These web pages will take you on a fun journey to explore the science of fire, beginning with how and why things burn and moving on to what's being done to keep things from burning. The chemistry of this stuff is really neat - what happens on the molecular level is really the down-and-dirty of the how-and-why. Guaranteed, when you're done, you'll never look at a candle in the same light.
There's no doubt about it, fire fascinates. The warmth of a fireplace, with logs crackling away and the yellow-red-orange flames dancing, mesmerizing, lulls us into a peaceful, philosophical tranquility. Humans have relied on fire for survival, from warding off savage beasts to keeping warm, from boiling water to transportation. What would we do without the positive power of fire? And yet, fire's destructive force continues to challenge us. Firefighters risk their lives to save people trapped by flames, and scientists manipulate molecules to make our world more and more fire-resistant.
Clothing for fire fighters needs to be incredibly flameproof, and is made from polymers developed specifically for that purpose. Did you know that everything you wear, be it natural cotton or wool, or synthetic nylon or polyester, is a polymer? Wood is mostly cellulose, another natural polymer. Plastics are a type of polymer. Some useful polymers burn too easily, so they need fire retardants to be safe.
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