So how does this “vortex cannon” work, and what does it demonstrate? There is a surprisingly amount of physics and history behind such vortices, and they can be a lot more powerful! ... The smoke ring produced is in fact a circulating donut-shaped mass of air and smoke which is technically referred to as a toroidal vortex. The molecules within the ring circulate around it, swirling up and around it in the direction of motion. This is the “vortex”: the ring is very much like a mini-tornado, if one takes the top and bottom ends of the tornado and connects them together. This circulation traps the air (and smoke) within it, and the mass of air moves through the atmosphere and carries momentum, which allows it to knock over light objects at a distance.