Thursday, June 7, 2012

What's a flame?

I just heard the Science Friday's coverage of Alan Ada's challenge of explaining a flame to an 11 year old. I want to take a gander at this, then I'll look at what the scientist say.

What's a flame?

A flame is energy. What you see is energy being released in the form of light and heat, from likely a chemical reaction. And the distinct tongues in a flame are plasma, a form of super heated air, that throws off energy (light and heat) as it cools down. In space flames are round, but when there is gravity hot air is less dense (or lighter) and gets pushed up by the colder heavier (denser) air thus the flame licks upwards and dances as different air comes in and gets 'burned' and turned into plasma

For all the stuff I know: what I just wrote above might actually be wrong. I've never had it explained to me. Now let's see what the scientist say.

Edit: 6-8-2012
So now the Science Friday winner has been determined, or at least a cool video was posted we got to revisit what I wrote and most of it was wrong!

What I got wrong was: there is no plasma. Which I should've know because plasma is super heated hydrogen and normal flames don't have an over abundance of hydrogen. Turns out the red and orange in a flame are little particles of carbon or soot that's cooling down and sending off light as it does. Which makes total sense cause if you pass your finger through a flame it turns black like full of soot. 

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