Playing with fire

in science •  2 months ago  (edited)

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No, it's not a Photoshoped picture, it's a paused video of me setting my hand on fire with lighter fluid and the flames just happened to look like an angry rooster if paused right. Anyways I am here today to talk about ways of playing with fire, while also doing it as safely as possible. Think of this post as a chemistry lesson combined with art and everyone's favorite subject, recess.
First things first, I advise you not to try any of this at home, especially without supervision and if you do, you're doing it on your own risk! Now to the fun part...
Lesson number one: Whatever you choose to do, whether it is just setting something on fire, making miniature explosions or even fire-breathing, avoid gasoline and petrol at all costs! Apart from being extremely flammable and explosive they are liquids which means they can easily soak your clothes making you a human torch in seconds.
So if you are really eager to make an explosion I strongly advise you to use controlled amounts of some gas instead of liquids. They burnout much faster, reducing the chance of setting yourself on fire. But it doesn't mean you are completely safe, so whatever you do aim the explosion away from your face. I personally prefer hair spray for these kind of experiments. Get a nice darkened place and a camera that can shoot in slow mode and you can get a cool little video like the one bellow:


And finally to my favorite part, fire-breathing. Is it dangerous? To be honest it's a lot safer than the video you just saw if done right. So how do you do it safely? You can't use gasoline if you don't want your mouth burned along with your throat and you can't just spray in some deodorant or hair spray if you don't want to poison yourself. Believe it or not your answer for this is corn starch. Let me try and explain. Corn starch itself isn't flammable, at all. Think of this like trying to set fire to a huge log with just a match. Sounds pretty hard and impossible right? Chop up the log to tiny bits and it's a piece of cake. Same goes for corn starch, it can only catch fire if it hits a flame in the form of fine dust. As you can see in the video below, a thick cloud of corn starch can't catch fire, but the fine dust following it burns easily:


There are only two downsides to this:

  1. There is a possibility of inhaling the dust and choking, but just a little caution will prevent this problem.
  2. It tastes awful. Much like eating raw flour, so prepare to rinse your mouth as soon as you're done.
    One last thing, you need to use a strong fire source to avoid putting it out when blowing at it. A tiki torch should do the trick.
    If everything is done right you can get a nice little video like this one:

I apologize for the quality, but using a phone camera at night, near a light source and posting the video through youtube, doesn't help much...
Hope you enjoyed nevertheless! :)


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