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August 12th, 2010
02:43 PM ET

How a magician held his breath for 17 minutes

David Blaine likes to challenge himself to do things that doctors say are not possible. He was buried alive in a coffin for a week in April 1999, living on nothing but water. This magician has frozen himself in a block of ice for three days, and stood on top of a 100-foot pillar for 36 hours.

Determined to break the world record for holding one's breath, Blaine embarked on "the most amazing journey of my life." In the video above, from TEDMED, he details all of the ideas he had for how to go about this, as well as how he actually made it past 17 minutes without breathing.

TEDMED is an annual event that brings together dozens of luminaries from a variety of fields to "demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and health care related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital."  TEDMED 2010 will take place from October 26 to 29 in San Diego, California.

Editor's note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be attending TEDMED in October and his coverage of the conference will be featured in "Sanjay Gupta, M.D."


soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. sam

    Weed, that's his secret. I've known dozens of true stoners in my life and they all talk the same. He sounds just like them.

    August 12, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fireybuddha

      i wanna meet YOUR friends!

      August 13, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
    • me

      he sold his soul to the devil thats why he does amazing things , read it ,,its on you tube

      August 13, 2010 at 22:11 | Report abuse |
    • Ibelieve

      Brain damage is brain damage,it doesn't matter if it was cause by smoking pot or going without oxygen.

      August 14, 2010 at 03:59 | Report abuse |
    • fish

      He is satanic and that is where he gets his power from. I don't care how crazy you think this sounds. It is what it is.

      August 14, 2010 at 07:59 | Report abuse |
    • evocs

      Wow. Some of the replies left me thinking I was reading the San Diego Union Tribune, y'all.
      David used to be special, and thrilling to watch. Now he is a yawn.

      August 14, 2010 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      1) There is nothing wrong with pot. Alcohol and cigarettes are proven to be far worse.
      2) Those of you claiming hes a Satanist, get over yourselves there is no Satan, nor God, just life.
      3) Most of his stunts have been explained and are quite easy to pull off.

      August 15, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • Charley

      As Mike points out below, several people have already beaten Blaine's record and explained how. Here is an article about the current record, over 19 minutes by a diver: http://news.discovery.com/human/breath-holding-human.html

      August 15, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
  2. James

    Held his breath for 17 minutes? Not likely.

    August 12, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Rafael

    Remember just one thing people...he's an ILLUSIONIST!

    August 12, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Monty

      I couldn't agree with you more. He probably was breathing the whole time he probably just trained himself so it looked like he wasn't breathing.

      August 13, 2010 at 04:18 | Report abuse |
  4. Jo

    Lol, C'mon Sam. Stoner! Did you read the article and are stoned yourself and just not get it? Now go hold your breath for 17 minutes and come and explain the dynamics.

    August 12, 2010 at 23:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Stop discriminating. Your comment betrays your ignorance.

      August 16, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
  5. Fiona

    I can't believe what stupid comments are posted above! DB's presentation was very interesting, and his accomplishment takes my breath away ;).

    August 13, 2010 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. arthur robins

    ok but is it real or an illusion?

    August 13, 2010 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John C

      The fact that we do not know is the real point to it all! He is an amazing entertainer either way!

      August 16, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
  7. VegasRage

    That was cool

    August 13, 2010 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ben

    real u idiots

    August 13, 2010 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Aztrazolo

      Don't open your mouth if you can't back it up, idiot. It isn't a well kept secret that in other similar feats he has not actually performed them as advertised.

      August 14, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse |
  9. lou

    That's why he's called an ILLUSIONIST and nothing more. If it weren't an illusion he would be called something else.

    August 13, 2010 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. it shows...

    the lack of oxygen to his brain...

    August 13, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Wet Wolf

    You got to pay the cost to be the boss!

    August 13, 2010 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ryan

    The previous record was 16:32. It's not an illusion. However, it should be pointed out that he breathed pure oxygen before hand for 20 minutes or so. The record without pure oxygen is something like 8 minutes or so.

