Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

Our world is full of astoundingly awesome sights hiding just outside the realm of human perception, because biology's kind of a jerk like that. But, with the power of technology -- specifically some super high-speed cameras -- we can finally see all the amazing sights that were never meant for the likes of us. Suck it, biology!

Starting A Fire Looks Like Special Effects In A Fantasy Movie

STUDIO TEC/amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images

Here's how flint and steel work to start a fire: The seemingly smooth flint is actually wildly uneven at microscopic scale, so it produces high friction and an accompanying deflagration when it forces itself upon the unyielding steel. This creates sparks that hopefully then create fire. But, slow it down, and you won't get just a measly spark -- there's a whole dazzling pyrotechnic display hidden between moments:

The Slow Mo Guys
Like the mini-version of that 4th of July drunk-you tried to start the barbecue with a Roman candle.

Those cool explosions are caused by tiny particles of heated steel that have sheared off the main chunk and reacted with oxygen to produce fire, harbinger of life and precursor of insurance fraud. It doesn't end with old-school camping tools, either. As we've mentioned before, a common butane lighter can also produce a kickass effect. Here's what its flint-wheel ignition system looks like in slow motion:

via slomogifs.tumblr.com
Basically, the pool scene in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, but for pyros.

Of course, if we're talking about setting things aflame, there's no need to keep things at a small scale. For the frankly worrying number of fledgling arsonists among our readership, let's take the next logical step by moving on to Molotov cocktails. Here's one bursting in slow motion:

Golf And Tennis Balls Are Insanely Flexible

Compassionate Eye Foundation/Chris Newton/Taxi/Getty Images

Golf balls are only rigid because the more they deform and wobble upon impact, the more they lose kinetic energy. A golf ball is actually constructed of several layers of varying elasticity, and it can take a lot more punishment than a completely hard one could withstand. Oh, your human hand can do little to squeeze a golf ball into a pretzel, but when adequate forces are applied, things get weird. The United States Golf Association (USGA) has demonstrated this by releasing a video of a golf ball being fired at a metal plate:

The 140-mph impact is captured at 40,000 frames per second, showing the surprisingly malleable ball twerking against the metal plate suggestively, before darting off like the little tease it is.

What's that? You're looking for something even more ridiculous? All right, let's increase the speed to 150 mph, film it at 70,000 frames per second, and witness as the ball basically liquefies ...

... only to pull itself right back together like Zan from the Wonder Twins. Holy crap!

Tennis balls suffer an even more cartoonish degree of deformation. A tennis serve is basically a one-night stand: A 142-mph serve makes the racket and ball become one quivering mess for a glorious moment before the other regains its form, snaps back to reality, and exits the situation with extreme haste.

Anatoly Antipin
"Uh, I'll call you ..."

Continue Reading Below

Jellyfish Stings Are A Mass Of Superfast Horror-Needles

Maureen P Sullivan/Moment Open/Getty Images

Most venomous critters need to bite, sting, or otherwise mutilate you to get their murder-chemicals in your circulation, but jellyfish are the college roommate of the sea: They just sort of hang around. How do they actually harm you? Are they somehow sneakily mauling you with a billion scorpion-style stingers so fast that you can't even see it?

Tropical Australian Stinger Research Unit of James Cook University
If swimmers had known this, the pee myth would never have taken off since
they would have all been busy pissing themselves.

Yep. That may look like a close-up of the stupid needle mutant from X-Men: The Last Stand, but a jellyfish it is, and sprouting a huge amount of poison stingers at breakneck speeds is what it does. They're called nematocysts, and they are microscopic, barbed hypodermic needles that feature prominently along jellyfish tentacles.

Smarter Every Day
For the love of God, nobody tell Toshio Maeda about this.

Researchers from Australia, the utmost authority on animals that can wreck you in blasphemous ways, have taken to high-speed photography in recent years to unlock the secrets of the jellyfish sting. If this seems like a weird thing to research, remember that this ...

Smarter Every Day

... can turn your body into this:

ABC News
Not a Christmas ham.

Drumsets Turn Into Liquid When Played

Peopleimages/E+/Getty Images

Drums may not be as sexy and attention-getting as the guitar, but they have one thing no axe does: the ability to turn into an absurd physics shitshow whenever they're hit.

Take that, guitar strings in slow motion probably!

When played, a standard snare drum head behaves less like a musical instrument and a lot more like liquid, each hit creating a splash effect not unlike skipping a stone across a river. To stop the vibration, simply hit it again.

"The same trick works on big-mouthed lead singers, too ..."

This affront to common sense is actually an important element of the snare drum, and the controlled bouncing of the drumsticks it enables is used for techniques such as the drum roll. Crash cymbals, however, are where things get truly mystifying. While appearing to be nothing more than a plate of solid metal, they are actually wildly flexible. Just look at how this thing gives in the second the player hits it with his stick:

Like a much noisier version of the T-1000.

It's all vibrations. Cymbals both generate and resonate vibrations (which, in turn, generate the sound you hear) and are constructed in such a way that the rim vibrates, but the center doesn't. When viewed in slow motion, this creates a temporary effect that makes the cymbal seem like Cthulhu is violently transporting it to an eldritch horror dimension.

Continue Reading Below

Nuclear Explosions Are Even More Terrifying In Slow Motion

Department of Energy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Nuclear explosions are terrifying and magnificent enough that they don't really need much help to make you fill your pants with awe. But, it turns out that when you slow them down with high-speed photography, a brand-new horror is unleashed. The first few milliseconds of a nuclear air burst look like the birth of a massive solar Metroid:

via YouTube
Ice beam isn't gonna do shit on that.

The tower the bomb was sitting on is vaporized instantly, and all you see is a supersonic blast wave trying to escape the fireball created at detonation. A few millionths of a second later, the blast wave hits the ground and forms what looks like a demon's Jell-O mold being dropped on the floor:

via YouTube
If you squint, you can see its pissed-off face in the middle.

This is the shock wave hitting the ground as the fireball rises into the air. We had a joke to go here, but we're terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. The shock wave actually slows down to the "mere" speed of sound as it exits the fireball, but, thanks to the downward-facing edge of the blast reflecting off the earth, we get the "Mach Effect," which sounds like an '80s movie about supersonic gyrocopters, but is actually the reflected blast reinforcing the outward expansion of the explosion and causing it to explode faster.

via YouTube
As seen in the last 45 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If you look closely, it looks like the light of the explosion flashes twice. That's the initial burst, then the blast obscuring the light of the explosion, and then the light escaping the microthin layer of destroyed reality. Yes, this means nuclear explosions are so horrifying to the extent that they trip over themselves trying to get away.

Follow Matt on Twitter where he tweets and stuff.

Tonight only! You're invited to a LIVE PODCAST where Cracked editors will talk post-apocalyptic movie worlds with scientists and special guests at UCB in Los Angeles! Find tickets here!

The world is a totally insane place when you stop to look at it. Like really look at it. Like how truly evil ants look, or how there's a power source out there that you can spray from a can. See what we mean in 12 Things You'll Wish You'd Never Seen Under A Microscope and 6 Substances That Wipe Their Ass With The Laws Of Physics.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out The 10 Most Insane Things You Didn't Know About The Universe, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!

Also, follow us on Facebook, and listen to us bang a drum set for a couples hour straight whenever it is we get around to buying it.

To turn on reply notifications, click here


Load Comments