Photo credit: Mike Walker
Yes, PopSci’s Mike Walker really did stick his hand inside a jar of liquid nitrogen. According to the editor, when his “hand touched the liquid, it created a protective layer of evaporated nitrogen gas, just as the skillet created a layer of steam” — giving him enough time to put his hand in and pull it out again. Video after the break.
Any longer than that, and frostbite would have set in. The phenomenon is called the Leidenfrost effect (after Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost, the doctor who first studied it in 1756). I’d known about it for years, but when it came time to test it in real life, I have to admit that I used my left hand, the one I’d miss less.