Actually a very thin piece of red cellophane in the shape of a 3.5-inch-long fish, this amazing innovation twists and curls when placed in the palm of your hand. It seems to move magically, different for different people. The truth is, it is sensitive to the moisture of your hand. An old favorite of demonstrators. Ask your students to explain what makes the fish move. Includes explanation.
Download the pdf of this lesson!
The Fortune Fish is a very thin piece of red cellophane in the shape of a fish, 8.9 cm (3.5 inch). When placed in the palm of a hand it twists and curls. It seems to move magically, different for different
- Place a Fortune Fish in the hand of each student and observe. Ask students to brainstorm possible causes for the movements.
- Moisten a small piece of paper towel, ca. 12 cm2 (2 in2), with two drops of water. Holding the Fortune Fish by the tail and horizontal, slowly lower the head over the moistened piece of towel, without ever touching the towel. What do you observe? What happens when you lower the Fortune Fish, held vertically?
- Use a small piece of tape to fasten the tail of the fish to a table. Bring the moist paper towel close to its head. A Fortune Fish, which continuously moves up and down, can be called a Fortune Fish motor. Can you make one? What is the energy source for this motor? Can you find ways to increase the frequency of the up and down movement? How many repeating cycles can you observe without touching either the cellophane or the paper towel? Does the motor work better when the air is warmer or cooler? When covered with a large glass or not covered?
- Out of sight of students, place two drops of water on a scrap of rug, ca 20 cm2. Then, ask students to find the location of the water by using the Fortune Fish as a moisture detector.
- Discover other uses for the Fortune Fish.
A common incorrect hypothesis is that heat causes the movement of the Fortune Fish. To show that this is not the correct, hold the tail of the Fortune Fish with tweezers over something warm. No movement is expected.
When the Fortune Fish is placed in a hand, moisture is absorbed on one side of the cellophane, causing that side to expand. If only one side expands, the thin cellophane curls. When the water on the
cellophane evaporates, the fish becomes flat.
The Fortune Fish motor absorbs water when close to the moist paper towel and curls upward. Away
from the higher concentration of water vapor, the water molecules are released from the cellophane and
the fish becomes flat. For the Fortune Fish motor to work, there must be a difference in concentration of
water vapor, so that water can be both absorbed and released. Slight circulation of air sometimes helps.
Write a review
The Little Fish That Could
Sep 23, 2018 | By Mike Seftel of Mission Viejo, CA United States
even college students love these!
Aug 12, 2015 | By Therese of flagstaff, AZ United States
Oct 27, 2014 | By Margaret Carter of wapato, WA United States
May 8, 2014 | By Xavier of Haverstraw, NY United States
Apr 22, 2014 | By Marilyn Gorman of Somerset, NJ United States
Sep 26, 2013 | By Caroline of Webster, MA United States
Fortune Fish was a hit our house
Jan 2, 2013 | By Spring Creek Academy of Anywhere, KS United States
Oct 15, 2012 | By Nancy of Bronx, NY United States
Fortune Fish is Fantastic
Jun 2, 2012 | By Laurie Burrell of Tucson, AZ United States
May 24, 2012 | By Betty Bigney of North Topsail Beach, NC United States
May 23, 2012 | By Lynn Isbell of Elmwood, IL United States
7th/8th Grade Science
May 21, 2012 | By J. McLain of Glendale, AZ United States
Fortune Telling Fish
May 19, 2012 | By Teresa Nichols of Dayton, OH United States
The Case of the Freaky Fish
May 16, 2012 | By Kim Weber of Elizabethtown, KY United States
Great Science Night Idea
May 16, 2012 | By Ann Robichaux of Houma, LA United States
Scientific Method Primer
May 16, 2012 | By Jeanie Shannon of Statesville, NC United States
May 16, 2012 | By Robin Parkinson of Ogden, UT United States
May 16, 2012 | By Barbara Bridge of Somersworth, NH United States
This product will support your students' understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)*, as shown in the table below.
Suggested Science Idea(s) 4-PS3-1
| Elementary || || Middle School || || High School |
| 4-PS3-1 |
Students can use Fortune Fish as evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object. 4-PS3-2
Students can use Fortune Fish to make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by heat. 4-PS3-4
Students can use Fortune Fish to apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that convert energy from one form to another.
| || MS-PS3-1 |
Students can use Fortune Fish to apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy. MS-PS3-4
Students can use Fortune Fish to plan an investigation to determine that the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample.
| || HS-PS3-3 |
Students can use Fortune Fish to design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.
Students can use the Fortune Fish in a number of different investigations of kinetic and thermal energy. Although all Fortune Fish have shared physical properties, due to the unique elasticity of each fish and the varying temperatures of students' hands, energy transfer can be explored in a new manner.
* NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.