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Posted by Deepak Shenoy
Grade level: other
School: No school given.
City: Atlanta State/Province: GA
Country: USA
Area of science: Physics


Why does the wind, which fans a forest fire, extinguish a candle flame inspite of providing a fresh supply of oxygen ?

I remember asking myself this same question once. I happened to see a science program on television that answered it. What we see as fire is actually a chemical process: when you strike a match, you create sparks. These sparks help ignite the match, which emits gasses from the head. The sparks ignite the gas, and you get a steady flame. When you blow on a match, you are basically blowing those gasses hard enough to get them away from the match before they can ignite. Without the gasses to keep the flame going, the match goes out.

So yes, you are supplying the flame with more oxygen, but that is not as important in this case as ridding the match of the gas. This is also why blowing on a big fire does not put it out! There is a lot more gas, and simply blowing won't help. It would take a lot more wind than that to get rid of that much gas!

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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