Top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties


Want to make your Christmas party special?  Why not try an ace science stunt or two.  I have assembled my top ten in the video below.  They can all be performed with everyday objects, and only take a few seconds to learn.  Here we go….

What was your favourite?  Any others that you know about?


112 comments on “Top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties

  1. Rachael says:

    Really cool, will definately try some of those
    I especially like the twirling foor/number 6 trick and the carbon dioxide candle extinguishing. Fun stuff.

    I used to do a trick if I was wearing a ring. You first take it off and hold it upright on a table. Then with your index finger on the top of the ring push your finger down, and in doing so push the ring forwards. The ring will be propelled forwards but will change directions and come back to you (because it is spinning in the opposite direction). Hard to explain, but quite fun.

  2. Will says:

    I like the can trick and the one where you pour carbon dioxide on the candles, great work.

  3. Rick B says:

    Definitely the vinegar one 🙂 Although I really liked the match one also.

  4. M Sullivan says:

    I can fold my second finger under and still raise my third finger. The trick is that the second and third fingers have a common tendon. This make it difficult to move those fingers independently. But if you take classical guitar training, they give you exercises to stretch that tendon so you can move the independently.

    A side effect of this is that I can also give the Vulcan ‘Live long and prosper’ salute.

  5. Julia says:

    love it!

  6. Wai says:

    I like the one with the match stick…

  7. Tim Eisele says:

    The one with CO2 is pretty good, and probably safer than the inverse version using butane in the measuring cup. The one with the matches and the coin is good too.

    A good one that I got from an article by Martin Gardner (“Fun with Eggs”) is to take a piece from the side (*not* the end) of an eggshell, trim the shell piece to be roughly circular and about 2-3 cm in diameter, moisten it, and then put it convex-side-down on the rim of a moistened dinner plate (one where the edge angles up. Corelle-ware plates have the right shape). The moisture of the shell and the plate will make the eggshell stick, but it will still be able to spin freely around its contact point. Then, if you tilt the plate to the correct angle, the shell will start to spin rapidly and travel around the edge of the plate.

  8. Gus Snarp says:

    Pouring CO2 on candles is the coolest.

    I too can lift my ring finger. Not by much though, and it hurts.

  9. Travis says:

    Very fun – thanks

    The match is great.

  10. ArghyBlarghy says:

    Love the CO2 trick. Will definitely have to show that one off!

  11. Steve says:

    You are a genius.

  12. pyrit says:

    Loved the tablecloth!

  13. bigjohn756 says:

    The fork balancing trick can be enhanced by balancing the forks on the edge of a glass and then burning the excess wood off of the ends. The burning adds excitement as everyone waits for the setup to fall apart when the stick burns up, but, the burning will stop just short of the glass and the forks leaving the balanced forks in place with almost no wooden stick remaining.

  14. great! thx for sharing, i’ll cause a lot of mess with the one to remove the towell 😉

  15. Diane Brown says:

    Great! That foot/no 6 one is irritating! x

  16. John says:

    Defo the CO2 candle one – that’s going to be a big hit and win me loads of money from my nephew 😉

  17. Sean Ellis says:

    I concur with the majority that the CO2 fire extinguisher is the coolest. Loved the variation at the end. Second place to the weird fizzy drinks can.

  18. Sean Ellis says:

    Just had a thought. Could you pour the CO2 into a completely empty jug and then use that? That would be very mysterious.

  19. Oooh I liked the last one! Very clever!

  20. teenagegeek says:

    I think the CO2 candle one is the best too.

    Ditto on the lifting of the ring finger, an dyes it does hurt.

    I may invest in some guitar training just to do that.


    Very cool post, brah.


  21. Sophie says:

    Great video. The idea of science tricks on xmas though…? Kinda rubs it in that science rules over religion these days don’t you think? Just something to think about… 😀

  22. Most of them were great, so instead of selecting a favorite, I’m going to singe out the worst one: the tablecloth stunt. That is fairly cliched at this point, and has the most potential of doing great damage if done wrong. The balanced forks trick is also fairly tired.

