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Fire versus ice: Video shows what happens when thermite meets a frozen lake

Thermite vs. frozen lake
It’s one of the great philosophical brainteasers that generations of intellectuals have stroked their chins over: What happens if you detonate a whole lot of thermite on a frozen lake? That’s the question the folks behind YouTube channel Beyond the Press attempted to answer in their latest video, which follows a previous variation that introduced a red-hot, 20-kilo steel weight to the lake’s thick ice.

“The thermite versus frozen lake idea has been on my mind for quite a long time,” YouTuber Lauri Vuohensilta told Digital Trends.

As Vuohensilta noted, there are a number of popular videos online pitting thermite against ice, usually by burning the pyrotechnic powder on top of an ice block, resulting in some pretty dramatic explosions. That is (we think) because the heat from the burning thermite decomposes the water into hydrogen and oxygen, which then explodes when heated.

However, most people have not tried this experiment on such a large scale using a frozen lake.

So did it turn out to be the YouTube explosion of the century? As you will see from watching the video, not exactly.

“I wasn’t completely happy with the results,” Vuohensilta continued. “I think I am going to double the amount of thermite for the next try and use a different vessel. [But] I don’t want to overdo it because the explosion throws molten metal stuff all over the place, and I want to keep everything safe as possible.”

It’s not a waste of time, though. There is something weirdly fun about watching people investigate the quantity of thermite needed to melt through a frozen lake, even if they didn’t quite manage it on this occasion. And, hey, we now know that we want to visit Ylojarvi, Finland — provided they’re not shooting a follow-up video at that time.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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