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Man sets tap water on fire, sparks debate

A YouTube video of a North Dakota man apparently setting tap water on fire stirs a debate about fracking and methane and all things scientific.

Flaming ridiculous?
Jacob Haughney/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I confess that I've tried to set many things in my life on fire.

The curtains at my house, for example. Oh, and then there were my ambitions.

But I've never thought of turning a lighter on next to a running tap to see what happens. Possibly because I imagine that nothing would.

However, a North Dakota resident called Jacob Haughney decided to see whether he could make a little magic occur.

He posted a video of the proceedings to YouTube, where it has stirred scientific imaginations.

For here appears to be running water that is flaming water. Just the mere contact with a flame and it breathes fire.

The video was posted a couple of weeks ago and it has since inflamed quite a debate.

Haughney says he works in the oil fields of North Dakota (now the second biggest oil-producing state in the US), so some have insisted that this fiery phenomenon is the direct result of fracking -- in which sand, water, and chemicals are blasted into rock to release oil or gas.

Others have poured a wet blanket on any flaming panic.

For example, YouTube commenter absenttheartand mind wrote: "As a geologist I have to say this is nothing new, as long as there have been people getting water from wells in ND some of the wells have been both a good source of winter heating fuel as well as water. Its a simple wrong direction fallacy, the wells don't contain methane because there is fracking nearby, when its more likely that there is fracking nearby because the wells contain methane."

Haughney insists that he has tried the experiment before and filled his bathroom sink with flames. Which sounds exciting in its way, just as it sounds frightfully dangerous.

I wouldn't recommend that you all rush off to your bathrooms or kitchens forthwith, in an attempt to light your tap water.

But any scientific light that could be basted upon this difficult subject would be welcome.

Now I'm off to see what happens when I try and set a toenail on fire.