Performance videos and essays as monthly inspiration for magicians, artists, and scientists, by Armando Lucero.




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The Academy of Perceptual Engineering

THE HUNGRY IMAGINATION is a way to share my passion. I make movies and write articles about perceptual engineering — part art, part science, but for anyone fascinated by the peculiarities of the mind. Popup link See samples of my work below. Read full background HERE.

If you are a magician, artist, or scientist, then consider joining this humble university to enhance your understanding of deception. For merely $20 monthly, you receive a unique video performance along with notes about the perceptual engineering involved in the artifice. Essays are free.

— Armando Lucero


A hand riffling playing cards.
John Dee Performing an Experiment before Queen Elizabeth I. READ MORE

Aperceptual engineer can bamboozle an observer by delivering information covertly for them to perceive what should not exist, like an infectious distortion of reality it then germinates without their awareness — influencing their every thought until the mind assumes the unreal while the real (whatever that is) remains hidden.”


Music: Snake Charmer by Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra.

More than entertainment, Magic, by way of perceptual engineering, is a mental martial art for critical thinking Popup link icon for more information. — an indispensable tool for any academic investigation. Here above are my credentials. It represents one of many possibilities that can be accomplished using the ideas from The Hungry Imagination. As you watch, bear in mind that there are only four cards and four coins used.


Eye of Providence is the cover image. Wee Wikipedia. Music: Clair De Lune by Debussy.



Sisyphus by Antonio Zanchi is the cover image. From Wikimedia Commons Music: royalty free from audioblocks.

BEYOND DECEPTION, The Ascension uses scripting to deliver more than a trick. Since the advent of social media, everyone is “special,” and fake “reality shows” are mainstream. So while people celebrate mediocrity on YouTube, and our search for genuine “leaders or heroes” may seem increasingly daunting, why not seek the virtue of being excellent and elicit a pride of integrity? Then maybe even inspire others with our humanity. Thoughts are powerful, and we could think “trick” or make magic. We could think “magic” or make art. We could think “art” or deliver awe-inspiring moments of emotionally charged content with the potential to affect people’s lives.


The opening image is of the Morgan dollar. A United States coin minted from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921. Music: Roulades by Bruno Coulais.

Sleight of hand plays only a minimal role in Sterling Succession as compared to the heuristics applied. Psychology over the brute force technique. If you take it apart to see how it works, what would you find? Not much of the real work, I suspect. But consider the following principles involved: proactive and retroactive conditioning, synchronized coupling, information-interference, lines of continuity, primacy-recency effect, object permanence, affirmation, intersecting moments, and much more. To the uninitiated, magicians guard an empty safe. However, to the initiated, the safe is overflowing with such invaluable, albeit intangible concepts concerning the mind, it is all-consuming.


We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories." 

— Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal


The opening image is Georges de la Tour: The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds (1635); Louvre, Paris. Music: Bistro Fada by Stephane Wrembel

The kid, the hustler, and the gent is a monte piece. SCRIPT: It was a dingy place with flickering light where the smell of whiskey and blood ran amok, and being played was the game called Three Card Monte. "One more bet?" asked the hustler. The gent, grievously looking like a big old question mark and too many drinks, responded sadly, "I'm out. That's it, done, there's nothing left." Then nearly fell over...” Sign up and get the full script.


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The writing is a significant part of The Hungry Imagination, regarding all things related to perceptual engineering.


and the artist way
by Armando Lucero
Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash
Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

From a philosophical approach “three” has appeared mystical, mysterious, and alluring. Which is often the case for things we yet to comprehend. Sometimes it feels more complete when absorbing items in threes. Is it that we distinguish three on our own or rather that we cannot help but see three regardless of what patterns are there? Either way, history shows we have a strong predilection to seeing things in groups, but especially three. It seems to be a proven rhythm found in the arts and life in general. In geometry, the tetrahedron is essentially the basic building block of the universe.[1] Therefore the triangle is a significant shape that appears everywhere. It is used for all construction, and without adhering to the principles of the triangle, buildings would fall apart.[2]

We have a need to search for patterns whether they reflect truth or not but for this reason an artist can use this propensity to capture our intrigue.[3] Anyone who discovers familiar shapes in a cloud has experienced a tendency towards patterns. The triangle then is appealing from both an engineering and an artistic point of view because of its significant influence transcending everywhere. If we are the stuff of the universe, then we are structures of triangles, and it will influence our thinking to seek and recognize them. We then manipulate and embellish upon these basic building blocks to make more elaborate patterns of structure not only materially but with our thoughts.

