6 Everyday Things That Look Completely Insane in Slow Motion
Some things that we think of as mundane are in actuality quite amazing -- it's just that they happen too fast for our stupid, non-superpowered eyes to truly appreciate. But that's where science steps in with its patented Slomo Machine to show us just how fascinating the random shit going on around you really is. For example, a high-speed camera reveals ...
A Dropped Slinky Basically Levitates in Mid-Air
Do you still have a Slinky in the house somewhere? Go dig it up, because you're immediately going to want to try this. Hold it out with it dangling to its full length, then drop it. Now watch the bottom defy gravity for a few magical seconds:
The Wile E. Coyote principle in action.
That either looks like the bottom of the slinking is resting on a glass table, or it's being levitated by wizard magic. But once the whole spring has contracted, you see it fall the rest of the way to the ground, just as it should.
How in the hell is this possible? Well, before letting it go, the Slinky is all stretched out because its weight is dispersed along its length. The top has the whole mass of the Slinky underneath it, and so the strain pulling down equals the weight, whereas the bottom has no mass underneath it, and so has no force acting on it. So the Slinky's spring tension winds up pulling up on the bottom at the exact rate it should be falling. When the top part of the Slinky catches up with the stationary lower part, though, gravity finally wakes up and slaps its stair-walking ass back down to Earth where it belongs.
Here's a giant slinky dropped from the top of a building, just to make it look freakier:
No one betrays the slink-mafia. No one.
This crazy floating act actually happens with any object you drop, because all solid objects have some degree of elasticity. It's just that the effect is much more noticeable with a Slinky because, you know, it's Slinky. For fun it's a wonderful toy.
A Butane Lighter is a Tiny Fireworks Display
Everyone reading this probably has a cigarette lighter in their house, if not in their pocket. And we bet you've never stopped to appreciate how beautiful it is:
Your parents told you not to play with these so they could hoard the fun for themselves.
Look at that! It's like a tiny little fireworks display, at your fingertips. See those sparks at the beginning? Those are tiny, molten globules of steel that actually jump up and explode in mid-air.
While the steel is melting and bursting all over the place, the button under the strike wheel opens a valve and, since its boiling point is relatively high, the liquid butane in the lighter evaporates and rushes out to join the party. Then the flying globs of molten steel heat the gas enough for it to break down and rebond with oxygen, and voila! You've just birthed an itty-bitty phoenix. That you used to light a bong.
YouTube is full of videos like this, proving that the internet is a wonderful tool for appreciating the simple things in life:
If you are using a bong right now, welcome to your next half-hour of staring.
Here's one slowed down even more, really showing off how the individual balls of metal pop and burst in mid-air like the Fourth of July:
Almost makes us want to take up smoking.
A Popping Balloon Looks Like Pac-Man
There is a brief moment, just a tiny fraction of a second, when a popping balloon looks like Pac-Man:
... or, depending on how you pop it, the skeleton of some kind of dead animal:
It's just that you have to record it at 2,700 frames per second to find out.
What's happening there is that the balloon gets all big and ... balloony because the air particles inside it act like a bunch of drunk dudes trying to find their way out of a nightclub -- all bumping into each other and stumbling against the walls and hitting on your girlfriend even though she's clearly sitting right next to you. The walls expand and eventually burst, but in completely different ways depending on how they fail. For instance, you give the balloon one place to pop, with a pin (or in this case, some kind of dissolving spray), you get the Pac-Man effect:
But if you just keep blowing on it so that the force is pushing out in every direction equally, you get the split-second balloon skeleton:
Dude didn't even flinch. See, we told you scientists are badasses.
Again, if you see it in real time, you just see a balloon vanishing as if by magic (watch how the guy doesn't even have time to even react to the sound before the whole process has completed itself:
Incidentally, the reason balloons make that "popping" noise is for the exact same reason as a stick of dynamite or a gunshot -- the ball of expanding gases creates a pressure wave that smacks into your eardrums. Only a balloon doesn't produce a huge ball of fire ... unless you fill it with Hydrogen, that is:
Somewhere, off in the distance, Michael Bay has achieved an erection.
Okay, we totally want to try that now. Here's what happens when they do it with a giant one:
Lightning Strikes From the Ground Up (Sometimes)
Look, lightning is already pretty badass at normal speed. But slow it way, way down and occasionally something weird appears:
Mother Nature likes getting hammered and shooting guns off into the air too.
Again the film is not reversed, just slowed down. What the shit? It's going the wrong goddamned direction. What, is this the ground taking revenge on the sky, because it finally got tired of its shit? Is Thor down there?
