Remember the satisfying sizzle of ants under a magnifying glass? No? Is that just me, then? Whatever, haters.
ANYway, the same science responsible for frying ants is at work on a larger scale in this clip from James May's "Big Ideas" series. What you've got here is a solar furnace, a carefully arranged array of mirrors that catches heat from the sun and reflects it, focusing it to point—effectively taking a lot of disparate, comfy sunbeams and gathering them together in a tight bundle. By their powers combined, the reflected beam can reach temperatures of 3,500 °C (6,330 °F). Watch in wonder and terror as the beam turns a hot dog to char and melts steel.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.