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309078.  Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:19 am Reply with quote

So you're saying that the Sistine Chapel was originally built for prostitute racing, and only later converted into a chapel? That makes a surprising amount of sense.

Molly Cule
309283.  Wed Apr 02, 2008 1:40 pm Reply with quote

One of the four tribes inhabiting the Andaman Islands is one of the only two tribes in the history of the human race who have never learned how to make fire. The other is the Pygmies of Central Africa. Migrating groups of Andamanese of all sizes routinely carried their fire with them, the glowing embers protected in clay pots and wrapped in large leaves. Additional smouldering logs were often deposited in protected dry places under tree roots as reserves and perhaps also for religious reasons.

Molly Cule
309757.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:40 am Reply with quote

In space fire is spherical and the flame is blue.

309937.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:09 am Reply with quote

Smoke signal/language of the fan notes:

Drums were banned in South Carolina in the mid-18th century partly because slaves were using them to communicate over long distances.

s: DIS

309985.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:51 am Reply with quote

Molly Cule wrote:
In space fire is spherical and the flame is blue.

That's nice. I don't suppose they have smoking areas in spaceships - if you want a fag you have to nip outside - but the picture guys have found out that they did have one in the Hindenburg. It housed the only lighter which was allowed on the airship, chained to a table in the middle of the room.

310007.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:21 am Reply with quote

As regards American space vessels, I'm sure that's right. But the Russians did allow smoking (and vodka) on board Mir. Bryan Burrough said so in Dragonfly (1998, Harper Collins, New York NY), and I think it had been tacitly acknowledged by the Russians for some time.

Gets a mention on this site. The guy who wrote that page is about as anal as they come, I think it's fair to say.

310011.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:25 am Reply with quote

Well that's a pretty good one for the notes to something or other.

310217.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:38 pm Reply with quote

Flash I don't know if this is any use to you, but there's quite a good discussion about the nature of fire on this thread in Quite Interestrings.

310290.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 4:10 am Reply with quote

It does suggest a question which hadn't occurred to me, and it seems as though several of the posters there had already wondered about this without ever working out the answer (which suggests that it's a QI-type question):

Is fire solid, liquid, gas, or what?

... the answer being that it's none of these, it's a process - which may sound obvious, but it's an insight which eluded our forefathers, who regarded it as the fourth element alongside earth, air and water (cf solid, gas and liquid). There was a 5th element which isn't mentioned so much: "idea".

I think that might fly. I'll put it in the basket, anyway.

310366.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:50 am Reply with quote

I read that thread briefly yesterday and didn't really have the time or inclination to contribute. However, there was an awful lot of nonsense spoken within it.

When people talk of "fire", they're usually referring to the hot orangey things licking up from the fire. These essentially consist of two main components: hot gas and soot.

The gas, and the temperature thereof, are produced by the chemical reaction which causes things to burn. However, a large part of the flames of a fire consist of soot, super heated and incandescent. This article goes into this in some detail, and also contains this excellent picture of two flames, both produced by burning ethylene gas, but one (on the right) diluted with nitrogen so that it does not form soot:

310524.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:29 am Reply with quote

Back to smoke signals:

The earliest system of message transmission over long distances is most likely the lighting of beacons; it is alluded to in Jeremiah.

According to Polybius, there was a greek system which involved splitting the alphabet into 5 groups of 5 letters. 10 torch bearers would signal, sucessively, the column on which the required letter stood, and then the letter itself. Both achieved numerically.*

s: CGF

*I've copied these last two sentences verbatim, and am not 100% sure what they mean. There's probably a much more lucid way of explaining it.

310562.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:10 am Reply with quote

It sounds as though the method was rather longwinded actually - Polybius's rather long description of it can be found at

In essence, it used a method that I'm sure you encountered when you were interested in secret codes at the age of about ten (most people were, in my experience).

You construct a diagram something like this:


Since the Greek alphabet only has 24 letters, the issue of what to do about Z didn't arise. Then, you note that E is in Row 1, Column 5, so to send an E one displayed one torch and then five torches.

Thus your name would be signalled as 15 22 22 44 23 11 41 15 14.

It would have been easier to invent semaphore, you'd think, but that came rather later.

310607.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:18 am Reply with quote

Or big fans.

Dr Bob - so is there a sensible way of answering this question:

What is fire made of?


(eg: "It isn't made of anything, it's a process")

310626.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:56 am Reply with quote

If we’re doing F for Elements, is there anything interesting to be said to the follow-up question “What is wind made of?” I suppose it’s made of air, but I’ve always found it somewhat mysterious stuff.

310640.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:18 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Dr Bob - so is there a sensible way of answering this question:

What is fire made of?


Hot gas and super-heated soot.


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