Burning QuestionScience brain teasers require understanding of the physical or biological world and the laws that govern it.
How can paper burn without any damage?
HintTry to rub out the problem.
AnswerSoak the paper in 50% isopropyl alcohol.
Then, the alcohol burns and the paper does not.
Alcohol molecules do not bond as tightly, so alcohol burns at a lower temperature than does the paper. You can add NaCl (sodium chloride or common table salt) so it will burn with a yellow flame, and make the flame more visible.
Kids: If you try this, have a parent or guardian to help!
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Posted by zonahobo on Mar 24, 2006|
I hope you never tried this in your room!! First Teaser!! Wahoo!
Posted by jlvsbeks on Mar 24, 2006|
i'm gonna try it
Posted by ttviper on Mar 24, 2006|
You had best believe that I will try this one!!
Posted by achnid on Mar 25, 2006|
well this sounds like one of those science corner activities in the sunday paper from back home. HEHE including the reminder of adult supervizion LOL
Posted by sgtammo on Mar 25, 2006|
Is this the voice of experience talking? Another good teaser.
Posted by lelrod on Mar 25, 2006|
The alcohol burns, not the paper. Poor puzzle. It should read "paper appear to burn"
Posted by 5600113 on Mar 26, 2006|
Posted by fem81uk on Mar 30, 2006|
Didnt get it i gotta say but will have fun trying to do it!!
Posted by delightful_donu on Apr 07, 2006|
i agree with lelrod the alcohol is actually doing the burning not the paper
Posted by zonarita on Apr 11, 2006|
I'm glad you listened to some of those lessons I shared when you were growing up. However the trick was not the lesson! I'm glad to see you have your first teaser on site. It is a good one. Keep at it.
Posted by irar1792 on Apr 25, 2006|
doesn't the paper eventually burn too.
Posted by OldChinaHand on Apr 25, 2006|
In accrual terms it's only the alcohol vapors that are burning...still a good teaser.
Posted by feste on Apr 25, 2006|
Science 101. And, paper always leaves a trail.
Posted by rhmaustin on Apr 25, 2006|
Well, I just happened to have s small strip of paper about 1 x 2 inches & some isopropyl alcohol -- need I say more? It's true, the alcohol burned off leaving the paper dry & unburned until about 3/4 of the way through, at which point the edges of the paper began to burn. But I'm willing to believe that in a perfect world, the experiment would have worked perfectly. Bravo! But don't try this at home, boys and girls. I'm 62, so presumably I know what I'm doing. More or less.
Posted by coachpisco on Apr 25, 2006|
Thanks for the science lesson.
Posted by bradon182001 on Apr 25, 2006|
Interesting teaser. Sure do hope there aren't any youngsters out that who are going to try this.Save it for class witha controlled conditions kids!!
Posted by elshawno on Apr 25, 2006|
that's pretty cool!
I loved it!!!
Posted by vmerc on Apr 25, 2006|
The Paper doesn't burn. You put that right in the answer. That invalidates the entire teaser.
Posted by iteachkids on Apr 25, 2006|
I'm assuming that Zonarita and Zonahobo were supervising when you tried this ... Way to go, ZonaBoy! ... and good job ZonaParents!!!
Posted by zaya on Apr 25, 2006|
Weak. No teasing here, either you know it or you don't.
Posted by thimblenoggin on Apr 25, 2006|
Even as an English Major the answer was obvious.If you burn the papaer you burn the paper. If you burn the alcohol you burn the alcohol.Not a great teaser. Sorry.
Posted by Suellenlynn on Apr 25, 2006|
You shouldn't put items like that on a site devoted to jokes and riddles. How many unqualified people are gonna try that, and how many children without proper supervision? Real bone head move there.
Posted by cherokeerose on Apr 25, 2006|
i thought it was spend it as in money guess you can tell i did not pay attention in science class
Posted by zonarita on Apr 25, 2006|
You got a nice honor there as Teaser of the Day! I've been around a lot longer than you and I've never had one yet. Congrats!
Posted by banzai on Apr 25, 2006|
i also have the proper "testing" materials and am old enough to know better. thank u for your teaser.
Posted by Winner4600 on Apr 25, 2006|
easy, i did it a million times in science
Posted by youdumbsavage on Apr 25, 2006|
i didnt know, good teaser though!!!
Posted by jabdr on Apr 25, 2006|
Duh? Very selective audience for this one..and I'm not in it. Congrats on Teaser of Day but hope your next one appears in the science 101 category.
