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Do you want an example of some very cool chemistry? You rub residue from a burned striker portion of a matchbox between your fingers, causing them to smoke. You will need a matchbox, cold water faucet, scissors, and a lighter. Here's what you do:
  1. Turn on the cold water tap of your bathtub. You are going to condense the material from a burning matchbox onto the top of the cold faucet.
  2. Cut out the striker portion of a matchbox. Trim off any paper around the striker.
  3. Fold the striker in half, striker-sides facing each other.
  4. Set the folded striker on top of the running faucet.
  5. Use a lighter to set fire to the striker. Ignite both ends. Then run the lighter along the length of the folded striker. It won't burn to ash, which is fine.
  6. Discard the burned striker.
  7. You will see a brown residue that has been deposited along the top of the faucet. Run your fingertip along the residue to pick it up.
  8. Slowly rub your finger and thumb together. Very, very cool.
CollegeHumor has an excellent video of the 'trick'. How does it work and is it safe? I'm looking into that. I'll post more information when I have it, but until then, avoid licking your fingers or breathing the smoke, and wash your hands when you are finished. Have fun!

While you are over at CollegeHumor, check out their video for the glass trick. I'm going to bet that was done by putting sodium polyacrylate beads (which you could harvest from disposable diapers) in the bottom of each glass.

Make a Smoke Bomb | White Smoke Chemistry Demo
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May 7, 2007 at 9:14 pm
(1) NH says:

A possible explanation:

The striker strips contain red phosphorus. When the strip is heated, the phosphorus will vaporize.

The cold water tap with running water provides a cold surface for the phosphorus vapor to condense on. When the vapor condenses, it will form the white phosphorus allotrope.

This allotrope will oxidize spontaneously in air to produce light and white smoke. According to some descriptions of this trick, a glow can be observed if the experiment is conducted in the dark. This supports this hypothesis.

As for safety, white phosphorus is nasty stuff, with a lethal dose of about 100mg. However, the amount produced in this experiment should be minor. Avoiding breathing in the smoke is good advice.

May 14, 2007 at 4:17 am
(2) Joy says:

Dear NH,

so can I say if I perform the smoking trip once in like a week it’ll be fine?


And Anne, about the glass trip, I’m not sure if your chemistrial-guess works, but I actually do think that the trick can be much simpler:

Each of those cups contain 2 compartments, one is very “deep” at the dimension that points into the screen. while the other compartment is much shallower in that dimension.

The magician then pour one by one onto their compartment 1. then backwards into compartment 2.

The way the camera is placed makes it impossible for us to see.

Just a guess, but very nice stuff here!

May 14, 2007 at 1:36 pm
(3) Joy says:

lol I’m a lil slow today, but “trip” I actually meant “trick” in the above post

May 15, 2007 at 12:19 am
(4) Ozhole says:

If you do the same trick in the dark your fingers glow, old trick, remember it way back when I was in high school circa. 1973, popular amongst smokers of the time

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