Open A Beer Bottle With A Magnet – An Instant Internet Hit… That’s Likely Fake

This week a viral video made the rounds showing a guy demonstrating how to open a bottle of beer with simply a rectangular refrigerator magnet and a quarter. It seemed like most people either accepted it as truth or tried to debunk it with their own tests (hint: it didn’t work). No one seemed to tackle the plausibility nor the hints within the video itself that would make it very likely fake.

First, go ahead and look at the video if you’d like:

Let’s first tackle the plausibility. Go ahead and take one of your fridge magnets and pull it a few centimeters away from the fridge. Let go of the magnet. Does it stick to the fridge or does it fall to the floor? The magnetic field drops off approximately as 1/r^3. A magnet with the strength of a fridge magnet is unlikely to have any effect on a bottle cap that is at least 20 cm away.

If we were to assume the magnet was strong enough to have an effect on the cap, there is another issue. Because the cap is not magnetized, the effect would be to attract the ferromagnetic material, thus holding it on the bottle, not launching it off.

Would the magnet have an effect on the contents of the bottle? Well, beer is mostly water. While water is a dipole, it takes a pretty strong magnet to have any effect on the water to the point it would be noticeable. Same with the carbon dioxide. A quick look at the research on water and CO2 in magnetic fields show it would take at least 3 orders of magnitude more than the magnet used in the video.

Another clue it is fake is the expulsion of some kind of cloud of material from the bottle when it opens. When you open a bottle of beer, you might notice that a fog forms in the neck of the bottle. This is because the reduction in pressure causes an adiabatic expansion and cooling, which condenses the water vapor into a fog. But it doesn’t shoot out of the bottle because it is cooler than the surrounding air. Certainly a little spray comes out, but I haven’t ever witnessed a vapor come out like in the video, and unless the beer was very warm or the contents were not beer, the physics make it unlikely it would happen as in the video.

The tapping of the quarter on the side also does not make sense from a physics perspective. We’ve all clanked our bottle together and nothing happens. The bottles get shook around during transport and nothing happens. While it is true when the bottle is open if someone clanks the top of the bottle you get a beer volcano. This is due to a quick impulse causing the carbon dioxide bubbles to explode upward and gather more CO2 into a foam. But clanking the side does not have the same effect. The quarter tapping doesn’t have physics on its side.

The magnet and the quarter are not related. US quarters are not magnetic. Anyone who has ever used a coin counter kiosk or in a bank would know there is a magnet in the machine to catch other currencies while the US coins go past it without being caught. Also, the distance from the magnet and quarter would negate any effect even if the quarter were magnetic.

A non-science clue is in the video production itself. The camera pans left before the top even pops off. If the top really was a pop top and not a twist top, there would be no way to predict which way the top was going to go. Why set the bottle on one edge of the counter while having the camera pan the other way? One could argue that it is the direction of the quarter tapping that did it, but the alignments are just a bit too perfect to be real.

The other non-science clue is the way the bottle was handled after it is opened. It is hard to know for sure if the angle the bottle is held at would cause some to spill out, but it seems like at least a little would have come out. Also, if I actually came up with a cool demonstration for opening an IPA, I think I would celebrate with a nice long pull off the bottle. Why not take a drink?

It would seem this is a pretty simple case of a manufactured viral video. Various searches show several people trying it with no success. I even found a discussion saying the person in the video is known to produce these type of trick videos simply to create buzz, and that for the most part turn out not to be true. As usual, be wary of what you see on the internet, especially from unknown sources. Bonjour!

About Eric Hall

My day job is teaching physics at the University of Minnesota, Rochester. I write about physics, other sciences, politics, education, and whatever else interests or concerns me. I am always working to be rational and reasonable, and I am always willing to improve my knowledge and change my mind when presented with new evidence.
This entry was posted in Pseudoscience, TV & Media, Urban Legends and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Open A Beer Bottle With A Magnet – An Instant Internet Hit… That’s Likely Fake

  1. Walter Clark says:

    Not a very important revelation. There’s an awful lot of lame youTube magic that is stupid. Please look for more interesting ones. This guy’s physics is obviously bogus. Much more interesting is how he really got it to jump off. You missed that by a mile. Shouldn’t that embarrass you? Even more interesting are the pseudo science tricks that really do work. Look for those. My favorite example is warm water freezing faster than ice cold water. You have to actually do it and in the process of sliding it in, it dawns on you “why” it works if there’s even the tiniest bit of frost where you slide the tray in That is far more interesting than just theorizing why it can’t.

