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These fish... they vibrate?
February 18, 2011 8:12 AM   Subscribe

This is a pretty amazing video of a Chinese magician doing magic tricks with goldfish on the BBC spanish website. Extended video and discussion (along with possible spoilers) can be found on youtube. It's been picked up by some English-language sites (here and here). Real controversy, or just hype to drum up publicity? Either way, the magician is refusing to divulge his secrets (but insists that no fish were harmed in the trick).
posted by math (59 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
He just speaks Koi.

Its kind of like whale.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on February 18, 2011


Even their fish are communist - moving in unison and perfecty symetry; capitalists beware....the fish-uprising is upon us!
posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2011


And I'm compelled to believe these are actual fish...why?
posted by DU at 8:23 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Magnetized fish - how do they work?
posted by mikepop at 8:23 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well if they aren't actual fish they're pretty amazing robotic fish. Not beyond the realm of possibility, I suppose, but most robotic fish I've seen are on the larger side.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2011


Magnetized fish - how do they work?

Something to do with tides?
posted by R. Mutt at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The opposite of actual fish is not necessarily robot fish.
posted by DU at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is only the beginning! You should see the little chorus line he's got going with crabs!
posted by Krazor at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2011


The threat of a hot pot and black bean sauce can make goldfish do amazing things.
posted by helmutdog at 8:36 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Those aren't magic fish....THIS IS MAGIC FISH!
posted by Fizz at 8:38 AM on February 18, 2011


Yep, magnets.
posted by unSane at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2011


Did he really say, "Bah-biduh-bah-biduh-bah-biduh,"?
Because if that actually means something then I'm going to learn to speak Chinese.
posted by artof.mulata at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2011


It's very sweet to see Spanish-language BBC mentioning animal rights regarding magnetized (or magic) fish.

You should see what he does with bulls!
posted by chavenet at 8:46 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


something is fishy about this whole thing.
posted by Xurando at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I'm compelled to believe these are actual fish...why?

A little after 2:15 in the video one of the black fish (second closest to the camera) shakes a bit while it's moving along. If they are fake fish this could have been achieved using some kind of remote-activated vibrating device (like the silent ringer on a cell phone), but that seems like a lot of work to go through just to convince those who try to scrutinize the trick. Which is why I think that the fish are very real.
posted by ruthsarian at 8:49 AM on February 18, 2011


FYI, this clip is from this year's CCTV New Year's Gala, which would make an interesting fpp by itself. It's an annual variety show that lasts for like five hours and is watched by hundreds of millions of people. Appearing on this show can elevate an ordinary person into a superstar (or a superfailure!) instantly.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:50 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was in China and saw this live (along with all the other crazy entertainment on this show) and my immediate comment was magnetized.
posted by mss at 8:52 AM on February 18, 2011


Did he really say, "Bah-biduh-bah-biduh-bah-biduh,"?
Because if that actually means something then I'm going to learn to speak Chinese.


Well - I couldn't pick up that exact quote - but he telling the fish to turn left, right, go straight... that sort of thing. So the Chinese he is speaking does actually mean something!

Ha!
posted by helmutdog at 8:53 AM on February 18, 2011


He blows the whistle to apparently call the fish to formation, but you can see them begin to line up before that happens. Watch the black fish on the left at 1:43... the camera zooms in on the magician but you can plainly see it flipping the frick out as it (apparently, to my eyes) wrestles against whatever mechanism is controlling it. Magnets seem like the most likely explanation. I'm a happy meat-eater and not inclined to take "animal rights" very seriously, but I've always found magic acts that involve live creatures to be pretty disturbing. And I seriously adore magic, so that's saying something.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:02 AM on February 18, 2011


I'd believe that he trained the fish to run a pattern, then does the trick with waving his hands above them to look like he's controlling them.
That bit with the picture was super freakycool though.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:02 AM on February 18, 2011


"Bah-biduh-bah-biduh-bah-biduh,"?

