Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The shape of a perfect fire


A new Duke theory identifies the height-to-base ratio that helped humanity master fire and migrate across the globe

From ancient Egyptians roasting a dripping cut of beef next to the Great Pyramid of Giza to a Boy Scout learning to build a log cabin fire in his backyard, everyone builds fires with the same general shape.

Today in Nature Scientific Reports, engineering professor Adrian Bejan shows that the best campfires are roughly as tall as they are wide. The shape is the most efficient for the flow of air and heat.

"Our bonfires are shaped as cones and pyramids, as tall as they are wide at the base. They look the same in all sizes, from the firewood in the chimney, to the tree logs and wooden benches in the center of the university campus after the big game," Bejan said.

Courtesy of Duke University

And now we know why.

In a study published in Nature Scientific Reports on June 8, Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, shows that, all other variables being equal, the best fires are roughly as tall as they are wide. This is why, he argues, everyone has built fires that basically look the same since the dawn of time.

... more about:
»Egyptians »Nature »evolve »heat flow »movement »pyramids

'Humans from all eras have been relying on this design,' said Bejan. 'The reason is that this shape is the most efficient for air and heat flow. Our success in building fires in turn made it possible for humans to migrate and spread across the globe heat flow from fire facilitates the movement and spreading of human mass on the globe, which is a direct prediction of the Constructal Law.'

In 1996, Bejan penned the Constructal Law that postulates that movement -- or 'flow' -- systems such as trees, rivers or air currents evolve into configurations that provide easier and easier access to flows. Now internationally recognized, the law is increasingly finding applications in improving design and maximizing efficiency of manmade systems.

Bejan continued, 'Our bonfires are shaped as cones and pyramids, as tall as they are wide at the base. They look the same in all sizes, from the firewood in the chimney, to the tree logs and wooden benches in the center of the university campus after the big game. They look the same as the pile of charcoal we make to grill meat. And now we know why.'

So the next time you're out camping and want to build the perfect fire, now you know what general shape it should take.

But you already knew that, didn't you?


'Why humans build fires shaped the same way.' Adrian Bejan. Nature Scientific Reports, 2015; 5:11270. DOI: 10.1038/srep11270

Media Contact

Ken Kingery


Ken Kingery | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Egyptians Nature evolve heat flow movement pyramids

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>