Tech & Science Why Fire Is the Greatest Tool of All Time

03:05  18 february  2020
03:05  18 february  2020 Source:   popularmechanics.com

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At the same time , the path that took us from hunching around a lightning-struck tree for warmth to carrying lighters in our pockets has many reminders of fire ’s volatility—from the epic scope of The Great Fire comes with a big fat warning sticker, but nonetheless, it’s man’s most essential tool .

1. FIRE - it can be argued that fire was discovered rather than invented. Certainly, early humans observed incidents of fire , but it wasn't until they Fire gave us warmth, protection, and led to a host of other key inventions and skills like cooking. The ability to cook helped us get the nutrients to support

a fire place: The amazing impact of humans learning how to burn stuff. © puflic_senior/ - Getty Images The amazing impact of humans learning how to burn stuff.

Whether we’re staring into the depths of a campfire or watching a Space Shuttle burn 500,000 gallons of fuel as it rises off the launchpad, mankind’s obsession with fire is so innate we almost take it for granted. Yet fire has catalyzed the human race’s most significant innovations; it’s helped us survive and flourish.

At the same time, the path that took us from hunching around a lightning-struck tree for warmth to carrying lighters in our pockets has many reminders of fire’s volatility—from the epic scope of The Great Chicago Fire to the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon. Fire comes with a big fat warning sticker, but nonetheless, it’s man’s most essential tool.

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Sparks of Inspiration

Prometheus Brings Fire From The Heavens © Bettmann - Getty Images Prometheus Brings Fire From The Heavens

Almost every primitive culture has a story about how man came to harness fire, and many of these stories involve—curiously—petty theft. From the famed Greek myth of Prometheus snatching fire from Zeus and handing it to man (thanks for that, bud, and sorry about the whole bird-eating-your-liver thing), to the Native American story of Rabbit stealing fire from the bloodthirsty Weasels, to the Polynesian legend of Maui taking fire from the birds during a fishing trip for his mother, our desire to control the element has always run up against our better instincts.

The themes of thievery make sense. In the days of early man, fire was our most valuable possession. Sculptor Paul Manship summed up this sentiment in his art. Behind his famous statue of Prometheus in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, he paraphrased the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, noting that fire “proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”

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The greatest scientist of ancient times , Archimedes pushed mathematics, physics, and engineering to new heights. He created the physical sciences of mechanics Furthermore, he proved that sunlight is made up of all of the colors of the rainbow and he built the world’s first working reflecting telescope.

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Without fire—and later, without combustion—there would be no skyscrapers, air travel, International Space Station, bourbon, or medium-rare steaks. The element has unlocked and enabled some of the greatest industrial and technological achievements in human history.

Fuel for Survival

'The Stone Age. A Feast', 1883. Artist: Viktor Mihajlovic Vasnecov © Heritage Images - Getty Images 'The Stone Age. A Feast', 1883. Artist: Viktor Mihajlovic Vasnecov

It’s impossible to know when the first fire was made, but we can speculate at its earliest major use: cooking, says Alan Rocke, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of the history of science and technology at Case Western Reserve University.

Cooking with heat broadened early man’s palate by killing off potentially dangerous microbes in formerly unsafe foods. Fish and beef are at their juiciest and free of illness-causing bacteria at 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Rabbit is safe at 160°F; chicken at 165°F. Fire tenderizes meat (pulled pork falls apart at 205°F), but at 330°F it also triggers the Maillard reaction (browning) to give steak a mouth-watering sear.

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Still, out of those three, I think fire is the most important Starting, without fire , humans couldn't have evolved, (making us more intelligent), as fire was needed to scare wild beasts So, I am in no way unbiased (since I work there) but I am sure that Ideanote is the tool you are looking for. Here is why

Harvard professor and primatologist Richard Wrangham, Ph.D., suggests that the invention of cooking fed evolution itself by unlocking energy-giving nutrients for our ancestors’ evolving brains and bodies.

In fact, Wrangham suggests that our digestive tracts evolved as a result of discovering cooking. Human guts are 56 percent small intestine and 17 percent colon, while those respective numbers for chimps are almost the opposite: 23 and 52 percent. Translation: Chimp guts are better at breaking down plant fibers and meat collagen than human ones. We need blenders, food processors, and sweet, sweet heat to help our bodies absorb food in a way our guts can handle, says Rocke.

Around 10,000 BCE, our cavemen ancestors began to ditch hunting and gathering in favor of the farming life, and our usage of fire diversified. We started baking, defending our land from predators (the flashpoint of a sabertooth-warding wooden torch is 572°F), and firing pottery (clay particles fuse at 1,650°F). You can do some things with bowls made from reeds, says Rocke, “but to make containers useful for cooking, you need fire.”

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Embers of Warfare

a group of people posing for the camera: A Romanised Briton and a Feryllt by Robert Havell © Hulton Deutsch - Getty Images A Romanised Briton and a Feryllt by Robert Havell

When wood reaches its flashpoint, the heat exorcises impurities like water vapor, sulfur compounds, and nitrogen compounds, leaving essentially pure carbon behind—charcoal. This substance burns hotter than normal wood, and throughout history, more heat has led to better tech.

