Colourful Campfires

Everyone knows that you get yellow fire from burning wood, depending on what you add to a fire you can change the colour of its flame. The reason particular colours are given out is due to the energy level the ‘burning’ happens at. Remember the old period table? (or if you had modern enough science teacher; a periodic galaxy?) well its all down its arrangement.

The Sciencey Bit

(Skip this if you really don’t want to know why) The reason different compounds or elements produce different colours when burnt is the oxygen combines with them changing the arrangement of the atoms electrons.

Electrons form orbits or ‘shells’ with higher levels of potential energy for each one in each each orbit, filling up the bottom orbits first. When an electron is exchanged from one shell to another light (photons) must be emitted with an energy matching the change in ‘height’ (potential energy) to maintain balance. The energy of a photon is determined by the Planck constant multiplied by its frequency (E = h×?) which means that different energies result in different frequencies some of which can be seen as a colour.

The Example Bit

The most readily known examples of coloured fire are interstellar stars, although in all honesty they’re not really balls of fire but energy releasing spheres of luminous plasma. Anyway, they come in a variety of different colours depending on there temperature which is based on there dominant fuel, in the The Sun’s case it is 75% Hydrogen and 24% Helium giving it a yellow colour from our atmosphere. As the Sun ages the Hydrogen will become Helium through fusion and it will appear red, just like the the Sun Krypton orbits in Superman and it is called what is known as a Red Dwarf. As the Helium ‘burns’ together into even denser materials it will eventually change to White Dwarf.

Another example that is slightly more down to Earth is the use of different compounds for stunning sky bound effects called fireworks. To produce the most brilliant colours other elements are used to enhance the colour produced from burning, usually Chlorine, which is toxic in large amounts.

The Safety Bit

WARNING: I wouldn’t suggest acquiring any of these elements and trying it out for yourself, especially since some of these substances alone are radioactive, toxic or both! This is intended as a reverse lookup; you see the colour then work out what made it. I’ve not listed every substance just the ones I could find any information on.

The Referencey Bit

Name Metal Image Flame Notes
Li   3
Alkaili Lithium suspended in Oil in Test tube by BioNerd Red to White Lithium Flame by Metal Chem White Fume
Sr   38
Alkaline Earth Strontium in Radiation Container by BioNerd Red, Crimson Strontium Flame by V31S70 Violent Reaction in Moisture, White Fume
Ca   20
Alkaline Earth Calcium in Test tube by BioNerd Brick Red, Orange Calcium Flame by Metal Chem  
Fe   26
Transition Iron (filings) in Test tube by daynoir Gold Easily Magnetic, Symbol from the Word ‘Ferrum’
Na   11
Alkali Silvery White Yellow Sodium Flame by Metal Chem Easily Cut with Knife, Reactive with Water, White Fume
Mn   25
Transition Silvery Metallic Yellowish green Poisonous, esp. if inhaled
Mo   42
Transition Grey Metallic Yellowish green May have facilitated multicellular lifeforms
Ba   56
Alkali Earth Barium in Radiation Container by BioNerd Pale/Apple Green Barium Flame by Metal Chem Mades rare Gem Benitoite
B   5
Metalloids (Deep) Brown Bright green Used in Scientific Glassware
Tl   81
Poor Silvery White Pure green Highly Toxic
Sb   51
Metalloids Antimony in Test tube by BioNerd Pale green antimony Flame by Metal Chem  
Te   52
Metalloids Lustrous Silver Pale Green  
P   15
Non Dull Red with White Sheen Pale bluish green Reactive when Cut, therefore used in Matches
Zn   30
Transition Zinc in Test tube by BioNerd Bluish Green Zinc Flame by Randeeryan White Fume
As   33
Metalloids Arsenic in Test tube by BioNerd Blue Extremely poisonous
Bi   83
Poor Bismuth in Test tube by BioNerd Blue Slightly Radioactive, Very Low Toxicity, Yellow Fume
Cs   55
Alkaili Caesium in Radiation Container by BioNerd Blue Slightly Radioactive
Cu   29
Transition Copper in Test tube by BioNerd Blue Copper Flame by Randeeryan Black Fume
In   49
Poor Light Grey Blue Used in Liquid Crystal Displays, Toxic
Pb   82
Post-transition Lead suspended in Oil in Test tube by BioNerd Blue High Density, Toxic, Stops Xrays Easily
Se   34
Non Dark Grey with metallic sheen Azure blue Key Ingredient in Head’n’Shoulders, MacGuffin in Evolution
K   19
Alkali Metal Silvery White Purple Potassium Flame by everyones idle Highly Reactive with Water
Rb   37
Alkali Grey White Red-violet Rubidium Flame by Metal Chem Highly Reactive with Water OR air
Al   13
Poor Aluminium in Test tube by BioNerd White Common Use, Very High Strength:Weight Ratio
Mg   12
Alkaline Earth Magnesium in Test tube by BioNerd White Magnesium Flame by I. Gelgard White Fume
Ti   22
Transition Titanium in Test tube by BioNerd White Food Colourant E171 (Titanium Dioxide)