By Rafael on Wikimedia

Consider the complexities of music. What musicians discover to lure us in the best way possible also reveal underlying mathematical models. To the point that those artists who are most successfully intriguing, the ones most memorably appealing, can show measurable differences distinct from all others through the analysis of patterns. Musicians, as well as dancers, painters, writers, speakers, sculptors, or movie makers, who consistently and profoundly captivate us until we submit with laughter or tears, are based on thoughtfully planned designs. Beautiful architecture that is emotionally affecting draws from the knowledge of engineering. Hence Magic, by way of perceptual-engineering, is both science and art because the tools discovered can be applied and repeated with a significant degree of accuracy but simultaneously subject to the whims of the observers’ mindset which is malleable.

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

By studying these patterns, we find the dance between repetition and change, inserted strategically for best results. The enigmatic tool of the emotional tension spring between continuity and dynamics. How does one attain such expertise to lead like a conductor does an orchestra? It is a daunting task, but it can be studied. The patterns are there. Compounding this difficulty is that people come in all types, each with their own biological and experiential influences. Which would explain why each culture tends towards their own kind of music. We are primed to adapt to our given culture, which is a necessity for survival. Once we are primed to specific likes and dislikes, we are inclined to adhere to them, to the ways of our acquired culture, and its language.

Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny." 

— Chinese Proverb

After we get past the idea of merely thinking in threes, we may explore the more complex groupings, but always there is a pattern to discover and follow. The artist way is all about seeking “patterns” that are then rearranged for the purpose of procuring emotional content to elicit a response from the observer. Not just any response but specific and predictable responses. Considering music has so much to offer for study, we can then compare a well-composed piece of magic to a Bach Fugue. Everything in its rightful place for maximum effect. Not too much, not too little, but all parts supporting and powerful as a whole. An exercise of thinking creatively and strategically to affect us emotionally by resonating with what is intrinsic to all of us; patterns.

My interpretation of a great artist is one who has mastered the skill to communicate that which defies most of us. Doing what anyone else can do is not what an artist does. Painting by numbers is not the same as Picasso. All artists do art, but doing art does not necessarily make the artist. To read something, hear something, see something, or experience anything prepared by an artist can so profoundly affect us intellectually and emotionally we may be awestruck. Because the one who is the maker of such an arrangement seems to step outside the box of commonality and achieve the distinction of what others deem “artist.” Curiously, artists sometimes speak in abstractions which are difficult to interpret into academia — often explaining that “they just do it.” Which I believe is unconscious competence through years of experience from honing their skill.[4]

The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material." 

— Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Poetic but obscure. Maybe Michelangelo knew but some artists do not recall how they became so expert. Often ignoring the massive work and experience that came before. Consider a scientist whose ability improves with every formal and proper investigation which eventually becomes second nature; to the point of appearing as if “they just do it.” When such an expert has a hunch, scientific training still guides them even without their awareness.

It does not have to be three of course, but it is a good starting point as a fundamental building block. “3” can be applied to a beginning, a middle, and an end, three compositions as a set in a show, and three sets as a complete show, then iterate from there. You might also follow your gut, but with caution. Be aware that knowledge based on aesthetics alone is neither precise, proven, or true, and must be tested. However, unconscious competence could sometimes elevate us to the brink of knowing just before revelation. As I am fond of saying “Beauty is nature’s hint for truth, and by honing our artful skills to recognize it, are we not better scientists?” Make no mistake, an expert artist is fluent in a language that is ripe with knowledge and wisdom. The information is valuable and worthy of scientific investigation but to unravel the mystery requires transcending both art and science as if they are one.[5]

Last Word

As a perceptual engineer, I have observed that people can and often do obtain knowledge without their awareness. Which then influences their decisions about the world. This can have both positive and negative consequences but in regards to the good ones, the information gathered can sometimes lead one to discover a profound truth yet not explain how they arrived at it. Some call it intuition but a guess based on a genuine intellectual pursuit of truth while using reliable tools with vast experience in experiments should not be dismissed as mere guesswork. It could be unconscious competence. Ironically, science admonishes guesswork while practicing it all along. Otherwise, how would any experiment begin without the hunch to ask the questions in the first place? The problem is in distinguishing the difference between what is valuable insight or not.

