#3. Reigniting a Candle Via Its Smoke Trail
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Here's a trick you can try at home without the risk of exploding your living room (well, without any more risk than usual; we don't know what your living situation is, Methew McConaughey). Light a candle. Blow it out. Now set fire to the smoke trail. Congratulations: You're a Level 1 firebender.
It turns out that fire just loves itself some candle wax, which you probably knew, because, well ... candles. But it turns out their love is much deeper than you expect. Stalker levels, even: It doesn't matter if the wax is solid, liquid, or gas -- fire will still find it, chase it down, and burn the hell out of it. Notice that the above link is for a basic grade school experiment. Now notice our intense envy, as none of our grade school teachers bothered to tell us about apprentice fire mastery. Man, one little "incident" and suddenly all the cool stuff is off limits forever. We don't know what the big deal even was -- Mrs. Davis' hair grew back. For the most part.
#2. Crystals That Light Up When You Crush Them
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This is a chemical called europium tetrakis, demonstrating the effect of triboluminescence. Eyes glazing over yet? Are you daydreaming of puppies already? All right, we'll hype it up some: This is how you create a thunderstorm in a bottle by smashing things.
If you look reeeeeal close, you can see a miniature Christopher Lambert in there.
The effect happens when crystals don't bother to generate electricity or heat, but rather skip a step like the lazy crystal bastards they are and convert kinetic energy directly into light.
If you want to see it for yourself but you don't have any europium tetrakis lying around (if you're out, just ask the neighbor to borrow a cup!), the good news is that another, more common substance can do the same thing: sugar. Just sit in a dark room, put some sugar cubes in a blender, and watch the fireworks.
This is what Daft Punk sees every time they close their eyes.
Back in the 18th century, when many folks still thought scientific phenomena were caused by ghosts or witches or the ghosts of witches, scientists used this effect to prank "simple people" by chewing sugar in the dark and laughing as they scrambled away from the man with the fire-mouth. Although they probably weren't laughing when the simpletons returned with pitchforks and drowned them in a river.
#1. A Hellbeast Emerging from a Volcano
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Mercury (II) thiocyanate is an innocuous-looking white powder. It doesn't do much, just sits around doing powder stuff. You know -- piling up, maybe drifting about for a little bit. Then you set it on fire, and it opens a gateway to the Old Ones so that they might escape from their Eternal Tombs.
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"
It starts out innocently enough, kind of like a slightly bigger version of those lame snake fireworks you give to the littler kids on the Fourth of July. But as the reaction continues, you start to realize it has no intention of stopping, growing into a Lovecraftian tentacle beast that threatens to consume you and, indeed, the world itself:
Have you survived the emergence of mercury thioCthulhu? Has the madness taken root in your mind, and now you want -- nay, must -- light some other powder on fire to appease Those Who Slumber? Try ammonium dichromate: It turns into a miniature volcano, like a slightly turbocharged version of that terrible soggy baking soda one you made in grade school. You know, the one that was so bad, it made Dad stop loving Mom and caused the divorce.
His parents celebrated 33 years last May.
Kind of a letdown, wasn't it? After the creeping madness we showed you earlier, this grade school science fair fare just won't cut it. But we warn you: Don't do it. It's not worth it. It's not worth it to mix the two and light the whole mess on fire. We mean, sure, you'll get a goddamn Balrog sending his flaming whips up from the Ember Dimension ...
We've edited the part where it devours the cameraman's soul.
... but both substances are toxic as hell, and the fumes could do you serious harm. Also, you have literally no contingency plan for taming that Balrog, do you? What are you gonna do, ask him to sit down and play Mario Kart?
Are you? Because that would be awesome.
We all have our shameful pleasures. But moreover we all have those shameful pleasures we'll defend to the death. In our latest podcast, Daniel O'Brien hosts Cracked Columnist Soren Bowie and Riot's Liana Maeby to discuss their terrible tastes in pop culture. You can download it here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.
Related Reading: Ready for more science? Click here and read about the shit plants get up to when we're not around. Next read about how plastic is shrinking our dicks, and other horrible penis-related discoveries. Wind down with a thrilling expose of all the retarded food myths you believe RIGHT NOW!