Burning Basilisk

Recently my kids have decided that they’re into Harry Potter, it’s taken forever, but now that they’ve started, they have become obsessed! They asked me if one day a week we could start Wizard School – I thought the idea was AWESOME so, of course, I said yes!

I ordered a book to read with my little scientists, it arrived today and we are very excited to get reading it… The Science of Harry Potter*

This week I decided that we should create our own Basilisk. I have seen a few online videos about Fire Snakes and decided that this would make an awesome hands-on experiment to bring this part of the books to life.

We watched a few video tutorials first so that we knew what to do, but, unfortunately, our results weren’t that spectacular. We only ended up with “baby basilisks” and that wasn’t very exciting for my two budding scientists, so we kept on trying. The following is a list of items you will need for this experiment:

  • Sand, (we used builders sand and dried it out on a tray overnight)
  • Icing sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • Deep Foil Trays*
  • Lighter Fluid*
  • Lighter/matches
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Bowls
  • Fire Extinguisher/Fire Blanket (just incase)

The pictures below were our first attempts, (with just icing sugar and bicarbonate of soda)…


The Basilisk didn’t get any bigger than the above picture so we found another tutorial which was absolutely fantastic…

On all the tutorials we had previously watched, we found that everybody said icing sugar was the best. This guy also experimented with granulated sugar, so we decided to do the same. We also dug out some Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol but we only had 70% and we soon discovered that this wouldn’t ignite at all. (So don’t bother with the alcohol unless you have 91%+)

Another thing we realised was that we had made far too much of the sugar/bicarbonate of soda mixture so we ended up using a lot less, as detailed in the pictures below.

Our successful attempt…

On tray number one, we put lighter fluid on one side and isopropyl rubbing alcohol on the other. We then mixed 4 tsps of granulated sugar with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and then divided this into two piles, as shown.
On tray number two, we did exactly the same but we used 4 tsps icing sugar to 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, and again divided into two piles.
We then lit each one but the alcohol didn’t ignite at all. This is the icing sugar and the results were pretty much the same as the first time round…
Cool, but not cool enough! 🙁

The successful attempt was done with granulated sugar. The following videos and pictures show exactly how awesome this was…



At the end of this experiment, I had two very excited little scientists, no burns and no need for a fire extinguisher so all in all, I would say that we did good! It was definitely a two thumbs up from my nutty professors.

We concluded that granulated sugar worked best, with lighter fluid. This kept burning for at least 5-10 minutes.

How it Works:

When the bicarbonate of soda gets hot, it makes carbon dioxide gas. The pressure from the gas pushes the carbonate from the burning sugar and out of the sand, producing an awesome Basilisk, or Fire Snake!

The Basilisk felt like candy floss or cotton wool. We expected that it might be crunchy, but it was so soft. The last video, (above) shows just how soft it was.

Hope you enjoyed today’s waffling. Thanks for stopping by!

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