Sunday, 25 December 2011

Science versus Miracles: Performing "Miracles" with Fire!

B Premanand

 Burning camphor on the hand and waving it in front of the idol, without apparent injury

In 1977, a film artist of Kerala published an article challenging us to burn camphor on the hand and wave it before the idol in the temple. He said that his godman, Swami Satyananda Saraswathi, the International Presidentof Vishwa HinduParishad, burns camphor on his hand and waves it before the idol of Shri Rama in his temple. This was considered to be a miracle.

He was told that this stunt is done by children of five. And in the end they even eat the fire. If his godman really has supernatural powers let him keep the camphor n his beard, light it, and wave it before the idol without getting his beard singed. The godman did not accept the challenge.

Experiment -18

Prof Narendra Nayak training a volunteer to perform the act
Effect:  Burning camphor on one’s palm and then eating fire without getting burnt.

Props:  Large camphor cube (pure and not synthetic) and a match box.

Method: Hold the camphor cube with the thumb and index finger of the left hand and light it. Keeping the burning camphor on the palm, wave the light before the audience telling them that your god is life-consciousness and so you are waving the light before them instead of an idol. See that the camphor piece does not remain long on the same place but is moved about on the palm while waving. When the palm gets hot, transfer the camphor to the left hand and wave the light and again to the right hand when the left hand becomes hot. Later, when both the hand have absorbed enough heat and might burn, place the burning camphor on your tongue. When you feel the tongue getting hot, blow out the fire by breathing out, or close the mouth and the fire will get extinguished by itself.

Eating fire is simpler than having the fire on the palms or body. In school we do an experiment of boiling water in a paper cup. Until the water evaporates the paper cup does not get burnt. Similarly, while keeping the burning camphor on the tongue let the tongue be wet with saliva so that it does not burn.

Fire need oxygen to burn and what we breathe out is carbon dioxide which extinguishes the flame. So when you feel hot in the mouth breathe out. Or close the mouth and the fire will get extinguished instantly. Don’t breathe in with fire in your mouth.

There are countless fire tricks and stunts. Try to touch your skin with a lighter cigarette. The skin will immediately burn. The most sensitive part of our skin is the tongue. Now – can you extinguish a lighted cigarette on the tongue without burning the tongue?

Experiment – 19

Effect:  The tongue or fingers will not burn when you extinguish a lighted cigarette.

Props:  Cigarette, matchbox, and ice cube.

Method: If a lighted cigarette is pressed on the skin it will immediately burn. This is because the heat generated by tobacco is immediately absorbed by the skin.

  • With saliva on your tongue, press and release the burning cigarette end on the tongue two or three times. It will get extinguished without burning the tongue.
  • Freeze your thumb and the index fingers with an ice cube and then press the burning cigarette end with these fingers. It will get extinguished and the fingers will not be burnt.

Experiment- 20

Effect: Hold a hot metal ball on your palm without getting burnt.

Props: Metal ball, tweezers, heater, ice slab and a metal bucket with cold water.

Method: Freeze your palms on the ice slab until it becomes numb. Place the red hot metal on your palm with the tweezers and let it immediately fall in the bucket of water to produce a sizzling sound. The pal will not burn because it takes time to absorb heat since it is frozen.

Experiment: 21

Effect: Dipping your finger in molten lead without getting burnt.

Props: Pure lead, crucible, burner and a ladle.
Prof Jearl Walker of Cleavland University

Method: Melt pure lead in a crucible and remove the scum completely with a ladle. The finger and the hand should be absolutely dry. Insert a finger straight into the molten lead and withdraw it, not swiftly but deliberately. The lead being only 400 °C hot, will have no time to burn the finger, nor will it stick to the finger since it rolls of a dry surface.

(Note: This is due to Leidenfrost effect - "a phenomenon in which a liquid, in near contact with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid's boiling point, produces an insulating vapor layer which keeps that liquid from boiling rapidly" 

Effect: The hand is dipped in boiling oil without getting burnt

Props: One frying pan to hold about two liters of oil, one liter cooking oil, stove and one lemon (big).

Method: Pour the cooking oil in the pot with the lemon juice squeezed in the oil stealthily. Place it on the fire. Before the oil get hot and boiling, the lime juice settled at the bottom of the pot boils first and oil appears to bubble when the steam is released. It seems as if the oil is boiling hot. Immerse your hand in the oil and take it out. The boil will be only warm and not boiling, though it looks like boilingoil to the viewers.

Experiment – 23

Effect: Frying poories in boiling oil and taking them out by hand.
Hot bajjis are being taken out of boiling oil with bare fingers

Props: Wheat flour or maida flour, water, plate, instrument to make poories, cooking oil and a stove.

Method: Prepare poories with the flour (one dozen). Boiling the oil, put in the oil, poories and as soon as it is fried, put underneath the fried poorie an unbaked one and pick up the fire one by fingers, it will not burn. Beforehand apply the same oil on your hand.

The science behind this feat is that when you put a fresh poorie under the fired one, the heat of the top oil is absorbed by the fresh one, and your fingers will not et burn. The oil applied on the hand before dipping also insulates the hand.


(Note: Those items involving fire and other dangerous substances should be performed only under proper guidance)

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