Magic tricks are awesome. There’s something I love about having to wonder “How did they do that?!?” Whether it’s a slight of hand or something that fools the eye, you can’t stop watching a magician’s magic tricks. I especially love it when science does the heavy lifting, like in this Smoking Fingers Trick. Wow the family at the dinner table with just a pack of matches. And your fingertips!
Watch the Smoking Fingers Trick in Action
You’ve totally got to watch this trick in action first! It looks like your fingers are on fire and as you watch smoke rise from your fingers.
The Science Behind the Smoking Fingers Trick
So what exactly is smoke? And are your fingers really smoking in this trick? Smoke is just fine particulates of carbon or other substances that are visible in the air. In this trick, the particulates are phosphorous, the material that match box striker strips are made of. The striker strips are made of red phosphorous, which after burning rearranges its molecules into white phosphorous. This unstable white phosphorous, when rubbed between your fingers, is oxidized by the oxygen in the air into phosphorous oxide and appears as white smoke. If you do this experiment in the dark, you’ll even see the smoke glow.
Now let’s get on with the trick!
Smoking Fingers Trick Supplies Needed
- Box of matches
- Ceramic plate
This trick is best done as a demonstration by adults. Children should never use matches or a lighter. Have the adult complete the part of this experiment that deals with lighting the matches and burning the match striker. Always keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. Also keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
How to Do the Smoking Finger Trick
- Place a ceramic plate into the freezer to get it cold. This experiment will not work unless the surface of the plate is cold. Don’t have a freezer? You can run the plate under cold water for a few minutes.
- Cut the striker off of the side of a box of matches. The striker is the strip that you use to strike the matches.
- Peel the cardboard backing off the back of the striker.
- Fold the striker in half lengthwise.
- Remove the plate from the freezer and place on a stable surface.
- Holding the folded striker face down over the cold plate, light it on fire, and quickly put it down on the plate to burn. Alternatively, you can place the striker folded face down on the plate, and hold a match to the back of it to light it on fire if you prefer.
- Once the fire has gone out, and the striker has cooled down, move the striker out of the way to reveal the phosphorous residue it has left behind on the plate.
- Put some of the brown phosphorous residue on your fingers, and begin to rub your fingers together. You will start to notice smoke forming. Continue to rub your fingers together with the residue on them to create the magic smoking fingers effect.
Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after completing this experiment.
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