    • Eric Hall says:

      It isn’t the “revelation” that’s important, it is the fact people don’t think about science before simply accepting things as fact.

      While this video may not be harmful like other pseudoscience, it is another perspective on how to analyze something before accepting it.

      • Reg says:

        It is the custom this day and yesterday, to seek jaw dropping entertainment devoid of the necessity for thought. Give some thought to the frantic singers who persist with their attempts at circular breathing. That’s a circus to watch too.

      • emmettgroganlives says:

        Agreed… Now, can you decode how he DID IT!?

        • Eric Hall says:

          I would guess the dry ice as suggested above is a good suggestion. A string attached to the cap maybe though less likely. A hidden, more powerful electromagnet hidden off camera is also possible. Slight of hand is not out of the question.

          If it is anything Randi has taught us it is we are easy to fool.

        • Sinneed says:

          A simple device inside that pushes the top off would work.

          But why bother? Open the cap. Put mild sticky on it for airtight seal immediately before filming starts. Tap for bubbles to pop the top off. Pop! Done.

    • Jake says:

      You attempt to rip this guy’s explanation, maybe he doesn’t know how it came off and so he doesn’t offer an explanation? You suggest that it should embarrass him and yet you didn’t offer an alternative… Then you reference warm water cooling faster than cold water, also known as the Mpemba Effect. If you actually perform the experiment CORRECTLY, the cold water will freeze first. A variety of factors influence the hot water freezing first, including evaporation, differences in density, solutes (many compounds such as calcium carbonate have reduced solubility in water at high temperatures, thus reducing solute concentration and elevating the melting point), etc. If you actually take the time to perform the water experiment under the proper conditions, such that everything is kept constant EXCEPT the temperature of the initial water, then the Mpemba effect will not be observed. Source: I’m a chemist.

    • chester says:

      Can’t we all just marvel at a cool parlor trick and enjoy a delicious Busch light?

  2. It doesn’t look like there was anything in the bottle.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks I was wondering

  4. David says:

    If it was a genuine demonstration he would have first turned the bottle upside down to show it was properly sealed, then afterwards poured out a beer.
    It’s faked, I’ll bet my left nut on it!.

    • Lydia Curio says:

      He did briefly tip the bottle to show viewers that it was sealed. If it was loosely sitting on the top of the bottle, it would have fallen off.

      • Sinneed says:

        Nah. Why would it fall off? To fall off, the center of gravity of the cap would have to be far enough past the edge to overcome the surface tension of the moisture around the edge if nothing else, at a very oblique angle.

  5. Jon Richfield says:

    I agree with Eric; the revelation is trivial to the point of boredom. What matters is the intellectual attitude of the public.
    And it is a matter that leaves me the more depressed, the more I contemplate it. Don’t get me started…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Simple dry ice and a bit of water

  7. Drew says:

    Thought about it and figured there was no good reason this should work. Still had to try it; at best it works and i’m still a knucklehead that couldn’t figure out why it would work and i now have an open beer that needs to be consumed. At worst, it doesn’t work, the reason i couldn’t think of why it would work is because it doesn’t and i have to go use an opener since i went through the trouble of trying it and i have a beer handy. Doesn’t work. Tried 3 different magnets, gave it a thorough tapping each time. At least it didn’t affect the beer 🙂 Cheers!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the thing, just because “you” cannot get it to work doesn’t mean it’s fake. Just think about how many magic “tricks” you have seen like the ones by Cris Angel. Something always seems impossible the first couple of times you try it. But when you figure it out you’re amazed by how you didn’t get it the first couple of times.

    How bout this. Do you believe in Jesus? You know they say he turned water into wine. Can you do that? No? Hmmm I guess Jesus must have been a fake since “you” can’t do it. Wait that doesn’t make sense does it? Not being able to do something that someone else can do does not make it fake.

    It’s a “trick” so there’s gotta be more to it than what we see in the video.

    • Jon Richfield says:

      Anonymous, what exactly do you mean by: “It’s a “trick” so there’s gotta be more to it than what we see in the video.”? That whatever the trick is, it is just that we haven’t seen some essential details that were omitted in the video?
      Or that it is real and that there is more to it than the video shows?
      And how does Jesus come into this? Isn’t doing impossible things by miracle what might fairly be described as a trick? Cheating, in fact?

    • Sam Sexton says:

      He was not saying “I can’t do this therefore it’s fake”. What he was saying was, a. Theres no reasonable mechanism for how this would work. and b. there are a number of anomalies like no beer spilling out, the vapour coming out, or even the quick, almost urgent feel to the video, as if the guy knew he only had 10 seconds to pull it off.