— Armando Lucero


  1. “All of the definable structuring of Universe is tetrahedrally coordinate in rational number increments of the tetrahedron. By tetrahedron, we mean the minimum thinkable set that would subdivide the Universe and have the interconnectedness where it comes back upon itself. The basic structural unit of physical Universe quantation, tetrahedron has the fundamental prime number oneness.” — Buckminster Fuller

  2. “Within it (tetrahedron) lies the energy that holds all life together. The bonds that hold atoms, particles and molecules together, all the way down to nanoparticles and all the way up to macroparticles, are tetrahedral. Everything that exists as you conceive of it in a 3-dimensional world, is held together by these tetrahedral bonds.” — Buckminster Fuller

  3. “There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.” — E.H Gombrich

  4. Unconscious Competence: The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned. — Wikipedia

  5. “It is a mysterious thing, in fact, how something that looks attractive may have a better chance of being true than something which looks ugly. I have noticed on many occasions (in my own work) where there might, for example, be two guesses that could be made as to the solution of a problem, and in the first case I’d think how nice it would be if it were true; whereas in the second case I’d not care very much about the result even if it were true. So often, in fact, it turns out that the more attractive possibility is the true one. — Roger Penrose



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With great effort and love, these works were composed, so it is an honor to know you took valuable time to partake. To all who have contributed, gave support and appreciation:

Armando Lucero, in addition to personally being my favorite magician, is beyond question the foremost sleight of hand performer and magical thinker in our profession. In 80 years, he is the only magician I have ever seen whose effects look like real magic.” — Johnny Thompson

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Member Bio image


As a performance artist, I have had the opportunity to travel the world and appear in various shows. The Illusionists 1903 show, IMAGINE, a Las Vegas show by Dick Foster productions, Cruise Ships, Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde TV show in France, TV shows in Japan and China, several Universities, various theaters and much more. Every performance was an opportunity to experiment. So after much education and proof of concepts, I began teaching. I soon noticed that beyond entertainment, these tools were valuable for improving self-awareness.

For many years, I have had the privilege and honor of sharing what I learned about the mind with people from all walks of life, including Magicians, of course. But also physicists, artists, doctors, mechanical engineers, psychologists, neuroscientists, teachers, bankers, and businessmen. We discuss theory and composition regarding perceptual engineering as it applies not only to magic but all facets of life. The concepts can seem esoteric, but magic offers a way to immediately experience them. Then you know.


In my search for truth by intuition and reason, I developed a box of metaphorical tools from which I use to compose. These ideas both inspire and guide me to push forward, not only to discover but create. These tools were earned amidst experimentations, experience, and an extensive database of choices. Like music, I have the freedom to go one way or another, but once I choose a path, there is a definite sense of scientific reason to make it the best journey.

I was six when my older brother introduced me to magic. He vanished a marble from one hand, which then reappeared in his other hand. I was astonished and hungry to learn. More than the sleight of hand, it was the sleight of mind that intrigued me the most. The concepts of magic can be shown in politics, advertising, public speaking, war, law, and various tactical designs, from architecture to the essential social media strategies. In fact, social media is now using experts known as attention engineers; who have more in common with a magician than most people would suspect. They even use the same terms. Except with a magician, you know it's a trick; how ironic.

Magic, by way of perceptual engineering, is an excellent tool for doing live interactive experiments that can reveal much about us. Ponder this; some Generals have won wars with less depth of deception than a magician at a birthday party. Many discoveries about the human mind were known, published, and used by magicians long before scientist put labels on them; Change-Blindness, Information Interference, The Paradox of Choice, Heuristics, Primacy-Recency, Proactive and Retroactive Conditioning, etc. etc. Magic is a way of exploring that elusive conundrum of a black box we call the mind by eliciting triggers that yield predictable responses.

Sincerely, Armando Lucero
Websites: and

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Meet Christopher Rose

Christopher James Rose is a Magic Effect and Illusion Designer from Las Vegas, NV. As the owner and CEO of Artistic Conjuring: An Illusion Design and Consulting Agency, his work has been featured in numerous theatrical productions, Las Vegas casinos, and television programs both national and international. Including Teller and Aaron Posner's adaptation of TEMPEST, for which he received a Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Award for Magic and Illusion Design. His work has also appeared on the CW Network program "Penn and Teller Fool Us," "America's Got Talent," and other television programs around the world. His other clients include The American Repertory Theater, The Boston Lyric Opera, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, South Coast Repertory Theater, The Smith Center Las Vegas, Harvard University, and Yale University.


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Meet Dr. Hugo Caffaratti

Dr. Hugo Caffaratti is a pioneer in the neuroscience of magic. Although he has been in the world of magic as a practitioner, for more than 20 years, he considers himself a philosopher or theorist of the Art. He is convinced that magic is an invaluable tool to understand human cognition and behaviors better.

His research has mainly been focused on the study of perception using techniques and methods of the art of magic. He tested how magic illusions really affect our perceptions. Dr. H. Caffaratti explains that magic has all the tools to scientifically explore everyday situations of object blindness, false memories, confabulations in decision-making processes, etc. Furthermore, magic demonstrates that illusions and biases are not exceptions of cognition but rather intrinsic parts of its circuitry. As he always affirms, “we all humans are magicians, the thing is that we don’t know.”

