April 19, 2003

WHILE WE'RE talking about The

WHILE WE'RE talking about The Great Exaggerator, check out this superheated Fisk prose:

The National Library and Archives - a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq - were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat.

No fact eludes ThermoFisk, the molten media megaman! Still, 3,000 degrees does seem a little warm. It's the sort of temperature you achieve in industrial furnaces rather than paper fires. Heat experts: send me a note.

UPDATE. From Mark Brothers in Oklahoma City:

I'm not a heat expert, but I am a blacksmith. 2,000F is the temperature you get in a forge to weld steel, and it takes a good fire and draft - from a blower - to get there. I doubt you could get 3000F in any normal fire in a structure.

Anthony brings his fire expertise to the issue:

For a little while, I worked in the fire zone of the Oakland Hills fires, assessing the damage. The firestorm was fed by trees (mainly eucalypts and pine - nice resiny fuel sources) and wooden houses, with a little assistance from natural gas lines which weren't immediately cut off.

In the wreckage, there was a *lot* of softened glass, but not that much that had actually melted. Glass melts at about 1400 degrees C, or about 2550 degrees F. So - most of the fire zone saw temperatures of less than 2500 degrees F. That's for a fire fed by higher temperature fuels than paper.

Florida's Maureen Lamson examined data from the World Trade Center fires and smaller blazes, and writes:

The fires in the National Archives and Library of Qurans in Baghdad are diffuse fires, and given that each building contained a great amount of paper (especially old, dry paper without fire retardant coatings), they might fit into a "fuel rich" category. Average house fires reach 500-650 degrees Celsius (932-1202 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas the WTC fire, fuel rich because of the 90,000L of jet fuel (which is more like kerosene than gasoline), may have reached a maximum of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit).

I don't have a formula to calculate the likely temperature of the archives or library, but they were clearly between 932-1,832 degrees Fahrenheit -- the house low and the WTC high--nowhere near 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As we know from Ray Bradbury, paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, but doubling the fuel does not proportionately double the heat (e.g., throwing a second log on the fire does not provide twice the heat, it simply makes the fire burn twice as long). My own unscientific estimate would be that the Baghdad buildings burned at a temperature near the upper range of a house fire -- 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit -- given the amount and quality of the paper contained in the buildings and assuming the arsonist did not use any accelerants.

I love your blog, and thank you for posting it and also for leading me to Professor Bunyip. I'm beginning to think Australians are the funniest people on the planet.

If only we were as funny as Three Thousand Degree Bob. Mark Sloboda points out:

3000 degrees celsius is the temperature of the cooler areas of the sun (the sunspots).

At 100,000 atm at 3000 degrees celsius graphite converts to diamond.

That must be some really special paper they're using there.

Robert Fisk - now revealed, as if there were any doubt, to be pathologically incapable of accuracy - might be using something special as well. Imagine if he was a sports writer: "The Anaheim Angels have won the 2002 World Series after a 620-mile David Eckstein centerfield blast drove in all 36 base runners late in the 89th innings. The diminutive (3' 2") Eckstein punched the air with all four fists as he rounded 17th base, his interstate swat having delivered the series to the Angels and earning Eckstein the MVHA (Most Valuable Human Alive) award for the 110th consecutive year. He celebrated by invading Palestine."

Posted by Tim Blair at April 19, 2003 01:22 AM