More fun with setting things on fire, ostensibly for science

Last week, we carefully observed the interaction between fire and steel wool. Much important data was gathered. I think we all learned something. Now, it's time to progress our research. Up next: What happens when you use a laser to ignite a piece of paper that's been suspended inside a clear balloon? The slow-motion replay is really the key in this experiment. Don't miss it.

Thanks to WorldScott for putting this timely and relevant study on the Submitterator!


    1. I would guess that’s magicians flash paper. It’s basically guncotton, made with the paper’s cellulose, or otherwise it’s just paper that’s been impregnated with flash powder, a type of gunpowder mixed with magnesium.

  1. I think the coolest thing is watching the balloon expand because of the expansion of the heated air within. The paper rises because it becomes much less dense relative to the air…same principle as smoke.

    1. This is an excellent comment. I hadn’t particularly noticed the change in volume (particularly in the second burn) caused by the emission of gas from the burning reaction. It is a bit subtle and should probably be spelled out so that casual viewers can catch it.


  2. Thank you Maggie Koerth-Baker! You just made my day!!! LOL!

    To those debating it, the first balloon bursts because of a burning ember of flash paper that falls down. If you watch the slow motion version of it you can catch it clearly.

    As a long time Boing Boing fan and lurker what a pleasure to see this!

    Thanks again!

    1. I agree. The second slo-mo (third clip) shows a balloon remaining intact because no ember falls to the bottom.

      Totally cool, thanks guys!

    1. Actually it could be a cool chemistry / physics thing. If the balloon was filled with pure oxygen even normal paper would burn like that and perhaps even MORE violently. It is amazing what an effect pure oxygen has in terms of making material combust!


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