We can laugh at our ancestors who thought gunpowder was sorcery, or rappers who don't understand what magnets are. But we're telling you right now, there are materials created by science that absolutely look like fucking witchcraft. These materials are often hard to get and/or incredibly dangerous, but they're worth it for the cool factor alone.
#6. Gallium, the Metal That Melts in Your Hand
Sure, everybody knows there's such a thing as liquid metal (mercury, duh) and that all metal will melt if you get it hot enough. What you presumably have not run into is solid metal that will melt in your hand like ice cream. But all you need to do is find some gallium, the awesome metal that, when warmed up just a little, becomes a non-murderous version of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2.
Gallium melts at just past room temperature, so it isn't very useful for building anything, unless that thing is intended to be both short-lived and hilarious. But it can make for a neat party trick when you, for instance, stir hot liquid with a gallium spoon and watch it dissolve before your eyes.
There is no spoon.
Wait, it gets weirder. For some reason, gallium doesn't play well with aluminum, by which we mean it reduces a Coke can to tissue paper:
Just dab a little drop on the top of a can ...
... and it will make the entire area around it brittle. You can shove your finger through it ...
"Now you can open beer cans with the same ease of gouging out the eyes of those who would defy you!"
... and easily pull it apart, tearing the pieces to chunks like the whole thing was made of flower petals:
"A little more work, and this can could be a Fleshlight."
There are videos on YouTube of people wrecking aluminum objects like computer heat sinks with a splash of gallium and being amazed at how they can crush formerly solid objects like a handful of crackers. We can think of much better pranks, like dribbling some onto our neighbor's bicycle before he takes it out onto the freeway, but that's probably why the law says that we're not allowed near chemicals.
#5. The Gas That's Heavy Enough to Float Solid Objects
Saying that a substance is "heavier than air" doesn't sound too exciting, until you see the borderline terrifying shit sulfur hexafluoride can do. For instance, most of us have, at some point, huffed on a helium balloon so that we can pretend we're the Chipmunks and make them say swear words. But helium isn't the only substance that will mess with your vocal range. Sulfur hexafluoride is helium's evil twin, like Bizarro is to Superman, or Lady Gaga is to Madonna. Huff a balloon full of this stuff and your voice will take on an ominous baritone, as demonstrated hilariously by Kelly Ripa and Neil Patrick Harris:
This happens precisely because sulphur hexafluoride is several times heavier than regular air, so it lowers the frequency of any sound passing through it, which is exactly how helium works, except, you know, in reverse. But once you know that the stuff is heavier than air, you can start to do really cool things with it. For instance, if poured into a glass, sulfur hexafluoride sinks through normal air and pools invisibly at the bottom of the container. Just like water, it can support the weight of less dense objects on top of it.
Putting us one step closer to a fart-powered hovercraft.
Like a boat made of aluminum foil, which will levitate in midair as if by magic:
Now watch as the guy takes a glass, scoops up the nothing that the boat is floating on ...
If you squint, you can see a tiny toothpick Leonardo DiCaprio drawing Kate Winslet.
... pours the nothing into the foil boat ...
... and makes it float gently to the bottom of the nothing, due to the weight of the nothing.
Rock-biter, you failed us yet again.
#4. Hydrophobic (Water-Repelling) Surfaces
This is another one that sounds unspectacular until you see it in action. For instance, above is not a slab of lime Jell-O or green rock candy. That's green-colored water, sitting on a slab of glass. You can splash it around with your finger ...
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"Mr. Jensen, will you please jab your finger into this creepy, unknown green substance so we can see what happens?"
... but it will return to that perfect square shape above. That's because the dry area around the edge has been treated with a hydrophobic coating, meaning it repels water so hard that droplets actually arch away from it. There is a perfect untreated square in the middle, and the water piles up there. Put a droplet out on the treated part, and it will actively flee to the untreated area.
If you coat your finger in the stuff, you can dip it into a jar of water and not only will your finger stay completely dry, but the substance will form a bubble around it like a tiny condom -- the result of the water desperately trying to get away from you.
The idea behind these chemicals is to create a line of waterproof and stain-proof coatings for clothes, windshields, you name it. But we just wish we had some of the stuff to play with. Here's some hydrophobic sand in action:
Hold a spoon under water, pour the sand into the water, and catch it with the spoon ...
Not the melting spoon we showed you before, though.
... and then lift out a spoon of perfectly dry sand:
"Just try and make a sand castle out of this, you little shits!"