He's saying "my father's father's father's", more or less. Ba4ba4 means father, de is in this context indicating a possessive. He's actually claiming those fish have been passed down to him from his great-grandfather.
posted by kmz at 9:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


FYI, this clip is from this year's CCTV New Year's Gala, which would make an interesting fpp by itself. It's an annual variety show that lasts for like five hours and is watched by hundreds of millions of people. Appearing on this show can elevate an ordinary person into a superstar (or a superfailure!) instantly.

My family used to watch this almost every year when I was a kid, even once we were in the US. The xiangsheng were always my favorite bits. Eventually though the whole show just got suckier and suckier, and we'd skip more and more segments until we didn't even bother acquiring the show.
posted by kmz at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2011


Magnetized fish - how do they work?

Something to do with tides?


Jeezus, don't tell Bill O'Reilly, he'll freak the fuck out!
posted by briank at 9:18 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


One the one hand, you can train goldfish to do some pretty fancy things. On the other hand, those fish clearly aren't "swimming" like real fish swim. They look dead. On some other dude's hand, I would think magnets strong enough to tug the fish along and not get crossed up with the other magnets would also be strong enough to make the fish stick to the bottom.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2011


...that seems like a lot of work to go through just to convince those who try to scrutinize the trick.

Yeah, it's probably easier to train goldfish to voice comman...what?

If you don't think magicians will go to a lot of trouble to make something look natural...I don't have a way to finish that sentence, but you're very, very wrong.
posted by DU at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some observations.

At 0:17 look at the black base for the large fish tank behind the table. Now go to 5:52 and look at the base again. Something was taken away along with the table. Whatever was hidden there was for the goldfish trick.

Go back to 0:17 and note a brick-shaped black box on the ground just behind the table.

Go to 0:55 and you'll see there's a cord going from the base of the large fish tank to the black box.

Continue watching and at 1:04 you'll see the magician move his left foot forward towards the black box. That's probably a foot pedal triggering the table cloth to drop from the sides and pull back the table cloth on top that's hiding a red tablecloth underneath. But it doesn't go completely right and not all of the black cloth is removed. He fiddles with it a bit to try and pull some of the black cloth off, but gives up and keep going.

During the performance neither the host nor the magician walk between the table and fish tank and the table once the fish appear.
posted by ruthsarian at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2011


If you don't think magicians will go to a lot of trouble to make something look natural...I don't have a way to finish that sentence, but you're very, very wrong.

You're right that a magician's job is to make things look natural when they perform effects, but magicians are also the most pragmatic people I know. The effort to produce that fish wiggle and to use it only once simply isn't worth it for the 1% of your audience who will notice it.

I have no doubt the fish are very real.
posted by ruthsarian at 9:42 AM on February 18, 2011


Metafilter: the opposite of actual fish
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:47 AM on February 18, 2011


Only 1% are going to notice the wiggle? Seriously? When the trick so obviously relies on using fake fish? The only way to hopefully convince some tiny percentage that you aren't doing that is to emulate a real fish.
posted by DU at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2011


I don't necessarily agree that magnets are the best way to do this. Hypothetically, if I wanted to do a similar trick, I'd probably do it the manual way - moving the fish with rods. Now, of course, I wouldn't do this from above - that'd penetrate the water's surface and be too visible. I'd do it from below, maybe with an assistant. The fish are close enough to the bottom, and the camera angled just right, to conceal anything directly below the fish from being clear - and glass under water is nearly invisible. I'd assume that some expensive motorized system is used to move the fish.

What really bothers me about this illusion is that it's not being done by the magician at all - it's entirely automated or done by assistants, with the magician just pretending to do things. I think that's a bad trend in magic, and I'm glad the other illusions he presents at least involve palming a goldfish (even if he does use an awfully gimmicked picture frame)
posted by LSK at 10:30 AM on February 18, 2011


Before and after the synchronized swimming, the fish seem to move in very normal, fish-like ways. And he pours them in from a vase he has earlier, so its unlikely to be some sort of actual mechanism touching or connecting the fish. I really doubt the fish are fake.
posted by shen1138 at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2011


Anna Oxygen has a great song about Mechanical Fish.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 11:51 AM on February 18, 2011


My theory is that the fish have eaten something magnetic and have it in their stomachs, or they're wearing something magnetic. Magnets under the table don't *physically* move the fish. The fish just feels a pull in some direction and decides to head in that direction.