Posted by syracuse945 on Apr 25, 2006|
nvr tryd this, but it sounz cool, 'speciali w/ salt... ... 1st thot th@ popt 2 mind was sandppr... haha... ... waaaat? u sed "rub", so i thot sandppr... bahaha...
gud 1, tho...
Posted by ttviper on Apr 25, 2006|
I thought this was great! I would have worded it as the paper is being exposed to fire, but it works either way.
Posted by AckJack on Apr 25, 2006|
I didn't have a clue! Good teaser though!
Posted by Smart_Alex on Apr 25, 2006|
That's a cool fun fact.
Posted by patpat553 on Apr 26, 2006|
Hated Science in school and still do.
Posted by Joeycat on Apr 27, 2006|
By soaking the paper in alcohol, the paper isn't really burning -- the alcohol is...
Posted by scallio on Apr 27, 2006|
Way cool! Whether it's the paper or alcohol burning it, it's still great. Can't wait to try this with my kids this afternoon.
Thanks for the fun trick!
Posted by scallio on Apr 27, 2006|
The kids loved this! Try it with your kids.
We used 70% alcohol which doesn't quite work as well. Be sure you use the 50%.
Posted by mabelrxu on Apr 27, 2006|
i thought you meant paper as in paper cup...to not burn paper cup, fill about 3/4 of the way with regular water. put on bunsun burner, and water will boil without setting paper on fire...when water boils dry, get the fire extinguisher
Posted by tdbrsun on Apr 27, 2006|
Posted by hp_lover3Xplus on Apr 27, 2006|
I thought it was money...like spending it.....I thought it was a good answer...til the realy answer came up....we haven't learned that in Chemistry yet.....doubt we will...that would be a fun experiment....burning things....tehehe.
I liked the riddle/joke/whatever-you-call-it though.
Posted by RRAMMOHAN on Apr 27, 2006|
Posted by vlerma on Apr 27, 2006|
Being on oxygen 24-7 I'm not allowed to play with fire of any kind so this one kinda left me out in the cold. But stupidly, one night I had a candle burning, and since I don't have enough breath to blow out a candle, took off my canula, also off the hose, and started to use the hose to blow out the candle. "My what a pretty flame, " I thought, and suddenly realized what was taking place. Thankfully I got the oxygen shut off before I did any real damage, but evidentally I didn't have enough O2 going to my brain that night because this was pure stupidity! Nice science lesson, but kids, don't play with fire!
Posted by robinmckenzie on Apr 28, 2006|
I agree with previous posts. The question asks "How can paper burn..." and the answer states "the paper doesn't burn". Badly worded, IMHO. Wouldn't "How can you set light to paper without it burning?" be better?
Posted by tonjawithaj on Apr 28, 2006|
love science questions!
Posted by Jerrythellama on May 20, 2006|
But then, isn't the paper NOT burning...?
Posted by Shadowmist on Aug 06, 2006|
Hehe sounds fun Great job!
Posted by vbguy101 on Aug 19, 2006|
You just said the paper will burn and then you say it's not?
Anyway, I have ethyl. Does it work?
Posted by i_luv_2_read on Dec 27, 2006|
dude that's cool!
Posted by MelkorDCLXVI on Mar 05, 2007|
the hint gave it away
Posted by bookworm91 on Apr 16, 2007|
Excellent. You can achieve the same result by using oil.
Okay people, so this wasn't a spectacularly worded teaser. However, it's not the end of the world and it got the point across.
Perhaps someone should correct this teaser so that it's written as "light fire to" rather than burn.
I give it a thumbs up!
Posted by cloughme on May 03, 2007|
Great teaser, but I agree; not clearly written.
Posted by coolpainter on May 03, 2007|
You said "BURN PAPER", not alcohol. NG
Posted by Trishgal on May 03, 2007|
I got it even if it wasn't written perfectly.
Posted by kitty728 on May 03, 2007|
I'm with Zaha.... wheres the teaser?? But its a good fact anyway......
Posted by doehead on May 03, 2007|
The paper will also burn,unless you put the fire out.Poor science question!!!
Posted by Shikamaru on May 03, 2007|
that makes no sense.
Posted by muffinbrittney on May 03, 2007|
I thought the solution was going to be that an image is burnt onto the paper IE by a copy machine or printer.
Posted by hradilv on May 03, 2007|
The paper doesn't burn, like has already been said... Very, very poor!
Posted by auntiesis on May 03, 2007|
Very good teaser. I didn't have a clue, even with the hint . Again I enjoy the debate , or call it conversation, as much as the teaser. I wouldn't even try this one unsupervised,.