    August 13, 2010 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Matt

    Ryan is right. He was on pure oxygen leading up to the record attempt. This allows you to hold your breath for longer because you do not have any CO2 in your lungs/blood. The title of the article is misleading but he explains everything if you are smart enough to watch the video.

    August 13, 2010 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ethicalanarchist

      Just had to point out that the amount of O2 in the blood has nothing to do with the amount of CO2.

      August 15, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  14. Barney

    He's figured out a way to trick people. First thing that comes to mind is this. It is a fact that some air can escape through your ears and/or eyes. We've all seen it and read about it. I saw a dude blow up a balloon with his freakin' eyeball. Fact. Think about it, have you even yawned and felt your ears open and air pass a bit? Anyways...he didn't stop breathing for 17 minutes. No way. He figured out a way around breathing through his nose and mouth.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Barnetard

      Watch the video. Your response makes me sick.

      August 13, 2010 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      BAHAHAHA – yes, he was breathing thru his ears and eyes ... LOL dude really??? I think the pure O2 theory has a little more merit than somehow having his respiratory system connected to his ears.

      August 13, 2010 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
    • angryStudent

      becuase clearly, we humans can breathe out our eyes and ears all the time. That makes sense.

      August 13, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • Aztrazolo

      The few people who can push insignificant amounts of air through the ducts of their eyes, or have perforated eardrums and can do the same, are doing so under intense internal pressure that they are creating for themselves. That pressure triggers chemoreceptors in the brain stem that trigger an involuntary reflex to breathe. Above that, it is a one way process. You could force minute amounts of air out, but could take none in.

      August 14, 2010 at 08:07 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I think Barney really figured it out: DB has gills behind his ears, like Kevin Costner in Waterworld. Real simple, I'm surprised no one but Barney thought about this before.

      August 14, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
  15. Barney

    Pure oxygen makes sense too. Illusionist.

    August 13, 2010 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. KITTYBLINGBLING

    Come on guys, where's the bag over the head technique? They didn't even monitor his breathing...puh-lease!

    August 13, 2010 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mike

    To all the people doubting this:

    The new record is 19 minutes 21 seconds. This is not just a "take a big breath and duck your head underwater" kind of thing, the record there is 10 minutes. For these longer records they breath in pure oxygen for several minutes and sleep in hypoxia chambers while they prepare, it greatly over oxygenates the blood and allows you to hold your breath for much longer periods of time.

    Here is the article for the new record: http://news.discovery.com/human/breath-holding-human.html

    August 13, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. christina

    big whoop, David Blaine.

    August 13, 2010 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      Big whoop; Christina.

      August 14, 2010 at 00:55 | Report abuse |
    • Aztrazolo

      I'll take Christina over David Blaine...or over a troll like you for that matter.

      August 14, 2010 at 08:02 | Report abuse |
    • Christo

      I agree with Miguel

      August 15, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
  19. Mark C

    Geez, do these idiots (including the writer of this article) not know these are TRICKS??? The guy is a magician, and not a particularly good one.

    August 13, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Protium

    Love TED. This is one of my favorite talks. And to the nay sayers.... wtf are YOU smoking. If it wasn't legit it wouldn't be at TED.

    August 13, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. O^2 industries

    He held his breath... but maybe not just in his lungs. Not only can one `swallow air' for later use, but a suitable oxygen source in the stomach (chemical reaction akin to Alka Seltzer) can generate additional breathable resources.

    August 13, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Not Real

      Seriously! LOL... Some of these responses are entertaining!

      August 15, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
  22. Jon Saint Germain

    Alka Seltzer is Carbon Dioxide, you can't breathe it unless you're a plant or otherwise engage in photosynthesis. I remember when the internet first appeared. I was so happy because I thought, "Now people won't have to be stupid anymore." Chalk this up to Life Disappointment # 1,265.

