The secret of the 'undying Russian' who can pass his hand through molten metal
A steel worker becomes an unlikely viral star for his ability to touch molten metal.
For all its flaws, the Internet can be a source of wondrous things and one such curiosity has been a resurfacing video of a man passing his hand through molten metal without getting hurt. Some have dubbed him “the undying Russian" for the nonchalant way he seems to be interacting with a flow of steel that's around 1370 degrees C (2500°F). Is the man some sort of magician or a yogi or can science explain this phenomenon?
Of course, science can. The man, who is actually not Russian, but an Armenian steel worker named Arkady Mgdsyan, is enjoying the benefits of the so-called Leidenfrost effect.
Mgdsyan learned of this effect from his co-workers, who have almost all pulled off this feat, their steel mill's tradition. The trick is kind of a professional rite of passage.
Check out the full video here:
Mgdsyan was quite apprehensive about trying to stick his hand in molten metal, even after watching others do it. In an interview, he explained the way to achieve this effect (although this is truly a “don't try this at home" situation) -
"If you water your hand properly prior to touching the molten mass, the steam will protect your skin from being scorched for a brief moment," he elaborated.
Indeed, the Leidenfrost effect phenomenon occurs when water touches a molten surface, with a much higher boiling point. At that moment, an insulating layer of steam is generated. This vapor layer, like a repulsive force, keeps that liquid from boiling too rapidly. So you can stick your wet hand in an out, like Mgdsyan.
There's a fun segment from Mythbusters just about this phenomenon. See what happens as they stick fingers into the molten lead:
And here's another explanation of the Leidenfrost effect that's worth checking out:
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.
In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.
Image from the study.
As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.
Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.
"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.
It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.
Image by authors of the study.
Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.
The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.
“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."
Do you have a magnetic compass in your head?
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.