Obey The Pug
Or risk complete annihilation.
Today Scientific American reports:
Investigators of a house firein Bellevue, Wash., last week are suggesting an elevated 11-inch wide glass bowl of water magnified the sun’s rays onto a wood deck, sparking a blaze that caused more than $200,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, nobody—including the two dogs—was injured.
To see if this dog bowl theory held water, Lt. Eric Keenan, the Bellevue Fire Department’s community liaison officer, reconstructed the scene. He placed a partially-filled bowl on a wire stand nearly 14 inches above the sun deck at Bellevue City Hall. The atypical northwest spring conditions closely matched those on the day of the fire: a perfect “70 degrees and sunny, with light winds,” reported The Seattle Times. Sure enough, within about 15 seconds the small piece of cedar Keenan had set below the stand began to smoke under the sun’s concentrated rays.
Thomas G. Brown, a professor of optics at the University of Rochester, agrees that the scenario is plausible, at least under very specific conditions. The bowl must be transparent—preferably glass—with an overall convex shape, according to Brown. A wider bowl would need to be set further from the flammable material to concentrate the sun’s rays. (The resulting energy, however, would be far greater than that created through a small bowl – or maybe even your dad’s magnifying glass.) The skies must also be clear, dry and the sun shining from more-or-less directly overhead.
I knew there was a reason I’ve always insisted on stainless steel bowls. With dogs as smart as mine I have a nagging fear of this kind of canine science experiment run amok. Regardless, I’m glad the people and pooches involved escaped unscathed and I’ll keep this trick in mind should I ever be in a situation where I need to start an emergency fire – on a hot, sunny day.