Being globally acknowledged, Dr. Hugo Caffaratti took part in conferences and events all around the world. He has spread his philosophy and science of magic, advocating that this art is much more than tricks. Unraveling behavioral patterns magic uniquely exposes the truth about who and what we are. More importantly, magic reveals how we interact with the immediate environment of our everyday life. Furthermore, the art of magic has allowed Dr. H. Caffaratti to scientifically explore big questions of philosophy such as ‘what is Reality?’ or,’ is free will an illusion?’



From a study by Michigan State University; entitled Artistic Scientists and Scientific Artists, Nobel Prize winners were dramatically more likely to be involved in the arts than less accomplished scientists. In particular, those who practiced magic rated 22 times more likely. As the article states, "A scientist was counted as having an artistic or crafty hobby, 'if they described themselves or were described by biographers as being a painter, photographer, actor, performer, composer, poet, dancers, craftsman, glassblower, and so on after entering college; if they took lessons in an art or craft as an adult; or if there was direct evidence of artwork, photographs, sculptures, compositions, poems, performances, and so on." The article also noted how many artist and scientists share common ways of problem-solving.


Coin Menagerie is a comprehensive study of perceptual engineering with four coins and four cards. Coin Menagerie is considered to be Armando’s quintessential work in magic. While skill is certainly important, the main focus is on theory, composition, and the underlying philosophy. This piece may serve as a template to anchor all important concepts so that long after the workshop is over one can reflect upon them later. Prerequisite: basic knowledge in sleight of hand and more than three years of experience is recommended. MORE


Pasteboard Devices reveals special sleights along with some tangentially related artifices. Participants have the opportunity to witness Armando demonstrating them within original compositions of legerdemain; Divination Gone, Betwixt Me, Inscrutable Pocket, Empanada, and others. These routines can then be performed as a show or individually. At least three years experience in the use of advance card sleights is recommended. MORE


The essays traverse many subjects such as psychology, math, business, poetry, military strategy, law, advertising, performance, etcetera. And oh yes, magic included, with one common thread binding them together, perceptual engineering. After years of research, it is my pleasure to share what I learned.

The movie compositions are the culmination of my experience brought forth into performance. They reflect much of the thinking behind the concepts, and so they are valuable as templates or keys to help remember the underlying ideas. These items are precious to me, as I hope they will be to you.


Poetic but obscure. Surprisingly, some artists do not recall how they became so expert. Often ignoring the massive work and experience that came before. Consider a scientist whose ability improves with every formal and proper investigation which eventually becomes second nature; to the point of appearing as if “they just do it.” When such an expert has a hunch, scientific training still guides them even without their awareness.


Metal Quirks is a study of perceptual engineering using just three coins; two silver dollars, and one odd. Metal Quirks is Armando's take on the classic coins across routine. Open by vanishing a coin from spectators hand, then perform phase one with three iterations — interlude with a coin appearing in person's hand, then complete step two with three variations. Finally, present a 1 to 2 and 2 to 1 coin transposition between your hand and the spectator's hand. MORE


Paper Cuts is a personalized study of essential card sleights such as double-lifts, false shuffles, shifts, steals, visual changes, switches, palming, etcetera. Begin with basics and progress to the more challenging sleights like double-deals, bottom deals, table-hop pass, or the one handed swivel-change. For the novice and the professional interested in basic to advance card sleights. MORE


The Annex The Annex is provided to all alumni as an extension course to refine and enhance previous studies. A continued exploration of theory & composition regarding perceptual engineering and the beguiling finesses within compositions of legerdemain. Use it to advance your knowledge and skill, or to simply refresh it. Consider it as the graduate studies program of this humble university, but minus the bureaucratic paper chase. MORE


Personal Guidance: What is often missing in the sharing process is a rite of passage; a continuity of strong impacting experiences that gives us our foundation of who we are. These emotionally-charged life-changing transitions are affirmations that solidify our humanity, our core. When we acquire knowledge and wisdom, the change could be significant. There is a sense of dignity that comes to us when we put forth great effort to earn something. Anyone who has struggled to reach something extraordinary knows this. Learning can be profound. Personal guidance may help make the difference, hence the workshops.


Painting by Henry Gillard Glindoni. a Public Domain work of Art.

❝ John Dee is the original Elizabethan mage-scientist, who invented the British Empire and invested it with magical power. He is to Elizabeth what Merlin was to Arthur, except he was real. Here's the original technology of weaponized memes, psyops, and empire building in a gripping, authoritative account of how and why we became an occult society." — Douglas Rushkoff's editorial book review of John Dee and the Empire of Angels by Jason Louv


The academy of perceptual engineering and the beguiling finesses within compositions of legerdemain.