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Fwd: a joke for you (BBQing)....I'm in Oceanside here.

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Our subject today is lighting charcoal grills.  One of our favorite charcoal
grill lighters is a guy named George Goble (really!!), a computer person in
the Purdue University engineering department.

Each year, Goble and a bunch of other engineers hold a picnic in West
Lafayette, Indiana, at which they cook hamburgers on a big grill.  Being
engineers, they began looking for practical ways to speed up the
charcoal-lighting process. "We started by blowing the charcoal with a hair
dryer," Goble told me in a telephone interview.  "Then we figured out that
it would light faster if we used a vacuum cleaner." If you know anything
about (1) engineers and (2) guys in general, you know what happened:  The
purpose of the charcoal-lighting shifted from cooking hamburgers to seeing
how fast they could light the charcoal.

>From the vacuum cleaner, they escalated to using a propane torch, then an
acetylene  torch.  Then Goble started using compressed pure oxygen, which
caused the charcoal to burn much faster, because as you recall from
chemistry class, fire is essentially the rapid combination of oxygen with a
reducing agent (the charcoal).  We discovered that a long time ago,
somewhere in the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (or
something along those lines).

By this point, Goble was getting pretty good times.  But in the world of
competitive charcoal-lighting, "pretty good" does not cut the mustard.

Thus,  Goble hit upon the idea of using - get ready - liquid oxygen. This
is the form of oxygen used in rocket engines; it's 295 degrees below zero
and 600 times as dense as regular oxygen.  In terms of releasing energy,
pouring liquid oxygen on charcoal is the equivalent of throwing a live
squirrel into a room containing 50 million Labrador retrievers.

On Gobel's Web page (the address is, you can
see  actual photographs and a video of Goble using a bucket attached to a
10-foot-long wooden handle to dump 3 gallons of liquid oxygen (not sold in
stores) onto a grill containing 60 pounds of charcoal and a lit cigarette
for  ignition.  What follows is the most impressive charcoal-lighting I have
ever seen, featuring a large fireball that according to Goble, reached
10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The charcoal was ready for cooking  in - this has
to be a world record - 3 seconds.

There's also a photo of what happened when Goble used the same technique on
a  flimsy $2.88 discount-store grill. All that's left is a circle of
charcoal with a few shreds of metal in it.  "Basically, the grill
vaporized," said Goble.  "We were thinking of returning it to the store for
a refund."

Looking at Goble's video and photos, I became, as an American, all choked up
with gratitude at the fact that I do not live anywhere near the engineers'
picnic site.  But also, I was proud of my country for producing guys who
can be ready to barbecue in less time than it takes for guys in
less-advanced nations, to spit.

Will the 3-second barrier ever be broken?  Will engineers come up with a
new,  more powerful charcoal-lighting technology?  It's something for all of
us to ponder this summer as we sit outside, chewing our hamburgers, every
now and then glancing in the direction of West Lafayette, Indiana, looking
for another mushroom cloud.  

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