Chances are, you're as sick of this summer's beastly hot weather as we are, so for a refreshing change of pace, here are five neat things you can do at your next event using dry ice -- aka solid carbon dioxide, commonly available in most supermarkets. Note: Never touch this stuff with bare hands or you'll get a nice cold burn.
1. Help control insects. For some reason, mosquitoes and other insects are attracted to carbon dioxide, so at your next outdoor event, fill a cloth bag with a five-pound block of the stuff and hang it next to a mosquito lamp or bug zapper. Result: Far fewer of the pests will bug their human hosts. Thanks to Mental Floss (mentalfloss.com) for the idea.
2. Make a volcano cake that actually erupts. To wow the crowd, gather them around the dessert table, where a nice big and sumptuous red velvet cake awakes. Only with this cake, you have already hollowed out a section up top, in the middle, and placed a small cup. Now add a little hot water to the cup, drop in a bit of dry ice and stand back to let astonished attendees witness a mini-Mount Vesuvius doing its thing. For added "lava" effect, use red jello instead of hot water. Thanks to Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., at chemistryabout.com for the tip.
3. Create a dry ice crystal ball. If yours is the kind of event that features a fortune-telling activity (reasonably priced, soberly thought-out, and unassailably fine and proper in execution, that is), add an extra zing to the fun by holding said activity near a stove or warming device. Place a piece of dry ice in a bowl containing bubble solution, wet a towel with the same solution and run it around the lip of the bowl, then pull it directly across the lip, which will gather the carbon dioxide into a giant bubble that looks just like a reasonably priced, unassailably proper fortune-teller's prognosticating sphere. Thanks to the folks who made this video (youtube.com/watch?v=aQLW5o6snbc) for the idea.
4. Make your own seltzer. You don't even need a reasonably priced, soberly hired magician to do this trick. Simply add dry ice to regular everyday drinking water, and presto! It tastes carbonated. We cribbed this one from eHow.com.
5. Of course, make your own fog. Whether the theme is London, Dracula's castle or any corporation's official excuses for screwing up, take advantage of the fact that dry ice + hot tap water = voluminously flowing fog. The folks at dryiceinfo.com recommend 5 to 10 pounds of dry ice in 4 to 8 gallons of hot water for each 15 minutes of fog.