Some special effects are incredibly easy to do — with science. Find out how to pour an 'empty' pitcher on candle flames and cause them to suddenly go out. It's a fun and easy effect for your supernatural movie, fake seance, or just freaking out your friends.

Of course there's a reason why I put those quotes are around 'empty' and 'water.' The pitcher in this experiment isn't actually empty. It's just filled with something you can't see. You also can't smell or taste it. The only time you know it's there is when you can feel it fizzing through your soda - or when it chokes you to death because you've been locked in an airlock. It's carbon dioxide, and it is one of the things that will make a candle go out.

A candle needs three things to keep burning. The first is basic fuel, which is provided by the paraffin wax drawn up through the wick. Another is heat, which is provided first by a match, and then by the burning of the candle itself. The most effective way of putting out a candle, or any flame, is taking away its oxygen. Carbon dioxide is a heavy molecule, heavier than the oxygen in the air. Although it does get joggled around by the atmosphere, and can be found at any height, it will stay for some time in the bottom of a container. And if that container is upended in the air, the carbon dioxide will pour out of it, just like liquid does.


The results of the combination of bicarbonate of soda, also known as baking soda, and vinegar is well-known. The fizzy explosion is a staple of many elementary-school volcanoes. What you're seeing in the fizz is a double reaction. The acetic acid (CH3COOH) in the vinegar and the baking soda (NaHCO3) swap some atoms. The acetic acid snatches away the sodium (Na) atom, while the baking soda grabs an extra hydrogen. This causes the baking soda to become carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is unstable. It breaks down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). The many bubbles causing the fizzy explosion are the escaping carbon dioxide.


Going back to our illusion, it's simple enough to get a lot of carbon dioxide from these common kitchen items. Swirling the fizz breaks open those bubbles and releases them into the air. They can be kept in a new, covered container for a short while, or you could simply cover up the bottom of the pitcher where the reaction is taking place. Pour the pitcher over the candles, and it looks like they are going out all by themselves. If you can hide yourself and the picture completely, this is also a good way to get selected candles to look like they're putting themselves out. All in all, a cool effect that you can do in your kitchen.

Image: Lifehacker

Via Newton.