When we think of combustion, we conjure up images of things that burn and boom. That certainly happens when scientist Scott Hubert performs his Science Live show at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

Hubert begins his presentation by emphasizing safety. He has children and adults in the audience take an oath not to play with fire.

He then asks for a brave volunteer. Atticus Frost, who was celebrating his eighth birthday at the museum on Aug. 22, donned safety goggles and then blew air into a tube that was connected to a small pot. Immediately, the pot became a cauldron of fire, and it was as though Atticus was breathing fire like a dragon.

The group then heard that three ingredients — fuel, heat and oxygen — are necessary to produce combustion.

To demonstrate the various dynamics of fuel, Hubert asked an audience member for a dollar bill, which he dipped in alcohol, a liquid fuel source that burns at a cooler temperature (350 degrees Fahrenheit) than the paper and cotton contained in a dollar bill (451 F). After the bright and hot flames of alcohol burned, the dollar was safely returned to its owner in perfect condition.

Hydrogen, the most abundant gas in our universe, is an extremely combustible fuel. At room temperature, the gas is lighter than air. When Hubert applied heat to a hydrogen-filled balloon, a great eruption of fire and sound filled the room.

To prove that oxygen is a necessary part of the combustion triangle, he taught the group about lycopodium powder, highly flammable club moss spores from South America.

To the audience's initial surprise, the powder did not burn when a match was put directly into it since there was no oxygen source. However, when thrown into the air, the combustion was immediate. He related this experiment to the "stop, drop and roll" actions that extinguishes a fire by depriving its oxygen supply.

— Sally Peterson

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