A YouTube video of a monk praying calmly in a vat of boiling oil has recently has been doing the rounds online, leaving viewers wondering how the monk can keep from screaming in agony. Social media users were enthralled by the possibility of this Thai monk’s ability to defy physics with his ‘magic’. Unfortunately, skeptical scientists soon pointed out a few facts that pretty much ruined the illusion.
The monk, from Thailand’s Nong Bua Lamphu province, looks at ease despite sitting in a vessel of oil with a fire raging underneath. He is also seen sharing his magical powers with others by touching objects that they pass to him. His followers believe that his touch can make their amulets or pieces of fabric powerful. These objects are apparently sold to the locals and other places of worship.
But not everyone is fooled by the monk’s miracle. According to science instructor Jessada Denduangboripant, of Chulalongkorn University, there is no proof that the oil is really boiling. “The only way to prove it is to measure the temperature of the oil he’s sitting in,” she wrote. “The oil doesn’t look like it’s boiling, and the pan just looks strange. The pan might have two layers to insulate the heat.”
Denduangboripant didn’t stop there. He claims there are several ways to create this kind of illusion, as he himself demonstrated in a 2012 presentation video where he appears to be safely touching boiling oil. The trick, he says, is to pour in some water in the bowl before adding the oil. The water will then absorb all the heat, but the oil never will never boil.
According to the description of the original YouTube video of the monk performing this incredible feat, “a blend of herbs is first applied to the surface of the container to reduce the high heat, but the feat is still seen around his dangerousness. By performing such a test, Buddhist monks prove their strength and determination to the people.”
Fake or not, you have to agree it looks pretty believable.