The Sciences

Gene Firewalker

Cosmic VarianceBy cjohnsonApr 28, 2006 9:48 PM


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Yes, we go the extra mile for our students here at USC... My colleague Gene Bickers does more than that. He walks on burning coals every year as part of that extra mile (photo courtesy Steven Straker):

The point? Walking across burning coals is no big deal. You don't need special mystic powers to do it. It's just a matter of freshman physics: the coal simply does not have good enough heat conduction properties to transfer enough energy to your foot to burn it as you walk across. So you should only be impressed by a person walking across something like a red hot steel plate (much higher heat conductivity) and not burning their feet. Then maybe entertain the thought that they have mystic powers.... or something..... I've done the hot coal thing a number of times myself (not at USC). Enough to know that you don't have to be anything more than just a regular person to do this. No mystic powers needed. Sorry. -cvj

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