In this article, I asked you to consider how the Russian in the video was making paper burn, cups melt, and assistants wince in pain. I promised I'd share with you my thoughts, and here they are.
First, I have to say that the commenters were brilliant in exploring options and considering issues. What I'm about to say agrees with many of them, but it's important to know that I was not there, I have not talked to the people involved, and I could be completely wrong.
However, what I do have is James Randi, who I consulted on this matter.
Randi and I agree that the most likely explanation for the observed phenomena is laser energy.
In the video above, you get a good look at what lasers can do. It's clear that lasers can be invisible and hot enough to burn paper and melt plastic. Pay attention to the part about "focal point." It could explain how the laser went through the balloon and warmed the assistant's hand. (Of course the man could have simply been lying.) As for the cups that appeared to be burned through a closed door... we don't know WHEN they were burned. They could have been burned with a laser before or after the door was closed. Also, Randi suggests as many of you did that chemicals could have been invovled. There are many chemicals that when mixed produce an exothermic reaction hot enough to melt plastic.
The most interesting thing I observed in the video was the way the cups melted. There was a large hole and a small hole. I don't have access to lasers this powerful, but I'd be curious to see what the melt pattern would be on a polystyrene (my guess again) cup. Given that laser light can be focused, I could imagine a larger and smaller hole just as is shown in the video.
Another aspect that can't be ignored is the sound the "magician" is making. It could be just theatrics, or it could be masking for the sound a device is making. Some CO2 lasers are quite loud.
So, have we solved this mystery? Not at all. We've come up with some possible explanations, but were we able to contact this person, its likely they'd claim we were way off and that they actually had supernatural powers. That's fine. We have $1,000,000 in incentive waiting for him to show us that he can actually do what he says he can. In fact, he did more work in that video than he'd be required to do to win the challenge.
So why won't he (or anyone else with such easily demonstrable powers) apply? Again, we can only speculate, but it seems likely to us that they can't, because they'd be found to be using tricks. Still, we're here waiting to be shown.
Enlighten us. Educate us. Humiliate us if you wish, but share your gift with the world if you indeed have it at all. If you don't want or need the money, there are plenty of charities around that would be happy to have it.
Thanks to everyone for participating. :)