Jacques Ninio

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Jacques Ninio (born in Cairo, Egypt, 1942, died in Paris, France, 2020) is a French specialist in visual perception at the Centre National des Recherches Scientifiques, Paris.


  • Political, scientific, or religious debates are often distorted according to an immutable principle: one brings together the person who is wrong, who is a hardened demagogue, and whose cause one secretly espouses, to face an opponent who is right but who does not know the case well enough to counter his adversary on precise technical points.

    Take the case of the charlatan who claims to transmit thoughts at a distance. A newspaper that claims to be objective, well-balanced, reader-respectful, and nonpartisan will put two discourses in opposition: that of the charlatan who claims to have abilities not explained by physics, and that of critics: academicians or Nobel Prize winners who will bring out their authority, express their righteous indignation, say that they cannot give any credence to a phenomenon so manifestly opposed to the most sacred laws of physics, and the like. The reader to whom the two contradictory discourses have been served up will not fail to congratulate the newspaper for its remarkable objectivity.

    The only one who will not be given the floor is the professional magician who "knows the trick" and could perform it without further ado for the public. Had he been allowed to speak, the reader would understand everything right away, and there would be nothing left to write in the next few days on this subject. The whole art thus consists of getting the charlatans to speak on the one hand and the distinguished scientists to speak on the other, provided the latter have nothing relevant to say on the subject. But it sometimes happens, alas, that an independent journal comes along and lets the cat out of the bag.
    • Source: The Science of Illusions; English translation by Franklin Philip (emphasis added).

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