What do we know about Shaolin monks? These guys live in Shaolin Monastery for 16 centuries already. They study Buddhism and are good in certain martial arts. Too good, I would say. People come over to watch their ‘magic tricks’, like walking on broken glass or stepping through the fire.
Shaolin monks are amazing. Through their long lasting history, they haven’t lost their exceptional skills, but even developed some new. No wonder, China is so proud of their warriors in orange.
One of the most recent videos that leaked to the web made the internet explode. Why? Have you seen anyone capable of breaking the glass with a needle? A regular sewing needle seems to be too tiny to cause any damage to it, but for a few scratches. However, Shaolin monks seem to have no troubles with it. No wonder, people say they can kill with a pin.
The video shows a monk holding a pane of glass between another monk and a balloon. In less than a second he throws a needle into it and the balloon explodes. Mystery? Magic? This might seem insane and unbelievable for our brains, but scientists are sure it is nothing else but pure physics and strength in hands.
The main difference between glass and other materials like metal is that its molecules can be moved. The trick to breaking glass is overcoming its initial resistance to breaking. Any glass is too hard to break until it develops a crack. Then it becomes weak enough to be broken even with a needle.
In a solid metal, the molecules aren’t especially well-ordered and easily mush around one another under pressure. Crystals such as ice or diamonds form rigid, tough-to-break molecular patterns. When glass freezes though, no patterned structure forms, but the molecules still form rigid covalent bonds with one another. They don’t have the tough molecular arrangement of an organized crystal but aren’t flexible enough to deal with much shifting.
Literary, if you cause any pressure on a pane of glass – its particles have to hold hard with one another. If you press on your window – it will bond a bit and you will see it is not as hard as it might seem. Nevertheless, if you make a crack in it and push – you will have to install a new window so far. So, basically, the task of the monk is throwing a needle so hard it could make a crack and cause enough pressure to make it slip through the glass. Once a deep crack has been made, it won’t take much force at all to carry it the rest of the way through.
So, can a regular person who has nothing to do with monks perform this trick? The answer is positive. What they actually need to succeed is practicing a lot to make their fingers strong enough for this kind of action. Not sure if there is any other secret, but science says strong hands is all you need.