Posted by DRIV3R on May 03, 2007|
My 6th grade teacher did that, she covered a peice of paper with alcohol and she burned it right in the classroom
Posted by Odessius on May 03, 2007|
as far as I'm concerned that's all I need to know.
I'm sure the braingle guy would find some way to do it.
Posted by scallio on May 03, 2007|
It's been a year since I first did this science experiment with my kids and they still ask once a month or so to do it again. It's great!
Posted by 2ndhandrose on May 03, 2007|
It's a tough question to pose. I thought the paper would burn & then not be there, no damage, gone - poof!
I did think of a coating but science class for me is a ways back.
Got me thinking
Posted by 2ndhandrose on May 03, 2007|
I call what happened to you that day a "Brain Glitch" we all have them & I've had a couple of close calls re electricity. These experiences keep us on our toes so to speak.
Take care Rose
Posted by Lozie on May 03, 2007|
Thought it was good for a first teaser.
Posted by zaya on May 03, 2007|
Terrible teaser. The paper's not burning, the alcohol is. Not sure how this one passed inspection.
Posted by Qrystal on May 03, 2007|
Hmm. I'll just say that the "rub" clue made me think the answer was: rub on paper long enough, and your finger will feel "burnt" from the heat of friction. So then, the paper is burning something, which works well with the wording of the puzzle.
Posted by extremechemist on May 03, 2007|
best to use vodka/ any spirit around the 40% mark that way the alcohol burns but the paper remains wet from the abundance of water *chemistry undergrad* not really a brain teaser though
Posted by oddrey on May 03, 2007|
That was a very interesting fact, but i dont think it made a great teaser. Still, thats something for me too do if I ever get bored!
Posted by masquerademe235 on May 03, 2007|
My science teacher put water in a cup and set it over fire, and the paper didn't burn, but that's because the heat transferred and everything... anyway, good teaser!!
Posted by mrme on May 03, 2007|
the alcohol is burning not the paper
Posted by grams60 on May 03, 2007|
well at least i'm not the only one to miss the boat on this one. Very good teaser and informative also.
Thanks for makeing us think
Posted by sagarat on May 03, 2007|
Nice teaser, but I think the wording is off. the definition of butn is to be consumed by flames, which the paper is not.
A better question would of been "How can you set a piece of paper on fire without damage"
Posted by battle000111 on May 03, 2007|
good trick, crappy brainteaser. bet its nice for parties =)
Posted by TheSmartest on May 03, 2007|
I've read this one before and actually used it as a science project! I did well. Very fun and easy to do, thank you for the science help!
Anyway, awesome work on this whole "burning paper" thing, really liked it!
Posted by naeem_ng on May 04, 2007|
I work at Mad Science Malaysia and one of the things we have to do is this, so I figured out the answer pretty easily. But the thing is that since it is the alcohol that burns first, technically the paper never burns, so the question itself isn't worded accurately. But that's just if you want to be technical. Also, if you don't put out the fire right away after lighting the paper soaked in alcohol, the fire will burn out all the alcohol and then burn the paper. So remember to put out the fire right away if you wanna save your paper (best way is hold it with thongs when you light it and shake off the fire right away). Cheerio!
Posted by Andy_L on May 07, 2007|
Posted by fedex337 on Jun 29, 2007|
my cousin did this same trick but she put the alcohol on the back of her hand and set it on fire... it was really really cool and she didnt get burned at all
Posted by rockstar1234567 on Jan 28, 2008|
i can see why it's hard
Posted by scott8anthony on Apr 22, 2008|
I agree with lelrod, the paper does not actually burn.
Posted by gaylewolf on May 04, 2013|
I'll have to try it with the kids! Thanks!
Posted by jaycr on May 04, 2013|
"How can paper burn without any damage?" When I read this I looked at the category expecting to see Trick. Poorly written IMHO.
Posted by jaycr on May 04, 2013|
Answer: "Then, the alcohol burns and the paper does not."
Posted by Babe on May 04, 2016|
A lot of comments on this one, and I am wondering why do we even care? Is this something useful that we need to know or just some odd observation? "Much Ado about nothing."
Posted by ultimatecub on May 04, 2016|
Nice one! You mean propan-2-ol?
Posted by ThinksForFun on May 04, 2016|
It's called "rubbing alcohol" which the hint was alluding to.
Posted by eamon on May 04, 2016|
The paper does NOT burn like the riddle asks so it's a cheat - period. Secondly, a lot of kids visit this site and may try this silly trick in spite of the warning about adult supervision.
I'm surprised it's been allowed to remain on the site.
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