    But I’m a nice guy, so I’ll offer replacements!

    1. Boil water in a paper cup using one of those candles. The flame will char/blacken the paper, but the bottom never gets hot enough to burn.

    2. Balance a salt shaker on its edge. Similar to the soda can trick, but you make a small pile of salt initially, which makes the shaker easy to set on edge. Then you blow away all the excess salt and are left with just the grain or two, nearly invisible, the shaker is actually touching.

    • ButMadNNW says:

      Ah, yes. The balancing salt shaker. I learnt that one years ago from my mum. 🙂 At uni, she and her friends used to go into the local diner, eat, balance all the shakers, and leave (after paying, of course!).

      For those curious who didn’t figure it out on their own: the shaker balances because of the cubical shape of the salt crystals. For best results, use a shaker with straight edges (but, in my experience, avoid the ones with heavy metal tops).

  23. trinaramirez says:

    definitely the CO2 candle trick. cool.

  24. Natasha says:

    yea! These tricks will go great with all the puns I enjoy telling.

  25. Gus Snarp says:

    @Sean Ellis – you could try. I think it would be pretty tricky. You could use a tight fitting lid with a tube leading to your final container, then if you produced enough pressure with the CO2 it would be pushed through the tube into the empty container. We did something like that in Chem 101 lab. Except we used hydrochloric acid and something else….can’t remember what. I broke the rules and added the HCl too fast and made something noxious. Chlorine I think, but I never worked it out.

  26. HCTR says:

    When I do the ring finger trick with my pupils, I tell them there is an elephant on their thumb and they have to lift it, which they do. I then tell them there is a tank on their pinky and a house on their index finger and they lift them in turn. Then I say, “And now I have put a tiny feather on your ring finger for you to lift…” And they can’t budge. Much baffled hilarity ensues etc…

  27. […] Top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties « Richard Wiseman's Blog […]

  28. […] Top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties Richard Wiseman’s Blog […]

  29. softballgirl78 says:

    I really liked the match that lifted off and the carbon dioxide trick.

  30. Uyghur News says:

    hahaha amazing.. 🙂

  31. I’ve always wanted to try the table clothe thing

  32. ButMadNNW says:

    The first and last match stunts were the ones that made me go, “Whoa.”

  33. diegan2 says:

    Stunts are always good fun 😀

  34. That is so awesome. How did you learn all that?. Definitely a nice christmas trick.

  35. Studs Terkel says:

    A popular way to get someone to buy you a drink was to bet them they couldn’t tie a cigarette into a knot then smoke it. Of course they took the bet. Then take a filter cigarette and with an empty beer bottle, slowly rock it back and forth along the cigarette until it’s squeezed quite flat as a ribbon. At that point it’s simple to tie into a loose overhand knot, ta dah, then you untie it and smoke it. You never said tie it AND smoke it. Ha,ha. Make sure you bum the smoke from your victim so at least you get that!

  36. […] Wiseman’s blog is worth visiting from time to time — especially if you’re a teache…. […]

  37. […] Christmas parties In Detritus on December 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm Here is a must-see video from Richard Wiseman.  Ten great ways to entertain your friends and colleagues at a Christmas party or better yet at […]

  38. Nick Sharratt says:

    I always like the match ‘lifting it’s leg’ off the coin. Despite being shown that as a kid getting on for 40 years ago and doing it myself many times since, I’ve never really had a good understanding of why it happens, so it’s the only one that still facinates me.

  39. Cool. Awesome. Incredible. I just can’t find the right words. How we all wish Einstein was here.

    Sean Preston

  40. Loved this. It’s definitely entertaining no matter what time of year.

  41. costabeauty says:

    nice stuff for geek party

  42. LZ says:

    A variation on the ‘ring finger’ trick is to replace the table with your other hand, but in such a way that it’s in the same configuration as the first hand, with the points of contact being the finger tips of the extended fingers and the middle knuckles of the middle finger. Try as you might, you won’t be able to pull those ring fingers apart.

