Title: How to light a BBQ

[It all started with a Web page by] . . . a guy named (really) George 
Goble, 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 
From the
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 
from chemistry
oxygen with the cosine to form 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 World Wide Web page (the 
address is 
http://ghg.ecn.purdue.edu/), 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, such as France, 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 a mushroom cloud.
From John Nunley's "Funny Bone"

From: Karen