Thursday evening. You’re dressed in nice threads. You cooked some fantastic deliciousness and the table is set. For two. Candle-light dinner.
Suddenly you get terribly frightened! You. Cannot. Find. Any. Candles. In. Your. Apartment! “Man, there must be some! I know that I have them!” But watching at your clock you realise speeding to the next supermarket won’t bring any good. Your lover’s hand must already be lifted for ringing the bell… Now, what can you do? A candle-light dinner without candles? That sucks!
But wait! There is some solution. Have a look at this:
I just hope that you got your candles! So there won’t be any bar against spending a wonderful evening with your love!
Now assuming that night brought forth a child nine months later. And after, let’s say, four years you tell your daughter about that night. Using toilet paper and butter to produce some candles. It won’t be a surprise your daughter asking you how that could work. Toilet paper? Butter? Could you explain? I couldn’t until now.
So I framed this question by two more detailed close-ups: 1. Why does butter produce some flame? 2. Why does the wick, made of toilet paper, not incinerate? – So this could be my and answer.
1. The heat of the flame melts the butter. Given this, the toilet paper is strong enough to to suck in the fluid butter.* Now the butter being inside the flame it will be vaporized. Now it’s gas as oxygen is. And this mixture burns – which is to say aerial butter and oxygen are the flame ablaze. (Needless to say, that this is some circuit.)
2. As the flame is burning butter gas and oxygen within the flame there is no remaining oxygen for burning the toilet paper.** And where oxygen is missing nothing can burn.
I hope these answers will help you feeding your child with fresh information. But as we all know, children are used to use “why?”. So what is sucking and why has the flame different colours?
* So what is sucking? Imagine everything is made of specific molecules (conceivable as spheres). Now we have specific molecules for butter and for the wick. As butter melts usually the molecules on the surface would sink down. But as we could see wax is climbing up the toilet paper. Toilet paper by itself is also made up of molecules. Those molecules attract each other (these forces of attraction are called cohesion forces) – which make the toilet paper rather solid. Well, so far so good. On the border of toilet paper everywhere is butter. Right? Since butter now is fluid this means the cohesion forces of the butter molecules aren’t as strong as those of the toilet paper. So the molecules of toilet paper can draw the molecules of butter inside. “Inside”, because between the molecules there is still plenty of room. This effect is called capillary action.
** Now, what about the flame? The lower flame is blue, somewhere in the middle it is brown and the upper flame is yellow. What does that mean? First it means that there are different composite proportions of butter gas and oxygen. Where the flame is blue the proportion is in that way perfect, that butter is burned completely. Where the flame is brown there is no oxygen. That means this colour is the colour of butter gas. It is not burning. The yellow flame means that butter is not perfectly burned since there is too little oxygen. It becomes burning soot (carbon black). That on the one hand the flame is blue, on the other hand yellow that means that light is shining in different frequency.
“But now my child, go to sleep. Sleep my child.”