Burnin’ Down the Pub

We’ve been out for a nice evening meal tonight at a (reasonably) local pub: The Fox & Hounds and Lone Barn at Bursledon. And if you think that’s a mouthful, wait until you see the burgers…

It’s a nice place and usually very peaceful. Tonight there were three girls wandering round – obviously bored with grown-ups talking – and looking at everything they could find. They were somewhere in the region of 8-10 years old (I’m never very good at guessing ages of kids). Above the fireplace next to us was the witty slogan:

Fires are like men – if you don’t watch them, they go out!

Ha ha. Anyway one of the girls read this out loud, finishing with one of the world’s most too-old-for-your-own-good-comments: “that’s true you know”. 10 year old and got men sussed! Had that  been the last of them I would have chuckled quietly and left. But later something odd happened, which I’ve never seen in a pub before.

So there’s us sitting there very happily. Lucy was tucking into some gorgeous tomato pasta with garlic bread, Katrina was enjoying something and tartare sauce (probably scampi) and I was polishing off the final yolk remnants of the ham. egg and chips. Katrina nudged me and pointed behind me. I turned around to find one of the three lighting a paper tissue using a candle which was on a nearby table.

Now we are all aware that tissues catch alight very quickly, and it was only a couple of seconds before this girl acquired this new knowledge normally reserved for adults. I shouted at them, which obviously caught the attention of everyone in the top half of the pub. With hindsight shouting “Oi! Stop that!” was a bit pointless given that she was already panicking and wishing she hadn’t set alight to her hanky.

I don’t know why I then jumped up, snatched the tissue from her hand and stamped it out on the floor, but I did. Maybe it’s because over the years I’ve handled so many more dangerous things that have been on fire. Barbeques, chemistry lessons, and camping have all been sources of firey fun in the past and that sort of prepares you I think.

The girls had scarpered before the tissue had stopped glowing and I did think about storming off and venting to their parents but my overriding thought was “bucket” (give or take a consonant). What really would be the point? Hopefully that will be lesson learnt for them never to play with fire. If not, then it’s not going to be my responsibility to sit with them in A&E while they complain about first-degree burns.

The manageress in the restaurant seemed genuinely concerned about my welfare but seemed completely uninterested in going to find the party responsible. She didn’t even knock a penny off the bill as an expression of gratitude for saving her from entering a burned child into the accident book.

Is that me just being tight?

Stopping For a Cup of Tea

I’m constantly amazed by modern cars. Take for example, the brakes on my Honda Accord. It’s not a performance saloon, yet every time you bring it to rest the brakes have to work incredibly hard to stop it without catching fire. It’s amazing the brakes last so long.

Some numbers: when empty the car weighs about 1575kg. When we’re driving any distance, you can add to that the following:

  • a full tank of diesel (about 45kg in itself)
  • me
  • Katrina
  • Lucy and her car seat
  • luggage

In total, I think this will be around 1850kg. Now here comes the science bit: concentrate! 70mph is 31.3m/s, which means to stop the car requires the removal of around 882kJ of energy. Obviously some of that will disappear with drag and engine braking, but we’ll ignore that for now.

So in the case of an emergency where you can’t just let the engine do a lot of the braking for you, this means that in the time it takes to stop (just a handful of seconds), the brakes need to get rid of enough energy to boil 2.34 litres of water. Even taking a lot of air resistance into account, that’s enough water to make 5 or 6 cups of tea.