:27
and put it around the bill.
09:29
So even if nobody comes onstage
and switches the bill,
09:31
I don't have enough time
to go open the bill and close it
09:34
and see what I don't want to see.
09:37
Is that fair?
09:39
Now you can give me the marker back.
09:40
And just like that, very clearly,
09:42
I want to make sure that
we place this in full view
09:44
from the beginning of this experience
09:47
and to make sure that everyone
is going to see it,
09:52
we're going to actually have
a camera man onstage.
09:55
Yes, perfect, so that you can see.
09:58
That's your signature? Yes? Perfect.
10:01
Now, we're going to use
also the deck and a glass for this.
10:03
And we're going to put
ourselves in a position
10:11
to search for an amazing coincidence.
10:13
Do you mind, can you help me with this?
10:16
Go ahead and take some cards and shuffle.
10:18
And do you mind, can you
take some cards and shuffle?
10:21
You can take some cards and shuffle.
10:23
You can shuffle cards
in a variety of ways.
10:26
You can shuffle cards like this.
10:28
You can shuffle cards
in a more messed up way,
10:29
something like this.
10:31
You can shuffle cards in the American way.
10:32
As a Portuguese, I don't feel entitled
to teach you guys how to do it.
10:34
But the important part is
after shuffling the cards,
10:38
always remember
to cut and complete the cards.
10:40
Do you mind doing that for me, sir?
10:42
Please cut and complete.
10:44
And when you have it,
place the cards up in the air.
10:45
And you too, cut and complete
and up in the air.
10:48
Up in the air.
10:50
A deck of cards cut and shuffled
by one, two, three, four and five people.
10:52
Now, very clearly, I'm going
to gather the deck together.
10:56
And just like that.
11:02
I'm going to search for a coincidence
in front of everyone.
11:06
I'm going to try.
11:15
I have some cards that maybe,
11:25
maybe they don't mean anything.
11:29
But maybe that's because
we are not paying close attention.
11:32
Because maybe, maybe they mean a lot.
11:36
Before we start,
sir, you gave me a dollar bill.
11:40
Is that your signature?
11:43
Audience member 3: Yes it is.
11:45
HG: I want you to see very clearly
11:47
that I'm going to open your bill
11:51
and reveal a small secret that we created.
11:54
And the secret of this dollar bill
is the serial number.
11:59
Madam, can you take the dollar bill?
12:05
In the serial number, there is a letter.
12:09
What is the first number after the letter?
12:11
Audience member 4: Seven.
12:14
HG: Seven.
12:15
Seven.
12:17
But, that's maybe just one coincidence.
12:20
What is the second number?
Audience member 4: Nine.
12:23
So after the seven, we have a nine.
12:26
And after the nine?
12:31
Audience member 4: Two.
12:32
HG: The two. And after the two?
12:33
Audience member 4: Three.
12:35
HG: Three, and after?
12:36
Audience member 4: Three.
HG: Three.
12:38
Audience member 4: Seven.
HG: Seven.
12:40
Audience member 4: Four.
HG: Four.
12:42
Audience member 4: Two.
HG: Two, and?
12:44
Audience member 4: Q.
12:46
HG: Q like in queen?
12:48
(Applause)
12:52
The queen of clubs!
12:54
All the cards in order, just for you.
12:55
And that's my show.
12:59
Thank you very much and have a nice night.
13:00
(Applause)
13:03

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About the Speaker:

Helder Guimarães - Magician
Using a deck of cards and other simple props, Helder Guimarães gets up close to play with your perceptions and preconceptions.

Why you should listen

Helder Guimarães slips and slides cards on a table, wowing you with invisible technique, unorthodox psychology and fresh humor. As a close-up magician, he's won international awards for his elegantly thought-through performances, which merge a nuanced stagecraft with good old how-does-he-do-it sleight of hand. He is the world's youngest-ever World Champion of Card Magic. He reflects on his craft in the enigmatic out-of-print book, Reflections.

His appearances at LA's Magic Castle led him to be awarded the title of Parlour Magician of The Year, in 2011 and 2012, recognition that drew hours-long queues as audiences (and fellow magicians) flocked to the simple and astonishing act. Also, in 2012, he co-created a show called Nothing to Hide, with Derek DelGaudio, which opened at the Geffen Playhouse, directed by magic superfan Neil Patrick Harris. In 2013, the show was taken to Off-Broadway where it stayed for a very successful held-over run of 110 performances.

 

More profile about the speaker
Helder Guimarães | Speaker | TED.com