You Can Extinguish Fires With Human Voice

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Voice Flame Extinguisher."

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: Charles Kellogg — the naturalist, not the cereal inventor - claimed to have the larynx of a bird. During the early 1900s, he wowed audiences with his uncanny vocal range, said to be so powerful it could extinguish a fire.

Since sound waves can agitate air molecules and even shatter glass, MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage figured it wasn't so crazy to warm up their pipes and attempt to sing out a flame.

But they weren't crooning to just any ordinary candle. Kellogg's claim dealt with extinguishing a sensitive flame, which is encased in a protective glass tube that makes it vulnerable to sound pressure, but not the breeze your breath may create when you sing. The myth went down in a blaze of glory when their vocal cords failed to produce any unamplified tone powerful enough to put out the fire. Only electronically produced tones that exceeded the human vocal range could make the flame dance.

Jamie and Adam later successfully extinguished a flame with a human voice — but it had to be electronically amplified to an ear-blasting 149 decibels, which exceeds the pain threshold of sound.

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