Photo credits:

See You Next Year

Years ago the fad was to highlight important moments in movies using a certain gimmick, after a decade or so the gimmick receded to its usual medium and occasionally bobbed it head out to say hello. Usually it was well received, akin to a liked relative but, until very recently, there has been very little interest in inviting that relative on purpose.

I’m talking about Musicals; the spontaneous bursting out in singing and dancing. Mamma Mia has really brought the singsong into the limelight, Hugh Jackman whom a few can remember performed Curly in the Royal National Theatre’s Oklahoma! is a well established singer and brilliantly rendered the opening tribute to the 81st Academy Awards. I wasn’t expected something so bold, perhaps a comedy dialogue but the small cabaret routine blew me away. I digress, And of course for those of us in the geeky know; Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog a web based production by the (Joss) Whedon clan.

It seems that Musicals are back in fashion, but for some of us they never really have been out, the Milton Keynes Gang Show is 19 years old this year, Milton Keynes Scouting and Guiding have been at it for nearly 20 years we don’t do it because its a fad, we do it because the Stage is a magical place where anything can happen. What you can imagine can be made manifest, everyone says the perfect thing and acts at the right time. And its a whole lot of fun too!

It has always been a pleasure performing in the Milton Keynes Gang Show, based on the feedback, the close to capacity theatre crowds and the atmosphere backstage it was a huge success. It certainly has been great being back this year, catching up with everyone and seeing how the junior cast have grown up. By co-incidence I found a 2001 Programme in the cupboards, it was one of the last shows I was in before going off to University. Inside were pictures of the entire cast, including a very young me and many of my old Vortex V.S.U..

The moments that I’m going to keep with me the longest are Adam’s 120% volume onstage cockup when his recruits made him so angry he forgot his lines! I think I’m also going to fondly remember doing the Street Dance sketch, and its multitude of rehearsals, which as I mentioned in a one of my last posts I luckily landed.

It been a great 6 months and I can’t wait to do it again in another six, I hope you all enjoyed it too and we’ll see you next year

Wood in the UK and Campfires

Since Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and given it to man we have used it for both work and pleasure. A wood burning campfire is one of my favourite ways to enjoy this privilege and since being taught in (Cub) Scouts I’ve made quite a few. There are a variety of different ways to set one up and each has it uses, for instance a Jamaican-log-fire or Cross-fire (2 logs parallel with tinder between them and kindling ontop) maximizes heat retention and is best for cooking whereas a log cabin or pyramid/teepee is best for emanating heat for warmth. Whilst I know several ways to set up and light the wood I find that I know very little about the wood itself so I started gathering lists of wood/trees in Britain. It became obvious that I wouldn’t want to just stop at names so I’ve put some other bits aside for future posts.

It’s not been easy gathering this information, so many species and variants in so many places the only exacting way to keep track was referencing each by its Latin name instead of it common name.
For those of you without a photographic memory you may need to work at remembering all the flat information. One of my favourites is Fraxinus excelsior or Ash, which as the name implies is a good fire wood and helps me retain the knowledge by association.