I'm thinking something like the pac-man-playing crickets. The crickets weren't physically moved by the computer. It vibrated the floor underneath them and frightened the crickets into motion.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 12:03 PM on February 18, 2011


On further review, I think they are fake fish. Mostly because they don't have the mandatory poop strings every goldfish has dangling from its butt. A clever magician would have hidden the magnets in the poop strings, of course.
posted by chairface at 12:17 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mostly because they don't have the mandatory poop strings every goldfish has dangling from its butt.

*slowly puts lunch back down on desk*
posted by bayani at 12:27 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fish are alive, and are not moving under their own motion. The tail and fin motions are all wrong for actual motion. You can see the fish moving their pectoral fins to stabilise themselves as they're dragged along. Meanwhile, their tails, which should be shimmying for the speed they're going, are totally still.

I think he's fed them ball-bearings. The tank is extremely shallow (so shallow the fish are resting on the bottom with their dorsal fins above the water). That would help disguise the weight of the ball bearings.

This probably isn't fatal for the fish, but it's not great for them either. Small enough pieces might be able to pass through their digestive tracts, or conversely, large enough pieces might remain lodged in their throats and removed afterwards.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:56 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The CIA just discovered a new torture device: make prisoners swallow magnets and then drag them around for a while.

That's gotta hurt your innards.
posted by bwg at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2011


The chinese prepare fish by first scraping off the scales - of a live fish... if any chinese person claims to believe in animal rights, they're either trying to get in your good books/knickers or they're one of that rare group of revolutionaries who genuinely turn against their culture (part of. Rather suspect refusing to pretend to be a rebel might be the equivalent in the West. Is it just me or has every recent politician pretended to be? Except Cameron, who's just a return to the middle ages, socially speaking). Met a lot of people keeping a terrapin as a pet - in the kitchen sink. Not, with other terrapins, or with anything to do, just trapped wandering round the kitchen sink. Friend kept some fish in smaller and smaller vases 'to stop them swimming around annoyingly' until they died. Fish don't like noise (it's loud to them, don't tap the glass), being touched (their scales come off), being without oxygen from tanks being too small (oxygen from surface air touching water) or crowded. And frogs shouldn't be held, your skin is like acid on theirs, while i'm lecturing you all.
this is a bit like the old flea circus, where we put miniature wires round the fleas and attached them to carriages etc and watched through magnifying glasses?
posted by maiamaia at 5:03 PM on February 18, 2011


You should see the little chorus line he's got going with crabs!

Yeah, I got crabs from a chorus line.
posted by Trochanter at 5:50 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also regarding magnets, note the heads down posture. He's using magnets on their dental work.
posted by Trochanter at 5:56 PM on February 18, 2011


A clever magician would have hidden the magnets in the poop strings, of course.

Oh, damn you just reminded me of the time one of my fish ate a root that had broken off a plant. It was easily twice as long as the fish, and dangling out its butt. Of course, every time I tried to grab it, the fish would swim away. Finally I was able to grab THIS THING THAT A FISH POOPED OUT and finish pulling it out of its digestive tract.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:30 PM on February 18, 2011


From what I've gathered the magic trick or Effect is called "A Fish Called Costeau".

It was created by Mago Anton, and in 2003, it was banned by the International Federation of Magic Societies (who, despite their impressive title, are completely inept at casting magic missiles...noobs). This might explain the outrage. However, on forums populated by magicians, a magician by the name of Jason London adamantly states that the Effect is completely safe for the fish if it is performed correctly. This effect can be purchased in Mago Anton's magic shop for 900 GPs.
posted by lemuring at 3:11 AM on February 19, 2011


The complete Tarbell Course in Magic may or may not be available somewhere as a torrent. But you didn't hear it from me.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:48 AM on February 19, 2011


For posterity.
posted by adamvasco at 5:00 AM on February 19, 2011


The chinese prepare fish by first scraping off the scales - of a live fish... if any chinese person claims to believe in animal rights, they're either trying to get in your good books/knickers or they're one of that rare group of revolutionaries who genuinely turn against their culture

Uh ...

