Light as a feather stiff as a board and levitation

Many of you would remember this game from parties as a kid. I am a huge sceptic, but i swear this works.

For those who dont know the game: “One participant lies flat on the floor, and then the others space themselves around her, each placing a few fingers underneath her body. They then start chanting “light as a feather, stiff as a board” and eventually lift their friend, using what feels like surprisingly little effort.” (wikipedia)

There are other variations where the person is sitting, and the people around that person, engage in an excerise where they each place their hands above the persons head before the lif them. I have done this myself, and the lift is very easy after this exercise is performed.

That this trick works, there is no question. What i need wo know is WHY. Internet searchs only reveal cosimic and spiritical answers, and unpeer reviewed articals about magnetic fields and person auroas. There must be a simple sceintic reason for this, but i honestly cant come up with it.

And for any non-believers please just try it before you pass by this thead. I need all the imput i can get.

Thankyou guys

Damo

I don’t think there’s really much of an explanation needed.

Assuming an average 9 year old weighs about 80lbs, and there’s 5 other 9 year olds lifting, this works out to 16lbs per child. Provided everyone’s using both arms, that’s 8lbs per arm. The more kids you add, the less weight everyone lifts.

Its not as simple as that. this is 4 people lifting a 130 kg man with just the tips of their fingers.
I have done that maths. thats 30kg each. Not that easy with just the tips of your fingers.
Actually try the experiment before you give such a lame explanation.

What did i do to offend you?

That works out to 71.5 pounds being lifted per person and 35.75 per arm of each person. That can be lifted with the fingers. What’s so unbelievable?

I just tried it and I can easily lift a 40lbs object (a chair) with one arm using only two fingers… I don’t see what you find so unbelievable about it.

The OP seems entirely appropriate to me. However, the OP would be well-advised to take his/her own advise. He/she should “[a]ctually try the experiment” and lift a 30 lbs with two fingers before declaring it a “lame explanation”. He/she will find that it is not that hard.

Actually it’s not that lame. People (especially women) really have very poor notions of just how strong their bodies are, including their fingers and hands. Have you ever been grabbed by a full grown woman when she’s pissed off? It leaves a mark.

30 kg each with the tips of your fingers amounts ot 3 kgs per finger. Most people can do that fairly easily. The “trick” is in people’s erroneously low expectations of their strength.

Wizard did it.

What, specifically, is so offensive about the OP? I honestly don’t see what you’re getting at.

He posted duplicate questions in two forums and Tom closed one down. Typical new poster mistake & Zabali_Clawbane was a little quick on the trigger. No big deal.

At the very least, one should try the experiment while chanting “light as an anvil, stiff as a noodle” and again while chanting nothing, and determine if the chanting really is a relevant part of the process.

I’ve casually lifted 45lb barbell weights with two fingers. Even dropped one on my toes once and suffered no damage. I mention this only for the heck of it.

never mind, deleted text.

Nothing, Kiddo, you just posted in the wrong Forum.

Your OP was a General question. Great Debates is for Philosophy or Religion.

You’re cool.

Annd, welcome to the SDMB.

In most forms of this trick, it goes like this:

• First attempt to lift. Nothing happens, and it seems impossible. The person is too heavy to lift.

• The ‘ritual’ is performed, which may involve putting the hands or fingers somewhere else (eg on the person’s head) and chanting something or counting down. On a given cue, this is followed by…

• Second attempt. This time the lift is successful and the person rises into the air.

It seems as if the ‘ritual’ had some effect or made a difference. So what’s going on?

Well, there’s nothing much to explain about the actual lifting. With the hands or the fingers placed in suitable ‘lifting’ positions around the body, four people can lift just about anyone (except the very heaviest or most obese). You can do the math (as several Dopers have shown) and when you divide the weight among the lifters, there’s really nothing exceptional or unusual about it. Of course, most of us most of the time don’t really know much about what we can and cannot lift, until we try. So it’s easy to just imagine that something weird and wonderful must be happening.

The interesting part is why, in most cases, the first attempt fails. There are lots of possible reasons that might have something to do with it. When the first attempt is made, people are either conditioned to expect that it will fail, or they just assume it won’t. Also, they tend not to try that hard. The first effort is usually un-coordinated and a little clumsy. And remember, it only takes one person to ‘fail’ and the whole lift will fail.

For the second attempt, people are conditioned to expect that it will work (because of the ‘ritual’). They make a more co-ordinated attempt (because the ritual involves a precise cue as to when to start lifting). They are more motivated and they try harder (because otherwise there’s no pay off or climax, and no fun). Also, it is usually the case that the transition from the ‘ritual’ position to the second lift involves some momentum, which helps the lift to work.

Some or all of these factors may be in play, and they explain the difference between the first attempt (no lift, no success, no fun) and the second one (lift and success and fun).

You or someone you know may wants to embrace the hypothesis that the ritual has something to do with it, or somehow affects the heaviness of the person. Well, a good way to examine a hypothesis is to try and break it. See if using different words or a different procedure will still work, provided everyone believes it is the RIGHT procedure, and providing it still confers the benefits of improving focus, co-ordination and motivation. Try devising a version where the person is standing on a set of scales all the time, so that you can see if his weight actually changes. See if you can get the first attempt to succeed, provided you take care to get favourable conditions of focus, belief, expectation, motivation and co-ordination, even without the ritual.

I was at a party with someone who claimed all teh BS. Started the chanting. We all just said “this is BS, lets just lift” - no problems.

Brian

Doesn’t it have something to do with how the muscles, when tensed, change the body’s structure and alignment? Isn’t that what’s behind the tactic of protestors, when arrested, to ‘go limp’ to make it harder for them to be picked up and carried?

Nothing at all. I was only trying to be helpful to someone new, that’s all.

There is something to this. Depending on what life stage you are , you can try:

Romantically carrying your girlfriend through the door frame vs carrying her drunk back to the car.

Picking up a baby who wants to be picked up and a sleeping baby

Picking up a ballet dancer in the proper pickup position and just relaxed

The police vs protesters thing

The differences are quite marked.