zero-g wounds - Re: [DWJ] Re: Mincemeat

Mark Allums mark at
Mon Dec 31 14:38:00 EST 2007

Dorian E. Gray wrote:
> Roger said...
>> On Mon, Dec 31, 2007 at 09:28:41AM -0600, Mark Allums wrote:
>>> Heinlein wrote a scene where the air circulation was stopped 
>>> temporarily, and
>>> as a demonstration, a match was lit (people apparently smoked on 
>>> space stations
>>> in the nineteen-forties and -fifties, not like today) and it stayed 
>>> lit while
>>> it was moved around, but when it was held perfectly still, it went out.
>> That sounds like Clarke in _Islands in the Sky_; have you a reference
>> for Heinlein doing it too?
> Yes, I remember the scene being in "Islands in the Sky" too; the older 
> kids were freaking the hero out by telling him that if the air 
> circulation stopped, a lit match held upright would go out, and then 
> demonstrating, thus making him think that the air circulation had 
> stopped...and then they admitted that actually, if you hold a lit match 
> upright it will always go out, air circulation or no (I promptly tried 
> this for myself, and it is true).

Perhaps you are correct, and it was Clarke.  I read most of Clarke's 
stuff, especially his earlier works, up to about _2010_.  However, I 
generally remember Heinlein better for some reason.  I seem to recall a 
scene having been done by Heinlein, perhaps in _Space Cadet_, or 
/Delilah and the Space Rigger/.  But it may be Clarke.  Doesn't matter 
too much, it's the principle I was after.

Here's a thing:  Holding a match upright is irrelevant in zero-g.  There 
is no upright.  In gravity, one can force the match to burn up all of 
it's (local) fuel, and the flame will go out.  It works because the heat 
of the match rises.  The flame can't adequately go down to fresh fuel. 
A flame creates its own air current in gravity; hot gases rise and draw 
fresh oxygen in from the bottom.  But it doesn't matter, if the flame 
can't burn the wood lower down it.

In zero-g, in theory, burned gases would not leave the vicinity of the 
match quickly, and eventually, the match will choke from lack of oxygen. 
  Unless there is either a fairly breezy amount of air circulating, or 
the match itself is constantly moving into fresh air.

Side note:  I'm sure many of us have demonstrated to ourselves the real 
presence of oxygen in the air by burning a candle under a glass, in a 
pan of water.  As the candle consumes the oxygen under the glass, a 
vacuum forms and pulls more water up into the glass.  Soon the candle 
extinguishes from a lack of oxygen.  Something in the air is required to 
make the candle burn.  Something that seems to have gone away, once it's 


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