Coke can + chocolate = fire

Since I’ve recently been posting about next-generation Boy-Scout equipment, here’s a brilliant little hack that has been making the rounds on blogs: How to light a fire using a Coke can and a chocolate bar.

The bottom of a Coke can has a neatly parabolic shape, which makes it terrific as a reflector; hold it up to the sun, and it can concentrate the rays into a point so tightly focused that it is of ignition intensity. The problem, as the Tracker Trail wilderness-survival blog points out, is that if you look at the bottom of a normal can …

… note the fine straight lines in the aluminum. These scatter the sun’s rays, and prevent them from being focused together into a single bright point. [snip] It needs polishing. The chocolate does an excellent job of this.

Chocolate as a polishing agent? Who knew? Apparently, it only takes about half an hour to achieve a sufficient shine; the astonishing, gleaming results are pictured above. Also check out the way-cool pix on the site to see the reflector in action, igniting some tinder!

This is totally the stuff I would have loved doing back in the Boy Scouts: Using everyday materials — and ingenious applications of science — in the service of burning an entire forest to a charred stump. Indeed, the Boy Scouts always had a hacker vibe: The handbooks were always filled with crazy projects, encouraging you to jerry-rig water filtration systems, long-distance signalling mechanisms, and ham radios. And then there was that excellent Harper’s story about the Boy Scout who built a nuclear reactor in his back yard …

(Thanks to Boing Boing for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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