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How Does the Fortune Teller Miracle Fish Work?

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The movements of the fortune teller fish are a result of the chemical used to make the fish.

If you hold the red plastic Fortune Teller Miracle Fish in your hand it will bend and wiggle as if by magic. The movements of the fish are a result of the chemical used to make the fish.

Todd Helmenstine This is a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish and its packaging.

This is a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish and its packaging. If you place the Fortune Teller Miracle Fish in your hand it will bend and wiggle. Decipher the movements to predict your future.

Todd Helmenstine This is the chemical structure for sodium polyacrylate.

This is the chemical structure for sodium polyacrylate. Sodium polyacrylate is used in disposable diapers, fake snow, detergents, thickening agents, and many other products.

Muso, Wikipedia Commons

Question: How Does the Fortune Teller Miracle Fish Work?

If you place the plastic Fortune Teller Miracle Fish in your hand it will bend and wiggle. You can decipher the movements of the fish to predict your future. The movements of the fish are a result of the chemical composition of the fish.

Answer: The Fortune Teller Miracle Fish is a novelty item or kid's toy. It is a small red plastic fish that will move when you place it on your hand. Can you use the movements of the toy to predict your future? Well… you can, but expect about the same level of success as you would get from a fortune cookie. It doesn’t matter, though, because the toy is great fun!

The Fortune Teller Fish is made of the same chemical used in disposable diapers, sodium polyacrylate. Sodium polyacrylate will grab onto water molecules that it touches, changing the shape of the molecule. As the molecules change shape, so does the shape of the fish. If you submerge the fish in water, it won't be able to bend when you place it on your hand. If you let the fortune teller fish dry out, it will be good as new.

Science teachers commonly hand out these fish to students and ask them to explain how they work. Students propose a hypothesis to describe how the fortune teller fish works and then can design an experiment to test the hypothesis. Usually students think the fish may move in response to body heat or electricity or by absorbing chemicals from the skin (salt, oil, water).

 

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