By Kevin Laskowski
Sunday School on November 7 continued with the story of Moses. The Israelites had escaped Egypt the week before, and we covered the gift of manna, the Ten Commandments, the golden calf, and the people in the wilderness.
The Hebrews have a miraculous guide in the desert: a pillar of cloud and fire.
“The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” – Exodus 13: 21-22
The passage inspired us to create our own pillar of fire–scaled down, of course.
We soaked two one-inch cubes of kitchen sponge in rubbing alcohol and placed them in a cup lined with aluminum. We then placed this inside a lantern-like little rig made of coat hangers and wrapped in aluminum window screen. We then attached that to a cordless electric drill. Should anything have gotten out of control, the whole rig (except for the drill) would have been dunked in a nearby bucket full of water. Safety first, after all.
The alcohol, once lit, produced a wavering 1-2-inch flame. Then, we turned on the drill. The air rushing through the spinning window screen created a vortex, which drew the flame upward. At the right speed, the fire grew to a foot-long pillar, which we weren’t able to capture with our phones.
The effect can be made more dramatic with a larger flame and a more powerful vortex. For example, gas burners and high-speed fans generate impressive columns in lab settings and science museums. Sometimes, a brush fire can combine with a tornado with dangerous results.
Our little contraption isn’t going to frighten anyone (it’s actually a fair bit of fun), but, looking at these fire tornadoes, you can begin to imagine the fear and awe that God’s presence must have generated among the Israelites.