    It’s more fun, though, if you ask another person to do this and spice it up by means of a wager:-

    Place a £10 note (your own) between the ring fingers of your unsuspecting victim and tell them that if they can get let go of it, without using lateral side-slip of the fingers. The ensuing facial contortions are usually rather amusing.

  43. Tuf says:

    I loved the Co2 and the candles – genius!

  44. saraerika says:

    They’re all good tricks. But the one I had to back the tape for was the angry queen/happy queen trick.

    I also had to verify that it works for Carl von Linne, Jenny Lind and Selma Lagerlöf. (Though for Selma I had to tilt the foldings a bit or she’d just look mental. Two very different kinds of mental.)

  45. Hank Moody says:

    The last one with the matches is very nice, never would’ve though that would happen.

  46. Noelle says:

    I love the carbon dioxide one – that is quite clever! And the one with the matches and the coin was cool too. I’m definitely planning on using these to impress some people during my Christmas parties, I assure you 🙂

  47. machthree says:

    carbon dioxide and the two matches. anything with fire! great post!

  48. Fabulous!! Just the thing to liven up Christmas dinner.

  49. Ian Copton says:

    Love all this. I know some people who are convinced magic is supernatural, this could be fun to test out on them

  50. Edward says:

    Good stuff. I gotta learn the matchstick trick

  51. Babette says:

    matchstick and smiling/frowning portrait. Thanks for the tricks.

  52. Rohit says:

    Nice post.
    Although I dont celebrate Christmas, I will use it whenever I have a bunch of kids visiting out home.

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  60. Juan says:

    Some of them are very funny. Thank you!

  61. Joe Jenkins says:

    Great stuff.

    Maybe I could tell the kids that if they obey my instructions exactly, then they will get an amazing Christmas present. I start off very simply:

    “Turn your foot in a clockwise direction……”

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  66. cynthia1918 says:

    Fascinating, love this tricks!

    And loved the music! hahaha

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  70. unHandyAndy says:

    What’s the music playing? I want that.

  71. Steve Allen says:

    With practice my daughter has defeated the clockwise foot and numeral 6 trick.

  72. Major Variola (ret) says:

    Put methanol (yellow bottle heet fuel cleaner in the auto
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  73. Rick Regan says:

    Some people draw the 6 from the bottom up; in that case, the foot doesn’t change directions! (Try it.)

  74. […] Richard Wiseman teaches you ten awesome party tricks using nothing but science. Don’t travel back in time and do these tricks or you may […]

  75. […] Top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties « Richard Wiseman's Blog […]

  76. dangermom says:

    We did all the firey ones and had a great time! My kids love you now.

  77. UtitsBali says:

    Principled testing to see if your annotation fuctinon works, supply doesnt!

  78. Butane fuel says:

    Amazing, they are really cool! thank you a lot 🙂

  79. josh says:

    i have that video on my ipod from the best-of-youtube podcast! awesome never get bored of it. can’t get the table trick to work tho……

  80. unable says:

    how did the match one work. i am doing a school project a need to find out really

  81. Hilarious, I will be trying all of these – but am not going to wait until Christmas – where are the candles!


  82. […] por Richard Wiseman, de la Universidad de Hertfordshire […]

  83. Ara says:

    woo i love it!! and we used some of the tricks for our science project!! but i have a question…which song is the one at the background?…we got to tape ourselves performing the tricks and we liked the song… hope you answer 🙂

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  86. Rohan says:

    fantastic trick
    i like it

  87. mila kunis says:

    i like them all, besides the ball bouncing one. i really want to try the table cloth pulling one, but am so afraid everything is going to break.

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