Forwarded Message Follows -------

To: AKIBBE@SMTP ("'Alan Kibbe'") ,
100265@SMTP ("'Andrew Collier'") 100265.3620@CompuServe.COM ,
AGOOD@STRAND ("'Ann Good'"),
BGROENER@SMTP ("'Bill Groener'") ,
ROBBAR@SMTP ("'Bob Barbagallo'") ,
BRI@STRAND ("'Brian Ackler'")

From: LIKENESS@SMTP (Graham Likeness)

This is true. You have to pull up Goble's web page and see it in living color. One of the world's greatest charcoal grill lighters is a guy named George Goble, a computer systems engineer at Purdue University.

Each year, Goble and a bunch of other Purdue engineers hold a picnic in West Lafayette, Indiana, at which they cook hamburgers on a big grill. Being typical engineers, their focus quickly shifts from cooking hamburgers to seeing how fast they can light the charcoal.

They started by blowing on the charcoal with a hair dryer, switched to a propane torch, and escalated to an acetylene torch. Then Goble tried using compressed pure oxygen, which of course, caused the charcoal to burn much faster because fire is essentially the rapid combustion of oxygen with a reducing agent (charcoal in this case).

By this point, Goble was recording pretty good lighting times. But in the world of competitive charcoal-lighting, "pretty good" just doesn't cut it.

Thus, Goble hit upon the idea of using liquid oxygen (LOX), which is used for fuel in rocket engines. LOX is 600 times as dense as regular oxygen and it's ambient temperature is 295 degrees below zero.

In terms of energy release, pouring LOX on charcoal is the equivalent of throwing a live squirrel into a room full of Labrador Retrievers.

On Gobel's World Wide Web page (, you can browse thru actual photos and videos of Goble using a bucket attached to a 10-foot-long wooden handle to dump 3 gallons of LOX (not sold in stores) onto an industrial strength grill containing 60 pounds of charcoal and a lit cigarette for ignition.

What followed was the most impressive charcoal-lighting that anyone present had ever seen, featuring a large fireball that reached 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit! The charcoal was ready for cooking in 3 seconds, which is probably a world record.

There's also a photo of what happened when Goble used the same technique on a flimsy discount-store grill. All that's left is a circle of charcoal with a few shreds of metal in it. "Basically, the grill vaporized," said Goble. "We were thinking of returning it to the store for a refund."

Looking at Goble's photos will undoubtedly fill you with gratitude that you don't live near the Purdue picnic grounds. You can also be proud that this country produces engineers who can light a barbecue in less time than it takes for engineers to spit in less-advanced nations.

Will the 3-second barrier ever be broken? Will engineers come up with a new, more powerful charcoal-lighting technology? This is an excellent subject to ponder as you sit outside this summer, eating hamburgers and occasionally glancing toward West Lafayette, Indiana, in search of a mushroom cloud.


This has been brought to you courtesy of one of the many people listed at the top of this message. Your contributions are welcome. If you'd like to be off this list, please let me know. Graham Likeness