Downsized Flames

File:Ignition of a match.jpg

Our relationship with fire is one of the oldest and most fundamental relationships with the natural environment. Fire keeps us warm, cooks our food and melts our steel. We know how much heat comes from a gas lighter, how much wood we need to heat the room or cook a chicken, and we know how long it takes for the oil lamp to run out of fuel. It’s the sort of familiarity that comes with centuries of use. We understand fire.

Yet, what is the value of all this intimate knowledge if we decide to shrink?  We can’t simply downsize the flames with us. Fire responds to its own set of natural laws. At 50 centimeters the properties of fire will again become largely unknown to us. For a while, until we get to terms with the new situation, its flames are set free again, to rage beyond the comfortable limits of its domestication. Until at some point we find a new equilibrium, perhaps in the use of tiny hydrogen flames.

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