Explainer: How and why fires burn

The secret of fire: Prometheus to pyrolysis

By Stephen Ornes, 15:11 PM March 13, 2014

According to Greek mythology, the gods took fire away from people. Then a hero named Prometheus stole it back. As punishment, the gods chained the thief to a rock, where an eagle fed on his liver. Every night, his liver grew back. And each day, the eagle returned. Like other myths, the Prometheus story offered one explanation for the origins of fire. It doesn’t, however, offer clues to why things burn. That’s what science is for.

 

Some ancient Greeks believed that fire was a basic element of t...

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