Of all the things we take for granted in our everyday lives, the engines that keep our cars running have to be one of the most ubiqutious.
It's not really our fault that we don't know how awesome these underrated marvels of technology actually are - they're tucked away under the hood, and all the incredible chemistry going on is concealed by that big metal casing. But what if you had a piston engine with a clear cylinder head that lets you see everything?
YouTuber Matt Mikka has done just that at his Warped Perception channel to show you the combustion process of a 3 HP flathead Briggs and Stratton Internal Combustion engine in Ultra Slow Motion.
He takes it from a 'rich' state (too much fuel and not enough air) to a 'lean' state (too much air and not enough fuel), and burns gasoline, rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), and the hydrocarbon compound acetylene for comparison.
In case you're not familiar with the internal parts of a piston engine, in the video above, you'll see the piston moving up and down on the left, and the intake and exhaust valves on the right.
There's a spark plug hanging above these two valves, which ignites the whole thing, and when you see those gas flames slowed down 150 times... well, let's just say it's a thing of beauty.
Okay, so the gasoline is beautiful, the rubbing alcohol is kind of stressful with all that liquid squishing around, and then the acetylene? That stuff is downright scary.
The reason those last two fuels flood and mess up the engine is because they don't strike the same kind of fuel-air balance that gasoline does.
As Avery Thompson explains for Popular Mechanics, the process should go like so:
"This is a four-stroke engine, which means the full cycle has four steps. Step one is the intake valve opening and letting air and fuel into the chamber while the piston moves down. On step two, the piston moves up, compressing the fuel.
On step three, the fuel is ignited, and the force of that ignition pushes the piston down again. And finally, step four sees the piston move upward again, forcing the exhaust out of the newly opened exhaust valve."
Now that we've seen that in action, we want every machine in our lives to be see-through.
And now, for something completely different, check out this older Warped Perception video, where he pops corn kernels at 30,000 frames per second in Ultra Slow Motion.
All hail the crunchy ballerinas: