Do Not Try This At Home: The Human Torch

The Human Torch

PopSci's Gray Matter demonstrates again and again what the layman should absolutely Not Try at Home. Which is precisely what makes Gray's experiments so fun. Remember when the mad scientist fully submerged his hand in liquid nitrogen? Today's demonstration also plays with what is (quite reasonably) assumed to be extremely dangerous and painful: torching the human hand.

Do Not Try This At Home: The Human Torch

The secret? A gel containing sodium polyacrylate polymer, which holds a large amount of water, providing protection. Gray was inspired by stuntpeople:

"If a scene requires showing bare skin on fire, stuntpeople use a special fire-protective gel containing water, which can be applied in a smooth, clear layer that is nearly invisible, especially when the action is moving fast and there's a lot of fire to distract the viewer. To show you what it looks like up close, I covered my hand in the gel and then painted on some thinned-down contact cement, which produces a very nice opaque yellow flame when lit.

Because we needed my hand to be perfectly still for the camera, I couldn't use any movement to help stay cool, and my hand started to feel pretty warm after just a few seconds—but not before we got photographic proof that my meeting excuse was for real!"

Do Not Try This At Home: The Human Torch

Click through for Gray's video demonstration.


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