What? Where do you ....

I don't even know.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:08 AM on February 19, 2011


Meh, I have it on good authority that fish don't have any feelings.
posted by oddman at 5:21 AM on February 19, 2011


Clearly magnets. At 1:56 in the video, you can see the whistle move when the fish swim close to where it was placed on the edge of the table.
posted by beagle at 5:36 AM on February 19, 2011


Am I the only one who expected the trick to end with the fish opening up and 6 people appearing from inside the fish, madly waving to the crowd? #beijingolympics
posted by incessant at 10:38 AM on February 19, 2011


Oh, damn you just reminded me of the time one of my fish ate a root that had broken off a plant. It was easily twice as long as the fish, and dangling out its butt. Of course, every time I tried to grab it, the fish would swim away. Finally I was able to grab THIS THING THAT A FISH POOPED OUT and finish pulling it out of its digestive tract.
posted by dirigibleman


Every time my dog eats sufficiently long grass, I get to act this out with a mammal. Usually, for some reason, in front of a sidewalk cafe.
posted by COBRA! at 10:47 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watching it a few times, I'm beginning to suspect the trick with the shallow tank on the table involves channels raising and lowering in the sand bed. You'll notice that at many points there seems to be just enough water to keep the fish submerged (often their backs and dorsal fins are out of the water completely). As long as you keep the depth of the sand bed constant near the edge of the tank, changes of a half-inch or so away from the edge would be nearly invisible. The raising and lowering mechanism itself would need to be actually in the water column (under the sand) so that the raising and lowering doesn't change the water depth around the edges.

About the only thing that seems like it could be harmful to any fish would be the handling of the fish (palming and revealing) with the "picture" (which would seem to be an LCD screen).
posted by nonliteral at 10:58 AM on February 19, 2011


Even if it is magnets, why couldn't he have just stuck the magnets to their bellies instead of feeding them?
posted by empath at 11:00 AM on February 19, 2011


Beagle: You nailed it.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:24 AM on February 19, 2011


This trick's secret was revealed in 1936 by Raymond Chandler.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2011


This trick's secret was revealed in 1936 by Raymond Chandler.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:40 PM on February 19 [+] [!]


Are you sure? I was looking pretty closely, and I don't see where the magician could have been hiding 'the kind of blond that could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window'.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:54 PM on February 19, 2011


From what I've gathered the magic trick or Effect is called "A Fish Called Costeau".... It was created by Mago Anton

El Mago Anton doing the trick: A fish called Cousteau. Notice that the fish swims to any particular card named by the spectator (the Seven of Spades, in this video).

Here's a loop of the video right around when the whistle moves, as noticed by Beagle.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:19 PM on February 19, 2011


maiamaia - WHAT?!

Every fish I've ever gotten scaled for me was waaay dead. It's just so much more efficient to scale a dead (knocked to head, at *least*) fish than to scrape one that's still wriggling around.

Interesting; here at metafilter, the discussion is mostly about how/what's going on. Every other outlet featuring this is all about "omg, think of the fish!," "omg, animal abuse!," "omg, something or the stupid other!"
posted by porpoise at 9:16 PM on February 19, 2011


I honestly don't think it's possible to abuse fish. I mean, come on, they're fish. Might as well worry about insect abuse.
posted by empath at 10:02 PM on February 19, 2011


"omg, think of the fish!,"

Thing is, I kind of *do* do that. I mean do you have to? Do you have to fuck up some poor bugger fish's day for the sake of your stupid fake looking magicians trick?

With a little empathy and positive reinforcement, I bet you could teach goldfish to do really interesting things.

It's like making a cat dance by electrifying the floor to its enclosure. Different in degree maybe, but not in kind.
posted by Trochanter at 11:05 PM on February 19, 2011


It's like making a cat dance by electrifying the floor to its enclosure.

There is no humane way of inducing a cat to dance.
posted by acb at 4:23 PM on February 20, 2011


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