Stupid Party Tricks

    Photo: Illustration by Chris Philpot

1. Instantly Freeze a Beer
Place a bottle of beer in the freezer for about two hours and don't agitate it. Thanks to a thermodynamic effect called supercooling, the stillness will allow it to remain liquid below its freezing point. Take it out and gently tilt it so your friends can see it's not frozen, then remove the cap and firmly slam the bottom of the bottle on the counter. It will freeze instantly. Now take someone else's beer, since the frozen one is useless.

2. Tie a Knot One-Handed
Fold a piece of rope over on itself about two feet from the end. Grab both strandsin one hand, near the end, so that you have a loop hanging down to the ground. Holding it like a lasso, begin to twirl the loop at your knee. It should start to twist. As soon as the second twist enters the loop, pop the rope up into the air and pass the short end through the hole in the loop as if you're threading a needle. Voilà: one-handed figure-eight knot.

3. Turn a Match into a Rocket
Tightly wrap the head of a paper match with a small piece of tinfoil. Take a needle and pierce the tinfoil at the very tip of the match head. Place the match on the mouth of an empty bottle. Hold a flame to the tinfoil for a few seconds. Liftoff! (As with most tricks, this one will impress children most.)

4. Breathe Fire
Everybody loves fire. Which is why this trick is so awesome: You get to blow it like a dragon. First you need a fuel source; a cotton ball soaked in white gas and stuck on the end of a wire works well. Now pour half a cup or so of cornstarch into a cup. Head outside, light the cotton ball, take a big mouthful of cornstarch, and blow it at the flame. The good thing about using cornstarch rather than, say, alcohol, is that it's flammable only when highly oxygenated, so you don't have to worry about igniting your esophagus. Which is nice.

5. Be a Human Flag
Technique, practice, and a sturdy, chain-link-fence-size pole are all you need. Your bottom arm—elbow locked, palm facing backward, thumb pointing down—is the brace, pushing into the pole. You'll pull yourself up with your top arm—four to five feet above the other, palm forward. Get a good grip and then hoist your legs with a hard kick. Go horizontal and try to hold it. The world record is just under 40 seconds. You should expect about two.

Sabre a Champagne Bottle
Remove all foil and wire from a chilled bottle and find the seam running from top to bottom. You're going to use the flat edge of a butcher knife to strike the glass lip right where it meets this seam. Point the bottle slightly up and away from anything you care about, with the seam up. Run the blade along the neck a couple of times to perfect the motion—striking perpendicular to the neck. When you're ready, one forceful sweep of the knife should send the lip—with the cork still inside—flying away cleanly.

Wearing loose pants, stand with your feet together and your back at a 45-degree angle to your audience. Press your heels together and lift onto the toes of the foot that's away from the audience. Keep your other ankle cocked, so it rises parallel to the floor. The dimmer the light, the better. Ditto the audience.

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