Surely Hollywood does not lie?

For some unknown reason this question came up amongst my colleagues today. Can a cigarette ignite petrol? This has been seen in countless movies but can it actually happen, surely it does as it is a naked flame, isn’t it?. Another slant on this is that one of the guys here said that fired bullets do not cause a spark and therefore will not cause explosions when fired into petrol. I tend to believe what i see, please tell me that Hollywood has not been lying to us all these years!!

Oh yeah one more thing. Why is that we itch?( well i know why i did after that holiday to Cyprus, but thats different, and cleared up now.)They sudddenly appear and give them a quick scratch and then its as if it never happened!! Whats it all about?

Please I need sleep tonight…

It is actually a pretty good question. People that haven’t tried the experiment themselves probbably assume that a cigarette tossed in gasoline = boom. When I was a late teenager, I smoked and liked to burn things with gasoline. On many occasions, I would soak a brush pile or ant mound with gasoline and toss a lit cigarette on it. It never lit even once. Once I even poured a little puddle of gasoline on pavement and tossed a cigarette in it. The cigarette promptly got extinguished.

I am not saying that a cigarette can’t ignite gasoline. I am sure that it can under the proper conditions. However, more often than not, nothing will happen. That wouldn’t make a very good movie scene though would it?

Th ignition temperature of liquid gasoline is about 600 degrees F, while the temperture at the tip of a lit cigarette is about 300 degrees F. So, no, a lit cigarette can’t ignite liquid gasoline like it does in the movies.

Regular lead bullets won’t spark, but steel jacketed ones might, and could potentially ignite a pool of gasoline. But it isn’t very likely.

Liquid gasoline (petrol) does not burn very easily. It does, however, readily vaporize and the vapor will burn quite quickly. If you get a dense enough concentration of gasoline vapor along with sufficient oxygen supply, you may get a rather powerful explosion.

Tossing a match on a small puddle of gasoline outdoors with a breeze blowing may not produce any results because the vapor is too thinly dispersed. Tossing a match into a full can of gasoline, on the other hand may not get any results either (although I would definitely NOT try it) because the non-flammable liquid gasoline may extinguish the match before the vapors can ignite.

I HATE the tv and movie business of showing bullets “sparking” when they hit cars, buildings, sidewalks, etc. When the heck did that start, anyway? It wasn’t used in the old “A-Team” series. I grew up near an abandoned junkyard, and I have, in fact, shot guns at cars. I never saw a spark!

I also used to play stupid games with gasoline. Burning out anthills, etc. You can actually pour a cup full of gasoline and flick lit matches into it…without lighting it off. But if you pour gasoline out onto the ground and flip a lit match onto it, it will light very quickly: the heat of the match forces the gasoline to vaporize more quickly, and that’s all that’s needed. Ditto for a rag that’s soaked with gasoline: one little touch from a match, and it’s ablaze.


I know from growing up in belfast that adding sugar to a milk bottle of petrol can have interesting effects (although i never did partake in such juvenille behaviour). But thats a whole different kettle of fish (now theres another question that has perhaps already been answered somewhere here).

I’m sure they had lots of consultants on The A Team to avoid technical gaffes. :rolleyes:

Somehow the bullets always seemed to bounce off car bodies with bright sparks but never seemed to scratch the paint. The favored weapon of B.A. Baracus and pals was a Ruger AC-556, a real gun, the full automatic version of the Mini-14. It uses the same ammunition as an M-16 which easily punctures car bodies but isn’t known for making big flashy sparks. Still, under the right circunstances with vaporized gasoline a bullet striking metal could ignite it but it wouldn’t be an efficient way to do so.

And my own little pet peeve of Hollywood sparks: when the train headed toward our hero puts on the emergency brakes there are inevitably sparks flying back from the stopped wheel and the still moving rail beneath it. Arrgh.

Still, it looks pretty cool.

It’s a little-known fact that Mr. T has a PhD in physics from MIT. :smiley:

There also exists the possibility that the muzzle flash from the gun is what sets off the fuel, particularly if it’s a Western and they’ve got a black powder weapon.

And let’s not even start talking about cars and how they don’t tend to blow up.

This site debunks “insultingly stupid movie physics”: It mentions flashing bullets and flaming cars but not cigarettes igniting gasoline as I could tell.

