Water in three states: liquid, solid (ice), and (invisible) water vapor in the air. Clouds are the accumulations of the droplets, condensed from vapor-saturated air.
When oxygen and fuel meet a spark under the right circumstances, a fire kindles. (Lightning is an ancient and ample ignitor.) The fundamental chemistry of combustion lies at the core of the living world. When it happens with a cell, it’s called respiration. When it happens outside organisms, it’s called fire. It’s that basic. (taken from How Plants Use Fire (And are Used by It) – by Stephen J Pyne)
Living systems have had to adjust to fire in order to survive. Fire, in itself, has a rhythm of heat. A climatic basis exists for fire’s regimes, and this relies on rhythms of wetting and drying. A place must be wet enough to grow combustibles and dry enough to ready them for burning.
These rhythms mean that fires thrive in a kind of habitat. Fires in grasslands burn one way; fires in a rainforest another; fires in temperate conifers in several ways, sometimes skipping along the surface, sometimes soaring through dense crowns.
Indeed, varieties of each kind of fire exist. Even grassfires may burn with the wind or against it; they may creep and smoulder or rage at the pace of a galloping horse. But rough patterns do emerge, and all the animals and plant life in that region adapt to these patterns, much as they would to patterns of rainfall.
Fire from the heavens, lightning has kindled wildfire for millions of years, causing plants over the eons to adapt or die out. (c/o Pyne)
Over the years life has coped with fire, or we wouldn’t be here – some trees and plants, such as the banksias and proteas have adapted by growing an impervious layer of bark, so that the tree can re-sprout once the danger has past, or burst nuts spreading the seeds onto the fresh ash to rejuvenate. Fire does not necessarily advance out of control; fire can only burn that part of the landscape that is available to burn. Plants thus do shape the kinds of fires they may experience.
Humans, on the other hand, are the only creatures that can manipulate fire. As Stephen J Pyne says our ancient ancestors made a Faustian pact. We gained fire, which brought power; in return we agreed to manage fire. We cannot ignore fire, because (now) no neutral position is possible.
If we set fires without thought, uncontrollable biota will spring up, changing the fundamentals of that landscape. Plants and fauna have taken many millennia to evolve and adapt to their particular habitat; while at the same time become active agents in shaping those landscapes by their grazing, browsing and hunting habits, each of which determines what kind of fuel is available for burning.
So as well as the scavengers hunting along the edge of the fire for the snakes, insects or larger creatures moving head of the flaming front, some beetles possess infrared seeking organs that help direct them to smouldering stumps and logs, where they will feed and nest. Animals have adapted by flying away, or burrowing deep, or skirting the fire – very few actually become trapped.
The ancient Greeks and alchemists thought that fire was an element, as they considered earth, air and water to be elements. Fire, however, is made up of many different substances (hot gases), so in modern definition terms it is not considered an element.
Water on the other hand is an element, being composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and is essential for all known forms of life. Water usually refers to its liquid form, but if you think about it, no other substance is found simultaneously as a liquid, in solid form as ice or as a gas.
We’re made of 70% water .. yet water is the most destructive substance on the planet, it can dissolve almost anything – sooner or later water eats away everything. Water is strange. It takes more energy to heat water than it does to heat iron. Hot water freezes faster than cold water.
Fynbos, South Africa: Because fire is common in this ecosystem and the soil has limited nutrients, it is most efficient for plants to produce many seeds and then die in the next fire.
Aristotle (384BC – 322BC) first promulgated that hot water freezes faster than cold, while Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626: the English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer and jurist) actually demonstrated the effect, which Rene Descartes (the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist) in the 1600s also confirmed.
It was not until a Tanzanian schoolboy, Erasto Mpemba, questioned why his ice-cream froze faster, when it was placed first and without cooling first into the freezer – he was trying to beat the other students to ensure he had a place in the freezer, only to be surprised when his froze first. Schoolboy pester power prevailed and eventually he was rewarded by the scientific community confirming that in certain conditions this effect happens and is now known as the Mpemba effect.
So water and fire each have these weird attributes and we cannot do without either; we have adapted to live with them, while over many many eons plants and fauna also adapted to these patterns of fire, much as they have done to patterns of rainfall, and will continue to do so, probably long after the human race has gone.
Dear Mr Postman - it’s a busy time: but my mother continues to astonish me and others! Of course the Melbourne reference was to Cook’s Cottage being translocated from England to Melbourne – that’s why she went! My uncle came up to Kestrel and has been very up and down, sometimes very down .. but he loves his visitors, is still hugely interested in politics and the day to day happenings in the newspaper!
My cousin’s two daughters came down today to see my uncle, and I was telling Mum that Sarah and Anna would be here and reminding her that we went to Sarah’s wedding last year .. my mother then reminded me about the wobbly cake: I had shown her a photograph - a year ago! Anna was propping up the ‘wobbly wedding cake’, so it didn’t collapse onto the lawn and we would have cake to eat! How can I not say – that her brain is still improving. She is so desperate to get out and about .. it is so tricky. Fortunately sleep comes.
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories