Education Science
The Weird Science of the Hot Nickel Ball


To me, this is citizen science at its reckless best. Very dangerous, don’t try this at home unless you’re a pro, type of stuff, but still fascinating to watch.

The series, called “Red Hot Nickel Ball,” on the YouTube Channel Cars and Water, currently contains 74 videos of a red-hot ball of nickel being introduced to different liquid and solid substances to see how they’ll react. Popcorn, rib eye steak, whiskey, dry ice, sugar, Styrofoam, ballistics gel, chocolate Easter bunnies, and more are all subjected to the destructive energy of glowing nickel.


I don’t know about you, but I could watch chemical and material reactions all day long. It’s fun to try and guess what you expect the reaction to be, given the composition of the materials, and then to see what actually happens. The results are often surprising. And for me, and I assume others, strangely satisfying and educational.


Here are a few of the experiments, to give you a taste for the collection.

Ballistics Gel

[youtube=]This one is rather horrifying, given the fact that ballistics gel is used as an analog for human flesh.


[youtube=]There’s gotta be a better way of making scrambled eggs with cheese for breakfast. This is pretty disgusting.


[youtube=]If you guessed that sugar would produce a fiery reaction and act as a excellent accelerant, you are right. He tries both granular and powdered sugar.

Elmer’s Glue

[youtube=]This was one of the weirder, more unexpected reactions. Some kind of unholy Lovecraftian monster rises from a vat of common white glue.

If you were a fan of the David Letterman like throwing stuff off of a building, crushing things in a press, and Will It Float?, you’ll likely enjoy this odd YouTube series as much as I do.

You can access the entire “Red Hot Nickel Ball” Playlist here.


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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