Water Gel Tricks and Pranks
This mysterious powder makes water disappear and is the perfect tool for pranks, tricks and the science fair.
Steve Spangler Science’s Water Gel is the perfect tool for teaching and learning about hydrogels and superabsorbent polymers. This white powder is able to absorb over 100x its own weight in water and it can be useful to farmers and ranchers in times of drought. What you may not have known about this amazing polymer, is that it’s also the perfect prop for pranksters and magic tricks. We’ve got a sweet prank and two “magic” tricks for you to check out.
- Water Gel™ powder
- Plastic cups
- Styrofoam cups
- Sugar container
- Unwitting victims
Water Gel, the Sugar Substitute
- Start by using a box cutter to slice along the seam of a sugar packet. Empty the sugar into a container, and be sure to hold onto that container for once the prank is over.
- Once you have the empty sugar packets, refill the packet with Water Gel. Try to fill them to the same level as the sugar you removed. The success of pranks is often in the details.
- Seal the packets using clear tape and return them to their original place on the table.
- Sit back and watch as countless folks fall for your epic April Fool’s prank when they come to add a bit of sugar to their coffee or tea but soon find a cup full of a solid polymer instead.
You are responsible for ensuring that your friends don’t actually drink the Water Gel. Make sure your prank is fun, and not dangerous. Water gel should not be consumed.
Three Cup Monte
- Start with three empty cups or glasses. We used sytrofoam cups for the pictures, but any non-see through cups will work.
- Before your audience arrives, put one blue scoop of Water Gel into one of the cups.
- Set all three cups, open end up, side by side on a table.
- Pour 8 oz. of water into the cup with Water Gel in it.
- Shuffle the cups a number of times.
- Ask the audience to pick the cup they think contains the water.
- Tip the cup, opening down, onto the table. Repeat with the other two cups.
I’m Going to Pour This Water on Your Head!!!
- You’ll need two colored plastic cups.
- Fill one cup with 8 oz. of water and the other cup with one blue scoop of Water Gel.
- Walk up to a coworker, a teacher, a student, or a parent and pour the water from one cup into the cup with the scoop of Water Gel.
- Say something like, “This is for taking the last donut,” or “This is for the ‘B’ I got on that physics test,” and tip the cup over their head.
- Nothing came out!
- Say, “Just kidding. April Fools,” and go on your way.
How Does It Work
The secret to these pranks and tricks is a superabsorbent polymer called sodium polyacrylate. A polymer is, essentially, a long chain of like molecules (monomers). The prefix “poly” means many; the prefix “mono” means one. Superabsorbent polymers are able to expand exponentially when they come in contact with water. The molecules of the polymer draw the water in and then hold onto it. In the case of Water Gel, it’s able to absorb 100x its own weight in water!
Remember, a good prankster and magician never reveals his magic. Don’t tell your friends how you performed your pranks and tricks. Instead, tell them that Steve Spangler taught you. Maybe they should ask him!
Science Fair Connection
Making water “vanish” is a pretty cool trick, but it doesn’t make a science fair project, yet. You create a science fair project by identifying and testing variables. A variable is something that might change the outcome.
Let’s take a look at some of the variable options you might test and write up for a science fair.
- Test liquids other than water. What’s different about a Water Gel reaction in orange juice, milk, soda, vinegar, bleach, coffee, tea, ketchup, etc? Which of these liquids gels the fastest? slowest? not at all? How long does the reaction take in each one?
- There are many different types of water to test, e.g. tap, bottled, sparkling, distilled, spring, rain, different concentrations of salt water and/or sugar water, etc. Which of these liquids gels the fastest? slowest? not at all? How long does the reaction take in each one?
- What changes do you detect in the reaction using colored water with the Water Gel? Why might these changes happen?
- What happens to the reaction time if you change the temperature of a test liquid?
These are just a handful of ideas and you certainly aren’t limited to them! Come up with your own variable to test. Remember, you can change only one variable for each test while making sure that all the other factors in your test remain the same!