So does that mean we can ignore the No Smoking sign while filling up our gas tanks?

I understand that using cell phones is dangerous while filling gas (they say cellphones can sometime spark but I have never seen one or heard of one doing that)

My pet peeve is with regards to guns:

9mm bullets coated with teflon goes thru 2 inches of steel (Lethal Weapon 2 or 3) and still have enuf velocity to kill a man behind it.

Sly Stallone’s onscreen mother has shot a wrecking ball loose from its chain with a 9mm nickel plated Baretta.

Why do bad guys always have terrible aim? James Bond couldnt have been more than 15 feet from 2 guys shooting at him from different directions and he doesnt have a scratch on him. I dont care how fast he moved, you cant dodge a machine gun from that far.

You’d have to be pretty close, closer than I’d want to stand to a puddle of gas I was lighting on fire. I shoot old west style black powder weapons competetively. Muzzle flash is spectacular but the bulk of it only goes a few feet with rifles and shotguns with a few fine sparks going farther. Next time I get a chance to do some shooting at dusk or in overcast I’ll tape some video and post stills. It’s actually unusual for H’wood to show realisitc black powder muzzle flash. I thought the towel around Vito’s gun catching fire in The Godfather Pt. II was quite realistic as was Ed Masterson’s shirt doing the same when he was shot at point blank range in Wyatt Earp. I was at a match where we had to shoot from a covered boardwalk prop near a flag. A friend was penalized because the muzzle flash burned holes in the synthetic material when the wind shifted the wrong way.

Argh! Don’t get me started on *&$%#@ing Die Hard “That’s a Glock 7, it’s made of pocelan and costs more than you make in a year.” Bonus points if you know how many things are wrong in that statement.

Really? He went to the Montana Institute of Technology too? I have a degree in Post hole Digging as well. What a small world.

Well, it’s because the hero can only be killed at the proper time if it’s a trajedy, and not at all if it’s an heroic drama.

This is a slight exaggeration, but I’ve seen scenes that were close.

The Hero is riding in a convertable. The villain takes aim from the prone position at 100 yards with a telescope sight - and misses. The Hero pulls out a snub nose .38 and plugs him between the eyes.

That’s because it’s never happened:

1.Glocks are mostly made of metal with maybe 30% plastic(the slide is plastic, IIRC).
2. According to Glock’s Web site, there is no Glock 7.
3. On average, a handgun costs $500. If that’s more then you make in a year, you’re unemployed.

Cell phones are dangerous, not because they cause sparks, but because they divert the user’s attention away from what he or she really needs to be doing. People in authority make up excuses to convince the minions of something, just to get more people to do it, if that makes any sense.

Dont argue with me or you will poke your eye out, or something.

About the Glock, prior to its conception, all weapons were made of steel. So when a person looked on the view screen of a Luggage X-ray machine, they saw the definite shape of a weapon. Any idiot could easily tell that the image was a weapon. In comes the Glock; the only dense carbon steel in its constructuion is the chamber and barrel assembly. Now, the glock doesn’t have the sidearm shape any more, but looks sort of tubular, and it gets past X-ray machines world-wide until the security people finally catch on. No-weapon is made of porcelain.

I own the 26 model, and its slide is made of steel, in addition to its barrel/chamber assembly, it will definitly show up on an X-ray device, but it will probably look wierd. But the real crux are the bullets. They always show up like bullets on any X-ray machine. This ought to be a “smoking gun” tip-off to a security person scanning the luggage.


Originally posted by Padeye
Argh! Don’t get me started on *&$%#@ing Die Hard “That’s a Glock 7, it’s made of pocelan and costs more than you make in a year.” Bonus points if you know how many things are wrong in that statement.

*there is no Glock 7
*Its made of metal and plastic not porcelain
*its spelled p o r c e l a i n
*Glocks go from $450 to $700 depending on model. People on welfare make more than that in a year.
*McClaine (Bruce willis) uses a 92F Baretta

and just to completely hijack this thread…

It is the gasoline fumes which are the most flammable. I doubt if a lit cig dangled right above a container of gasoline is hot enough to start a fire, but a lit match certainly is.

I’ve seen people throw lit cigarettes into gasoline, and they extinguish immediatly.

As far as bullets causing explosions when hitting fuel tanks, thats probably bs too. Even super hot tracer rounds.