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Surface Crackle

Today, we give you a little lesson on fire. Surface Crackle on this Moment of Science.

Ever wondered why it's necessary to gather kindling when starting a campfire? Well, the little pieces of wood and twig provide for a better surface area. Fire is a reaction between molecules--mostly molecules of oxygen in the air and molecules of carbon in the wood. You can speed up reactions in different ways--say by providing more oxygen by blowing on the recalcitrant fire. But one of the easiest ways is by increasing the surface area of one of the reactants--in this case, the wood.

The only part of that big log that can burn is the outside. And most of the wood is on the inside. By breaking that log up into little sticks, we could increase the number of molecules that are exposed to oxygen, and thus increase the rate of reaction.

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