No, that's just Mother Nature demonstrating her uncanny ability to fucking erase you from this planet at a whim by showing off one of the pants-shitting-iest weapons in her arsenal: ground to cloud lightning. It turns out that bolts of Zeus's wrath can actually go either direction, and it's theorized that the bottom-up bolts you see are from previous lightning strikes building up a charge in the ground. So we guess lightning ... bounces?
Not that regular top-down strikes are any less terrifying:
Somewhere a little boy is getting super-powers ... or electrocuted, whatever.
Notice how it seems to send out little feelers, like tentacles made of pure electricity, before WHAM! Big-ass electro-shaft, right down the middle. We like to pretend that anything that happened to be in its way at the time did something to deserve such a sizzling fate (fish can be real assholes sometimes, you know?), because otherwise the entire phenomenon paints Mother Nature as, frankly, kind of a bitch.
What you're looking at are the first, invisible "leaders" of ionized air that form lightning, basically channels of conductive air that will then discharge in a pants-shitting way, all at once. Slow it down enough, and you can see the process happening -- the charge exploding up the path traced by the ionized leaders:
And if you'd like a reminder of what it's like to be at ground level when this shit goes down:
Related: Cracked Round-Up: Conspiracy Edition
Popcorn Looks Like Some Kind of Violent Alien Birth
Popcorn is special because it's one of only a few foods in your kitchen that you explode in order to eat it. But slow it down and it looks like some kind of alien larvae bursting out of a cocoon:
"They mostly pop at night ... mostly"
Did you see the little jet of steam shoot out the bottom? Sometimes you'll see the seed jump into the air before it pops, like here ...
This Gif is more captivating than the entirety of Prometheus.
... and that blast of steam is why (notice how the shell peels open from the bottom up, as the same force that propelled it upward blows the outer casing open). Yeah, popcorn is weird.
So weird, in fact, that NASA has a section on their website dedicated to popcorn ... we'll pause here for a second so you can re-read that if you need to ... where they explain that popcorn's trademark pop is caused by water inside the kernel. When the popcorn is heated, the water molecules inside the kernel start frantically moshing -- we might even be talking a wall of death type situation here. The molecules get hotter and hotter and sweatier and sweatier until the outer casing of the kernel just can't contain their pure moshy metalness anymore.
"Where's that Motorhead coming from?"
Meanwhile, the starch inside the kernel gets superheated into a gelatin. When the casing is finally breached, the remaining gas in the corn causes the insides to expand. The kernel proceeds to turn itself inside out and the starch immediately cools and hardens into a foam, like the tastiest Transformer ever.
Slow Things Down Enough, and You Can See the Movement of Light Itself
If you tasked us with trying to film something at such a slow speed that we're actually able to capture the movement of light, we'd say that's impossible by definition. Doesn't the light have to travel to the camera in order for us to see it? So how would you possibly film something at a frame rate higher than the movement of light? Wouldn't you, like, go back in time or something?
Well, MIT scientists, who apparently don't have the words "freaking impossible" in their vocabularies, have gone right ahead and shot a video of laser light traveling along its merry 670 million mile per hour way.
We'll consider this scientific proof that Coke > Pepsi.
To do this, they developed an imaging system called Femto-Photography, which involves throwing lasers, a Coke bottle (?) and some mirrors together, with an end result of being able to visualize the movement of photons at a trillion frames per second. That's a trillion as in 12 zeros, folks -- the standard rate for full-motion video is 24 to 30 fps.
Without getting too technical, their "video" is actually a series of still photos captured basically all at once, by 500 sensors each operating on a delay of one trillionth of a second. They each capture the pulse of photons at a different stage of the journey, then piece it together in a YouTube video for your viewing pleasure.
Seconds before they tragically tried to boost their subscriber list by doing it with a cat.
Besides being able to make light look like something that should be pewing out of the end of a Storm Trooper's barrel, Femto-Photography has some other, equally amazing, applications. Obviously it lets them study the movement of light particles like never before (which is helpful in designing, well, any future device that uses light). And for example, we're betting there are plenty of soldiers or police officers who've found themselves in a situation where the ability to see around corners would come in handy. Well, thanks to Femto-Photography, science has made that happen, thanks to this device's ability to track the movement of photons bouncing off the unseen object:
Thanks, science! Now, when can we expect that feature on our smartphones?
Related Reading: Enjoy this article? Then you'll love the exact opposite. There's a dam blowing up- what more could you ask for? Keep the hole we just blew in your mind open, with normal things that look trippy under a microscope. Add an electron microscope, and alcohol looks the way LSD feels. Double down on zoomed-in craziness and click this link. Chalk will give you freaking nightmares.