Manual Fascination of Fire: Charcoal

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Scott confesses that when he began his career in he never thought he would spend so much time thinking about fire and charcoal. Fire entered his belly soon afterwards when he began looking at plants from the Carboniferous era. He wrote a paper for Nature, which, to his surprise, was accepted.

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His fascination has taken him all over the world, including to Siberia in the Eighties where, investigating the high charcoal content in the local coal seam, he was nearly burnt alive when his hotel in the Ural Mountains caught alight. He was there to test whether fires happened unusually often in the Permian period — million years ago — and concluded from the charcoal that they did.

Life in a high-fire world is hard to imagine, he writes. Fires would have been widespread, large, intense. He even speculates that they might have led to a small warming of the Earth and helped the ice sheets to melt. In any case, the end of the Permian period brought with it the biggest mass extinction of species in history: 95 per cent disappeared for good. Some of his rivals must consider him a spoilsport. Did a worldwide conflagration caused by an asteroid impact wipe out the dinosaurs?

Probably not. Rivers and lakes would have precluded a global blaze and there is nothing in the charcoal evidence to suggest one. Still, dinosaurs would have feared fire, and Scott is generous enough to include a colour plate of three racing across a very orange forest.


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Unfortunately for them, Scott was on sabbatical at Yale at the time studying some perfectly normal-looking charcoal samples from Santa Rosa Island. A visit to another of the California Channel Islands a year later confirmed his suspicions or lack thereof. But what of the carbonaceous fire samples, I hear you ask.

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Well, he had found similar ones after a petty surface fire in Frensham, Surrey, where he lived. In its ferocity and occurrence, fire is dependent on only three things: fuel to burn, dry conditions and sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere. The last is crucial. Larger items are shipped via a Freight Forwarder. We reserve the right to choose which freightway that carries your shipment.

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Why Are Children Fascinated With Fire? | Prevention 1st

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