One of the fascinating things about science is the way it’s always confounding our expectations. You may think you know what’s going to happen in an experiment, but finding out your hypothesis was wrong is sometimes the best result. In the case of dropping a hot piece of charcoal into liquid oxygen, the outcome is something you have to see. And now you can — in slow motion!In the newest Periodic Table of Videos, University of Nottingham chemists show off one of the cooler things you can do with charcoal, and that includes barbecues, which are already pretty great. The mixture of charcoal and liquid oxygen burns, but not in the usual way.Liquid oxygen has a temperature of -297 °F (-183 °C), so the instant it leaves the dewar flask, it begins boiling. The fog you see is not oxygen, which is invisible, but condensing water vapor. When the charcoal is dropped, it doesn’t quite splash down. Instead, it bounces.The charcoal is hot, but not burning. However, the liquid oxygen is in the process of boiling at room temperature. The added heat from the charcoal causes more oxygen to boil and throw it back up in the air. While it hangs there, the oxygen causes the charcoal to catch fire. The brightness of the flames oscillates as the charcoal bounces up and down, skittering around on the surface of the liquid oxygen. The speculation is that the charcoal rides around on a cloud of vaporized gas.Seeing this reaction happen in slow motion reveals the subtle dance that would otherwise be hidden from view. Science is neat — doubly so when you get to play with fire.