Occasionally we’ve written about magic on this website?and sometimes quantum physics can SEEM like magic. Now science has turned its attention to sword swallowing.

Radiologist Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer, of Sword Swallowers’ Association International, sent out medical questionnaires to over 100 professional sword swallowers to determine what sort of medical problems they encountered.

They also found out how swallowers learned their craft. Like all magicians, they practice daily for months or years. In this case, they overcame their gag reflex by gradually increasing the size of the objects they pushed down their throats. In order to “swallow” a sword, you need to line it up with your upper esophageal sphincter, which is a muscle at the upper end of your esophagus, and you also need to relax the muscles in the pharynx and esophagus. These are usually not under our control?hence the “gag reflex.” Some swallowers performers lubricated their swords with saliva, while others used more slippery lubricants.

In LiveScience.com, Ker Than reports that sword swallowers can get a bad sore throat or “sword throat.” One respondent reported that he actually brushed the top of his heart with the point of a particularly long sword that he swallowed.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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