What causes a magnifying glass within a ray of sun to burn such a small, specific spot? Is it the shape of the glass?
The magnifying glass is a lens, a carefully shaped piece of glass that can refract sunlight to create an image. When you burn wood with a magnifying glass, you are creating an image of the sun on the wood. This tiny image, a circle that looks just like the sun itself, only much smaller, is so bright and contains so much thermal radiation that it overheats the wood that it strikes and causes that wood to burn.