The Inscrutable 8-Ball Revealed

Detailed below, the reader will find a procedure for disassembling a Magic 8-Ball®. The authors caution readers not to follow or emulate these directions, as harm may ensue.

8-Ball in a bright yellow box Obtained One Tyco® Magic 8-Ball®

Here, the 8-Ball is pictured in its original packaging. These toys (some might call them "oracles" or "prophets") cost about $8.00 at the nearby FAO Schwartz. For this procedure, you will need at least one 8-Ball, which will be destroyed.

Person drilling near top of 8-Ball Pursued Exploratory Drilling

Everyone who's played with an 8-Ball knows that they seem to be filled with a murky, viscous (and presumably harmless) blue fluid. At this stage in the disassembly, the authors believed it might be neccessary to drain the blue fluid before cutting the shell. To that end, drain holes were drilled in the outer shell, and an attempt was made to release the blue fluid. This attempt was unsuccesful; it seems that the blue fluid is contained within some inner reservior, or, perhaps, a circulatory system.

Person cutting a circle near the top of 8-Ball Craniectomy Performed

At this step, the rotary tool was converted from drill mode to cutting mode. A large, circular incision was made around the "8" emblazoned on the toy. An earlier, initial attempt at the seam of the outer shell met with unexpected resistance to cutting. The succesful cut was at approximately 45° latitude.

White cylinder sticking out of hole in 8-Ball The Inner Workings Were Revealed

The section that was disconnected from the outer shell was removed, revealing the top of what appeared to be a cylinder.

Cylinder held outside of 8-Ball Cylinder Removed

The white top was grasped and pulled, and the inner cylinder was removed. The opposite end of the cylinder is composed of clear plastic, and forms the window through which erudite answers are viewed. The cylinder seems to have two chambers, one which contains the mysterious "answer device", and another which seems designed to trap bubbles. The presumably harmless blue fluid is contained entirely within this cylinder.

Fluid and answer-filled clyinder, next to shell. Cylinder and Shell Reposed

The investigators wanted an illustrative photo of the cylinder device near the cut-open shell. This photo was profoundly blurry.

Outlook not so good An Opinion was Obtained

The cylinder of fluid and device are still able to render opinions without the protection of the outer shell. At this point, the authors enquired whether the Oracle was enjoying the disassembly. "Outlook not so good," was the pensive reply.

Person drilling more holes Drain Holes Drilled

In order that the (presumably harmless) blue fluid could be drained, the authors drilled two drain holes in the cylinder. We were careful to drill into the compartment that did not contain the mysterious answer device. Happily, this also allowed us to drill into a large air bubble, instead of drilling into a liquid.

Cylinder gushing fluid Cylinder Exsanguinated

As soon as the second drain hole was drilled, the cylinder began to lose fluid quite rapidly. The authors recommend a work surface that allows for easy cleanup of fluid spills.

Person cutting end off cylinder Prepared for Further Dissection

The authors decided to make a circumscribing, shallow cut near the window end of the cylinder. This approach resulted in successful removal of the intact "answer device."

White answer ball Discovered Icosahedral Answer Device

With the cylinder dissected, the forrmerly mysterious answer mechanism was revealed. The answer device turned out to be a plastic icosahedron, with a different answer message on each face. The icosahedron was hollow, and appeared to be made of two pieces of plastic held together by inner clips. The authors decided, in the interest of preserving the icosahedron, that no further disassembly was warranted.

Biohazard A Note About the Blue Fluid

Although this report has previously referred to the blue fluid as "presumably harmless", there is some reason to believe that it is less than potable.

Two human subjects (including one of the authors) volunteered for a non-blind Type I safety trial of the blue fluid. The investigators initially believed the fluid to be water with dissolved dye. The trial subjects self-administered small doses of the fluid to their tongues. Trial subjects reported the following side-effects:

  • Hideous taste (100%)
  • Numbness of the application area (100%)
  • Blue fingertips (100%)
  • Headache (50%)

A follow-up study of the experimental subjects after 30 minutes revealed no additional long-term side-effects of blue fluid ingestion. The change in finger color appeared to be a permanent outcome, but involved no other morbidity. The numbness discontinued after a few minutes. However, the authors recommend that no further human trials begin without animal studies.

Answer ball with "Outlook not so good" showing Further Examination of the Answer Icosahedron

Pictured here, the answer device was examined carefully. It was found to have the following distribution of answer types:

  • 50% Positive (e.g. "Yes - Definitely")
  • 25% Negative (e.g. "My Sources Say No")
  • 25% Vague (e.g. "Better Not Tell You Now")
The typeface used on the answer icosahedron is a sans serif small-caps font.
Leftover bits of shell Shell Detritus

Pictured here, the authors examined the 8-Ball shell and found that the equatorial region (near the seam) contained a plastic support to hold the cylinder upright. Nothing else of interest was discovered. The picture itself is a link to a larger version.

Cylinder in two pieces Cylinder Remains

The authors also examined the cylinder which contained the actual answer icosahedron. Again, nothing of interest was discovered. This picture is also a link to a larger version.


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Legal Notices

This procedure is presented without warranty. In particular, the authors expressly disclaim all liability that might otherwise arise as a result of loss and/or damages incurred by following the procedure. It is the belief of the authors that following the above procedure could result in grievous bodily harm, possibly including death. Persons who attempt to disassemble any toy, use powered tools, and/or consume and/or contact fluids and/or other materials found in toys, do so entirely at their own risk and discretion.

"Magic 8-Ball" and "Tyco Toys, Inc." are registered trademarks of Tyco Toys, Inc., and are used without permission. Quotations from the Magic 8-Ball® are Copyright © by Tyco Toys, Inc. No affiliation exists between Tyco Toys, Inc., and this publication. Opinions herein are solely those of the authors. Other trademarks are the property of their respective owners, and are used without permission.


Copyright © 1997-1999, Dan Egnor and Heath Hunnicutt