English and Latin Wood Names and Family

Family Name (Britain) Name Elsewhere Latin
Alder (Common) Alder Alder Alnus glutinosa
Alder Alder Buckthorn Black Dogwood Rhamnus frangula
Apple Crab Apple Apple Malus sylvestris
Ash (Common) Ash White Ash Fraxinus excelsior
Beech Copper (European) Beech Fagus sylvatica
Birch Silver Birch Gray Birch Betula pendula
Birch Downy Birch or White Birch White Birch Betula pubescens
Box Box Boxelder Buxus sempervirens
Cherry & Plum Wild Cherry Prunus avium
Cherry & Plum Bird Cherry Prunus padus
Cherry & Plum Blackthorn or ‘Plum’ Sloe Prunus spinosa
Blackhaw (European) Cranberrybush Guelder-rose Viburnum opulus
Blackhaw Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana
Dogwood Common Dogwood Cornus sanguinea
Elder Elder Sambucus nigra
Elm Wych Elm Slippery Elm Ulmus glabra
Elm English Elm Ulmus procera
Hawthorn Common Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna
Hawthorn Midland Hawthorn Crataegus laevigata
Hazel Common Hazel Corylus avellana
Hornbeam European (common) Hornbeam Ironwood Carpinus betulus
Holly European Holly Holly, American Ilex aquifolium
Ditypic or Soapberry (Common) Horse Chestnut Buckeye Aesculus hippocastanum
Juniper (Common) Juniper Juniperus communis
Family Name (Britain) Name Elsewhere Latin
Linden Small-leaved Linden/Lime
Large-leaved Linden/Lime
Basswood Tilia cordata Tilia platyphyllos
Maples Field Maple Acer campestre
Maple Plane Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus
Oak English Oak Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur
Oak Sessile Oak Quercus petraea
Oak Turkey Oak Quercus cerris
Pine Monterey Pine Pinus radiata
Pine Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris
Poplar Aspen Populus tremula
Poplar Black Poplar Cottonwood Populus nigra
Rose Pear Pyrus communis
Rowan & Whitebeam European Rowan or Mountain Ash Wiggen Tree Sorbus aucuparia
Rowan & Whitebeam (Common) Whitebeam Sorbus aria
Rowan & Whitebeam Service Tree Sorbus domestica
Rowan & Whitebeam Wild Service Tree Checkers Tree Sorbus torminalis
Bittersweet Common Spindle Tree Euonymus europaeus
Strawberry Tree Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo
Willow Grey ‘Pussy’ Williow Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia
Willow Bay Willow Salix pentandra
Willow Crack Willow Salix fragilis
Willow White Willow Willow Salix alba
Willow Almond-leaved Willow Salix triandra
Yew European ‘Common’ Yew Yew Taxus baccata
Walnut Walnut Walnut Juglans regia
Family Name (Britain) Name Elsewhere Latin


2 Sources 3 Sources 4 Sources 5 Sources

Street Dancing

Amidst what seems to be a jumble of rugged movements you see some crazy stunts performed by street dancers, most of them on their hands but occasionally some in the air. I never thought poorly or highly of them, I just accepted it was a combination of abrupt moves. On Tuesday I tried for the first time performing a stand-up routine in this style; it was hard.

I don’t shout this sort of thing to the hill tops so you’ll be surprised to know that in my teens aswell as attending Scouts once a week I also attended dances lessons, and occasionally, a competition. I’d say I’m reasonably well versed, enough that I will not shy away from performing in a show, sketch or teaching a routine to a Scout or Guide Group, so when Gang Show opened auditions I thought I’d give it a go.

Once we got our moves down to music I quickly grew a respect for Street Dancers, I don’t know how professional the routine we were doing was but it felt like something you’d see on television or at a competition but without the lifts or floor work.

I have a rough idea of what’s involved to pull off shows like “Strictly Come Dancing” but until I sampled Street Dancing I thought Tango and Rock’n’roll were the hardest, both can have rhythmic high paces and are physically gruelling, especially if doing lifts. Breakers, use strong movements in quick succession (the bits we did) and also do floor work, mostly on their hands, something much harder than lifting the usually smaller, and therefore lighter, female partner.

The results of the audition haven’t been given out yet so I don’t know if I got a grading at all, I’m more interested in getting a part in the Rock’n’Roll section, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

(The picture above was drawn by me for practice at work)

Birds of a Feather

Gang shows calling!” The Milton Keynes Gang show is starting rehearsals and auditions next week. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in the cast, regardless I’m still looking forward to it, hopefully I’ll be getting a few dance roles and not so many vocals, what can I say I’ve never really been any good at singing *shrug*.

Continue reading Birds of a Feather

Scout Network Gathering 2008

For the Milton Keynes Scout Network, the Network:MK, this is the one time of the year we can expect to see all our members. Whether it be University, work or disinterest that stops a member coming to the weekly meetings they are almost sure to turn-up for the Long Easter weekend in West Lancashire. It’s hard not to understand why; drinking, food, adventure, fun, friends and tents what more could you not possibly want from a weekend?

