I was watching an episode of Man vs Wild where steel wool was rubbed with phone battery. To my surprise, the wool caught fire. What is the reason for this?
Steel wool is a mat of very fine steel fibres. Because of their small size, it's easy to heat them up quickly to the point of burning and their relatively large surface area to volume ratio lets them oxidize quickly. If you try it with a flame, you'll find that it's quite easy to burn steel wool. When you short the terminals a battery across steel wool, a lot of current passes producing heat (think about incandescent light bulbs), and especially if you touch the battery such that only a few fibres are touching, enough heat is produced to cause them to burn.