    August 14, 2010 at 00:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ibelieve

      You thought that the internet was gonna make people smart? How smart were you?LOL

      August 14, 2010 at 04:04 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      To be fair, he did say 'akin to alka seltzer' not that one would actually use alka seltzer. And he's right, with the correct chemical in the form of a pill (akin to alka seltzer) it would certainly be possible to produce breathable air. Whether or not you could use it is an entirely different discussion.

      August 14, 2010 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
  23. mystic7

    Criss Angel has totally left this guy in the dust. And as I remember, he was almost as good at street magic. Probably his total lack of personality did him in.

    August 14, 2010 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Massive Marbles

    David Is....as.... David Does....

    August 14, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. BruceF

    Saw one of his specials awhile ago in which he levitates himself and I have to say it looked incredibly real

    August 14, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JG

      it also looked like he had cable rigging connected to the building above and a guide wire attached to the center of his back. Amazing!

      August 16, 2010 at 00:49 | Report abuse |
  26. Mickey

    Somebody's gotta do it...

    August 14, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. James

    You people scare me. It's an illusion...you can't hold your breathe for 17mins the body will not allow it. You will take a breathe.

    August 14, 2010 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. unklemomo

    Ladies...I can breathe through my ears...and I have an 11" tongue too....

    August 15, 2010 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Harry Houdini

    I doubt any feat claimed by a professional illusionist. Give me a roll of duct tape and a stop watch, let ME prep Mr. Blaine for the stunt, and then I'll be convinced.

    August 15, 2010 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Klaatu

    I am more likely to believe he sold his sole to the devil, breathed pure oxygen beforehand, prepared his body for months through breathing techniques to expand his lungs and finally; used meditation.

    August 15, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. roserr

    I will bet $1000 that this was a trick, and illusion, by an illusionist. He has actually entered the "fraud" territory by seriously claiming that he actually did it. The fact that he is in the Guinness book or another record book is not relevant, unless they were *backstage* with him for the entire trick and were allowed to inspect his equipment, his assistant's equipment, etc. The 'masked magician" even reveled how this type of trick can be done.

    August 15, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JOe

      it was an illusion... dozens of other magicians/illusionists have done that trick before... Its absolutely amazing and blaine is a great magician, I just hate that they never admits he is doing an illusion... Magic is about entertainment, and we all know that we are being tricked... and its fun.... but when you fraudelently claim that you can do something that you cant really do and never say that it is really an illusion...then you are an asshole... He's actually not in the guinness book of world records.. The media reports that he is, and he says he is.. but if you get the Official Guiness World Record book.. He's not in there...- at least they knew it was a trick and prob went along with it for publicity

      August 16, 2010 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
    • Ortega

      I am holding the Guinness record book in my hand now and Blaine is in it. The book is two years old and his record has been beaten by more than one person since then so he is not the current record holder. If this was not a real feat and only an illusion then the person whose record he broke (16 + minutes) and the two people who have since broken the record must also be great illusionists. A little common sense dictates that they all actually did it.

      August 30, 2010 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
  32. Oh brother

    He was connected to a thin tube that was connected to oxygen tanks. Pleaseeeeee..

    August 15, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Dennis

    This man is just amazing. The stuff he has done as an illusionist are beyond explanation and in some cases words. I wonder if he was taking very shallow breathes through his nose with his mouth closed tight? The guy is just good at what he does plain and simple. I like a lot of the above answers for those that posted comments...............

    August 15, 2010 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Bobington

    This guy is such a joke. Most of the stuff he does is not impressive at all. I could stand in a block of ice, then get rushed off to the hospital Or stand on a pole, then get rushed to an ambulance just like he did.

    August 16, 2010 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. JOe

    the holding your breathe thing was nothing but an illusion... I think Blaine is an awesome magician but when he acts like he has ACTUALLY held his breath for that long, it pisses me off...

    August 16, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. James

    Blaine is not a illusionist. He really dont know crap about magic. He does the same tricks over and over.
    You want a real illusions look up Wayne Houchin or Dan sperry.
    Or in Tampa is David Evangilista and michael Stanley. There illusionist. Blaine sucks

    August 23, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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