As such there is usually a major effort to co-ordinate transport, this year 8 cars full of people, equipment or both made the expedition. My chariot, the Aluminium Falcon, would be transporting the cheerful Faye, the cherubic Lisa and the tempestuous Kat. Originally I would’ve had Matt as well but a reshuffle meant I didn’t so there was more room for everyone else.

With my trusty Sat Nav I set off for Great Tower Campsite, however that is not where it was taking me! Luckily I corrected this problem mid journey however the arrival time I had told the passengers was much earlier so I had to bare the brunt of their dissatisfaction. I probably would’ve been able to get away without a sully to my character if I hadn’t lost faith from passenger doubt on the last leg; I turned the car around and asked for directions! Yes, I know, a bloke asking directions, but if I had just kept going for 100m I would’ve made it and no-one would’ve thought the less of me.

Most of the first day we just spent catching up with each other, you know how it is when you’ve not seen your closest ‘old skool’ friends in months. We kept to our own little site on the first evening, with beer flowing, good music and old friends why would you need much more? Although we weren’t on our usual site with our own private ‘lake’, admittedly we couldn’t fit on it anymore but it really was a nice site, the new tenants certainly seemed to be enjoying it.

Saturday, Day Two

The second days tends to be a lazy one, I was originally going to do Wii games in the morning just because it would be nice to play against some similarly aged Scout that most likely play a lot more than me, I figure even if I get my butt whooped at least I might pick up some tips. In the end I opted against this for a lay in instead, Saturday night always has the big band that you stay up for.

My afternoon activity was Horse riding, I can’t remember ever doing it before so this would be something new. I was expecting a quick introduction course, a trot journey seeing the local countryside then perhaps a little cantering or galloping back at their pasture. With a quick get to know you we went for a trot around the local village and we were done. It was a pleasant experience, I was riding a 15 hand tall Stallion called Father Ted (there was a Dougal in the herd too). He was well behaved and I enjoyed several conversations with him during our time together.

During the wind-down before dinner, we gathered wood and relaxed around the campfire waiting for our hiking team to return. There was a slight unease in the camp as the whether can gotten colder than expected on the hilltops and winds were picking up. They made it home safely and with a few picture of them hiking on snow laden footpaths. To distract ourselves there was some larking about, particularly with my camera, which is why I’ve got some awfully bad artistic shots, but you have to take some bad shots to learn what your doing wrong!

After dinner and a quick change into our fancy dress, between us we had a Traffic Warden, a Jedi Knight, Pirates, Optimus Prime, a 90s Scout, a Pilot and a whole lotta in between. The costume seemed to get us a lot of attention at the Bield, were the band was playing. The band are rather awesome, I particularly look forward to their With or Without You and I’m a Believer each year.

Sunday, Day Three

Every year we make our own little trip offsite, we did consider going further a field than Ambleside Park but considering how late it was when we finally got our arses into gear the journey time just didn’t leave us with long enough there to be worthwhile. We had a lot of fun in the snow, making snowmen, chillin’ our drinks, climbing the mound and in the children’s adventure playground (naughty us!)

I pretty much handed over my camera to Abby that afternoon, she wanted to get some practise in taking shot with an dSLR camera before she starts her course in the autumn. Her shots weren’t half bad, she tries as hard as me to get some artistic ones, I think she does a little better, not sure if that’s luck or me being over critical. I don’t think I’m a natural for that sort of thing, I’m naturally oriented to take photos with purpose not creativity so go for her and her raw talent.

With the full moon this weekend I was hoping to get some lovely campsite landscape photos, particularly from the top of Tower rock, but I didn’t want to go all that way on my own just for some photos and nobody made a point of going up all that way so I didn’t. I did get this cracking shot from our site, I’ve embellished it a little with photoshop but its a nice one nonetheless.

Monday, Day Four

We wanted to make a quick getaway with a meetup at the M6 services, I wasn’t too keen on this as I’m not one for driving fast which meant I was likely to be getting some stick for everyone seeing my car occupants walking in rather than us watch everyone else.

We did alright for time on the journey home, taking a scenic route around the first part of the M6 out of Lancaster, a longer route but with a higher constant pace. I’d rather be driving slowly for longer than crawling for shorter. Overall the return journey was the same as the full voyage time home.

This was another fantastic Gathering weekend, unfortunately I pushed it this year being ever so slightly too old to attend but luckily the organisers didn’t mind so much seeing it was my farewell to Network event. I’ve got the option to go next year as staff but I’ll make my mind up on that one closer to the time.