The Hittites were some of the most prolific iron producers of the Bronze Age (3300–1200 BCE), and evidence suggests they were among the first ancient empires to discover that they could prevent their tools and weapons from rusting by forging steel from iron and charcoal. When charcoal fuses with iron ore, it acts as a reducing agent, attracting oxygen away from the metal. It also lowers iron’s melting point.

This lower heat threshold allowed the Hittites to produce more durable iron weapons on a mass scale. It also helped them gain trade leverage—in the 13th century BCE, a Hittite king sent another ruler an iron dagger as appeasement—and gave them a tactical edge over their bronze-bound opponents, including the mighty ancient Egyptians.

“The invention of charcoal was a great asset to society because it enabled all these high-temperature processes,” Rocke says. “You can do some metallurgy without charcoal, but you can’t make iron or steel, both of which require a blast furnace.”

It isn’t certain how the Hittites mass-produced malleable iron and steel, but archaeologists are confident that blast furnaces operated in China as early as the 5th century BCE. Blast furnaces liquefy metals at 3,000°F. In ancient China, this meant the introduction of cast iron, the ultra-malleable, ultra-rust-resistant material the Western world has used in cannons, bridges, and, yup, the cast iron skillet in your kitchen that can withstand 2,000°F.

The Greatest Dancer 2020 crowns Michael and Jowita as this year's winners

  The Greatest Dancer 2020 crowns Michael and Jowita as this year's winners That was a tough final.

Explosion of Industry

a black and white photo of an old building: The Drake oil well in western Pennsylvania, 1859. This is the world © Bettmann - Getty Images The Drake oil well in western Pennsylvania, 1859. This is the world

No image captures the intersection of fire and modern industry better than a burning oil derrick’s column of flame. After Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859, people began to refine that oil over a fire and distill it into some of the tentpole resources of modern life: kerosene, diesel, and gasoline, the last of which could be boiled off and condensed between 104°–401°F.

Early on, Americans used these resources mostly to illuminate our cities and homes, but in the mid-to-late 19th century, gasoline became fuel for a more adrenal, exciting purpose: helping us go far and go fast. The liquid-fuel internal-combustion engine burns a mixture of gasoline and air to create a combustion that expands gases inside the engine to push the pistons and rotate the crankshaft.

This simple fire-powered design became the basis of modern transport, from the Wright brothers’ plane at Kitty Hawk, to the refurbished Challenger 2, which topped 448 miles per hour and broke the land speed record in 2018, to the 2,300-ton diesel engines that power container ships through the Panama Canal today.

“Gasoline had great advantages over electricity or gaseous fuels: energy density, weight, volume,” Rocke says. “You needed those differences if you were going to put your power plant [your fuel source] on a moving object.”

In 1900, just 22 percent of American automobiles were powered by gas; but thanks to Henry Ford’s mass-production methods, the invention of the self-starting ignition in 1912, and our newfound need for speed, the internal-combustion engine gained supremacy among autos. Fire was powering us toward modern life.

Smoldering Dangers

PMX120119_076 © Keith Lance PMX120119_076

This modernization put fire and combustion at the crossroads of practicality and danger once again. The early 1900s were fraught with fatal conflagrations. Chicago’s Iroquois Theater fire in 1903 killed more than 600 people, and in 1910, the “Big Blowup” wildfire in Idaho, Washington, and Montana killed at least 85 people as it reduced 3 million acres—an area about the size of Connecticut—to ashes.

These fires prompted changes: The Iroquois fire led to the invention of the emergency exit panic bar for doors, and the “Big Blowup” led to the development of some prescribed-burn containment techniques. But they also served as reminders of the risks that come with implementing combustion in our everyday lives.

Today, Rocke suggests the advances wrought by fire have ironically taken us past it. Many energy and power advances of the 20th century don’t involve combustion: Nuclear energy relies on a physical reaction rather than a chemical one, and renewable energies like solar, wind, and water power skirt combustion’s literal explosiveness. We understand now there are costs of powering the world with fire, from deforestation to pollution to climate change. Going forward, we have to reconcile these downsides with fire’s awesome potential.

Because it is awesome. Fire sparks the reaction between aluminum and ammonium perchlorate that turns solid rocket fuel into the driving force of space travel (NASA’s rocket boosters reach 5,000°F during launch). When fire is used to distill alcohol (which evaporates at 173°F), we’re treated to things like Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon and Blanton’s Original.

Every time you strike a match, the stroke of friction between the match head and the box turns the box’s red phosphorus to white, and it takes just 86°F for white phosphorus to combust. Then you have fire at your fingertips.

It’s hard not to stare at that little flame. Simple combustion still inspires us at a basic, primal level, whether we’re throwing another log on the fireplace or sitting around a backyard bonfire. As Rocke affirms: “Fire is so elemental, it will never go away.”

The Greatest Dancer 2020 crowns Michael and Jowita as this year's winners .
That was a tough final.

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