An old-age mystery, keeps most up all night – adult and the young alike. You think it when you touch it. You wonder it when you use it. What really lies inside your clandestine Magic 8 Ball?
In theory, the Magic 8 Ball is made up of five main components – an outer shell (the ball), with a cylinder inside holding blue dye liquid and a twenty sided die. We’ve broken them down for you:
- The main circular shell – made up of two halves glued together.
- A clear, plastic container held with a support disc.
- Blue dye liquid inside the cylinder.
- A white message-bearing die floating in the blue dye.
Individuals around the world have tried to answer the mystery themselves, often by smashing it open. A recent, super widespread thread on Reddit sparked the interest of the most curious souls out there. As per one user – “You have seen what cannot be unseen!”
The Magic 8 Ball taken apart piece by piece
The beauty of the Magic 8 Ball lies in its sheer simplicity. It’s a 1/8 inch thick plastic sphere, within which lies a plastic cylinder that houses a blue liquid with a floating white icosahedron die with all the responses printed in raised lettering.
In more visual terms, these are the main components of the Magic 8 ball –
Piece 1 – 1/8’’ Plastic Sphere
The Plastic Sphere makes up for the exterior shell of the Magic 8 Ball. It is essentially two hollow halves that are glued together. From the outside, it resembles a commonly seen, black-and-white Billiard Ball and is about the size of an ordinary pool ball. The very first Magic 8 ball, however, was in a much bigger shape. Its current size was envisioned for its simplicity and ease to hold and carry – which adds to its widespread use.
The Magic 8 Ball is meant to be held with the number 8 facing up, with a ‘window’ on its bottom face which is turned up after you ask the ball a question. This is where your mysterious ball reveals your answer!
Which leads us to our next part – what’s inside this Sphere?
Piece 2 – Plastic Cylinder
Inside this Plastic Sphere, situated at its centre, lies a clear Plastic Cylinder. It is held in place by a transparent support disc that is glued to the three pieces – the two halves of the sphere and the cylinder. The height of the Cylinder is slightly less than the total diameter of your Magic 8 ball for it to easily fix in the centre of it.
The Cylinder is sealed securely with a cork at its top, held by exactly three screws. The cylinder is air-tight and hence bubble free, which is its most important functioning secret. If any air slips into the container by accident, or if its shook too much, isn’t air-tight or is opened but not reassembled with care, the Ball can begin to malfunction.
Piece 3 – Blue dye Liquid
The Plastic Cylinder is clear with a reservoir of Blue Dye Liquid inside it, usually about 100ml (3½ fl. oz.). The founder of the Magic 8 Ball designed it to be Blue Dye in an alcohol base. A word of caution is that the blue dye can potentially be dangerous, toxic and stainable – especially with your clothes, sinks etc. Its definitely not edible and has a strong, murky smell.
The creators of Simpsons knew the secret when they gave the Magic 8 Ball a staged entrance to one of their episodes – Bart cracks the Magic 8 Ball, and a blue stuff comes flowing out. This in no way means that it is as easy to open the Magic 8 Ball though. But we dug a bit deeper to understand why the liquid dye used here was blue. Our theory is that, as most colour scientists claim, blue is not a colour, it’s a mystery. The colour blue and in-turn the Magic 8 ball is associated with intuition, imagination, inspiration, wisdom, intelligence, trust and sincerity. Which is everything that we look at the Magic 8 Ball for. And more.
Piece 4 – White Message-Bearing Die
Inside this murky reservoir of blue dye liquid floats a white message-bearing Dye. Geometrically, it is a regular Icosahedron shape with twenty faces. Each of the die’s twenty faces has an affirmative, negative, or non-committal statement printed in raised letters. These are the messages that are revealed to you through the mysterious window on the ball’s exterior.
When you shake the ball after asking it a question and turn the ball over for the window to face you, this die floats within the cylinder to the very top, and one of its faces presses against the window. The raised letter answers displace the blue liquid to show you the message as white letters against a blue background. This is what makes the Ball so magical and intuitive – the response you get is your luck (or destiny?).
Most commonly, the instructions on the packaging of the Ball, warns against shaking it before turning it upright to face you, because this can create air bubbles in the liquid inside the cylinder which can sometimes remain or multiply making it visibly murky to read the message through its window.
In 2011, TIME Magazine named the Magic 8 Ball as one of the “All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys.” All for good reason – the Ball is an all party favourite. What makes it most innovative is its simplicity – as shown above with our breakdown of its exact components. With just four parts – namely the sphere, cylinder, blue-dye liquid and a message-bearing die – the Magic 8 Ball stands as one of the most innovative and multi-use inventions of our time!
Reference 1 – Medium Article “Blue is Not a Color, It Is a Mystery
Reference 2 – Time Magazines All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys
Reference 3 – The Attention Economy and How Media Works (pp.139-147) by Karen Nelson-Field
Reference 4 – Reddit Discussion Forum https://www.reddit.com/r/geek/comments/2wo63s/ever_wonder_whats_inside_a_magic_8ball
Figure 1 – The Major Components
Figure 2 – Inside the Magic 8 Ball – broken down in a flowchart
Figure 3 – The major components