How Do You Magically Sort Balls By Their Colours?!

How do people magically sort balls according to their colours?!

Take a look at the viral videos, and find out what the facts really are!


Claim : Galton Boards Can Magically Sort Balls By Colour!

People are sharing videos showing coloured balls being magically sorted into their individual colours using Galton boards!

In these videos, a mix of coloured balls are allowed to drop into a simple Galton board, and they somehow fall into separate colours according to their colours!

How is that possible? Are these special sorting boards with magnets that control where the balls fall? Or do these balls have different weights so they would fall in a special pattern?

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Truth : Galton Boards Can Magically Sort Balls By Colour!

This is yet another example of FAKE VIDEOS circulating on WhatsApp, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and here are the reasons why…

Fact #1 : Those Are Galton Boards

Let me just start by pointing out that the devices or boards you see in those videos are known as Galton boards.

Named after its inventor – English scientist Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911), the Galton board is also known as the quincunx, or the bean machine.

The original Galton board consists of a vertical board with interleaved rows of pegs. Beads or small balls are dropped from the top, falling left or right as they hit each peg.

When each ball reaches a peg, it has a 50% chance of choosing a right or left path. Each ball repeats the process at each peg. Eventually, all those balls fall into different bins at the bottom.

Fact #2 : Galton Boards Do Not Sort Balls

Galton boards are not designed to sort balls, whether by weight, size or colour. In fact, real Galton boards use beads or balls of the same colour, size and weight. So there really is no sorting of any sort.

The Galton board is used to demonstrate the central limit theorem – that the binomial distribution approximates a normal distribution with a bell curve, when the sample size is large enough. At the end of a traditional Galton board demonstration, the height of the balls in each bin approximate a bell curve (see photo below).

However, the Galton board can be modified to demonstrate other distributions by changing the shape of the pins, or using a bimodal design. For example, you can create a Galton board to show a log-normal distribution by using isosceles triangles of different widths to “multiply” the distance the ball travels.

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Fact #3 : The Videos Were Computer-Generated

The reason why the balls in those viral videos were able to be sorted so accurately into the same colours is because all those videos were computer-generated using 3D graphics software like Blender or Maya.

One of the viral videos was created by Konstantin Otrembsky – a Russian visual effects artist who works for Channel One Russia. Konstantin posted his video on his Vimeo channel, stating clearly that “it’s a joke video which was made to provoke people to suggest all kinds of theories“, and was created “just for fun“.

Unfortunately, many of these videos are being shared and reposted to mislead people… or simply to generate views or increase the popularity of their social media accounts.

Fact #4 : The Balls Were Coloured After Baking Simulation

You may be wondering how do these content creators actually ensure that the coloured balls fall correctly into the bins according to their individual colour.

For starters, they use 3D graphics software like Blender or Maya to build a virtual Galton board model. They can then run simulations using real physics to see how the balls fall.

If necessary, they can modify the Galton board design, or even the weight of different balls to change the distribution. However, even they cannot simulate the proper sorting of the balls according to their colours.

While it is possible to run enough simulations to create such a video, it would require A LOT of simulation runs and adjustments. Too much work for what’s supposed to be a fun video.

What they do instead is bake the simulation, and then colour the balls after they have fallen. Because the simulation has been baked, the balls will fall exactly the same way again and again. Then all they have to do is render the baked simulation with the coloured balls into a video.

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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


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