      By your logic, Anonymous, anything is possible, from a giant teapot in the sky to an amoeba that can speak fluent Russian. surely you need to have some filter for what you accept and what you don’t.

    • Come on, seriously? says:

      Bringing up Jesus isn’t helping your argument. And neither is bringing up Criss Angel, since he’s an “illusionist.” In fact, Jesus probably was, too. They’re both just people who were able to trick gullible people into believing their deception. Is it possible the guy that created the video is the only person in the world that can do this? Hardly. It’s MUCH more likely that it’s just another fake viral video.

    • Wu Lala says:

      No Jesus is not an illusionist.

      No Jesus? No God? then what is the point of living? Why Cry when people die? Why all this killing? why all the wars…


  9. Bill Newman says:

    I tried this on 2 6-packs just last night. I don’t remember if it worked or not.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Fake. Tried beer, coca-cola and sunkist. It doesn’t work and I feel like and idiot for trying and I’m kinda pissed my friend showed me this bogus video I the first place…

  11. Anonymous says:

    The user comments have been disabled on this video. Hmmmm. Probably because he doesn’t want to be clowned all over the world

  12. Not to mention the lip of the bottle pivots up and returns before the cap flings off…

  13. Torchwood says:

    I think I’d rather was/listen to a cat play the piano.

  14. That’s a lot of work for a beer. I’d rather just use the good, ol’ fashioned machete to open mine [kinda like Jack does in Romancing the Stone].

  15. Dan Card says:

    Agreed that this is bogus. But you said the magnet can’t interact with the coin because the coin is not magnetic. However the coin only has to be electrically conductive in order for a current to be induced in it by moving it back and forth in a magnetic field. This current will also produce a secondary magnetic field.
    (This it’s how a turbine works)

    • Eric Hall says:

      This is true, but the current would try to “prevent the change” in a sense – i.e. the magnetic field caused by induced current would be in opposition to the magnet at the bottom.

  16. Butt face says:

    Nice article. I particularly like the end, translated to English “Hello!”. Maybe
    “Voila” is what you were after.

    • Eric Hall says:

      I was going more for the advertisement on TV where the woman says the man she met online is a French model because she trusts everything that is on the internet.

  17. jon says:

    IN RESPONCE TO: come on seriously

    Come on, seriously? on February 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Bringing up Jesus isn’t helping your argument. And neither is bringing up Criss Angel, since he’s an “illusionist.” In fact, Jesus probably was, too. They’re both just people who were able to trick gullible people into believing their deception. Is it possible the guy that created the video is the only person in the world that can do this? Hardly. It’s MUCH more likely that it’s just another fake viral video.

    I REALLY like your quote about Jesus being an illusion and tricking gullible people into believing his deception. I, being an atheist or at very least: one who doesn’t believe in Jesus or the Devil, couldnt have said it better myself!!!! I just dont buy into all the religion and Christianity. There just isn’t enough evidence for me to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt. 99% of people who believe in some form or another of religion, practices hypocrisy on a daily basis. I do believe however that everyone that believes in religion is being dupped and the wool has been pulled over their eyes. However my rant is over. Good day mates!!!

  18. Your assessment isn’t right. This beer cap trick does work, I’ve done it, and I can scientifically explain why. First, the refrigerator magnet isn’t there for any electromagnetic reasoning. It’s there to be a buffer for the bottle from the table. Refrigerator magnets work well because they allow the bottle to vibrate freely. Second, the quarter tings the bottle to send reverberations throughout the glass as well as the liquid. The user needs to find the right interval for that particular type of bottle to produce a resonant vibration of the glass. Notice how the people who are able to get the cap to pop off are tapping it at a much higher frequency than the people who fail? Also, people who fail at this tend to press too hard with the coin, thus they dampen the existing resonance of the bottle–the key is to tap and retract very very very quickly. The people who succeed found the proper frequency to increase the resonance. Once the resonance is met, the pressure of the beer and air above the beer increases until the cap pops off, thus the puff of gas noticed at the end of the video. Since beer bottles can differ, it can take some time to find the right frequency, but I’ve figured out five different bottles. It’s a cool trick.

  19. Spike says:

    I carry a bottle opener with my key’s…….a simple solution that works and I am not searching for the nearest fridge magnet or coins! I have tried this same trick with a hammer and the top fly’s straight off, magic!

  20. Balance says:

    Pay attention to the balance of the beer when he lifts it as well as when he nudges it. It’s NOT a “brand new” beer — seems like there’s nothing in it — or according to the way it balances at least nothing past 1/3 of the way up from the bottom.

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