Last weekend, 21 people received second and third-degree burns (we covered the biology of burns last week) at a motivational event put on by Tony Robbins. No, Mr. Robbins did not blow-torch their feet for daring to make eye contact. They took part in a “mind over matter” firewalking demonstration.
Now, burning your feet while walking over glowing hot coals sounds to me like “exactly what you would expect to happen.” Or, as my niece puts it: “That’s a bad decision, not an accident.” But there are some interesting physics behind successful firewalking.
Jennifer Ouellette has a fantastically detailed post all about it at SciAm:
"… when one walks on fire is that on each step the foot absorbs relatively little heat from the embers that are cooled, because they are poor conductors, that do not have much internal energy to transmit as heat, and further that the layer of cooled charcoal between the foot and the rest of the hot embers insulates them from the coals."
Check out her post for more interesting research done into firewalking, and for goodness sake, don’t try this at home. But if you do, videotape it.