How to Walk Across Hot Coals

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

People have been scampering across hot coals for thousands of years. A bed of embers can exceed 1000°F, and the world’s hottest firewalk in 1997 actually topped 1750°F—the same temperature used for cremations. But with the right preparation, experts prance across them with barely a blister. Here’s how they do it.

1) Get Wood

A safe walk requires the right coals, usually cherry or maple wood. Hardwoods are excellent insulators, and they’ll protect feet from some of the heat—even when they’re aflame. (That’s why the wooden handle on a saucepan stays cool when you’re cooking.) Cherry or maple embers also glow a daunting red-orange, but they actually don’t burn as hot as other charcoals, like olive or locust woods.

2) Build a Runway

Once the fire has burnt down, rake the coals. This step makes the red-hot landing strip of doom look even more terrifying, but it will actually spread cold charcoal to the surface, adding insulation. Firewalkers also flatten the coals. Patting down a path keeps them from sinking into the sizzling embers, protecting the sensitive tops of your feet.

3) Break Out a Good Book

After making the fire, firewalkers need to kill time for about 20 minutes. Embers that still hold water can transfer heat to feet faster. Letting the coals dry means they won’t sear any soles. Then they sprinkle a thin layer of ash on top. Ash is a terrible heat conductor, and it can block some warmth radiating from the coals.

4) Just Add Water

After waiting for the bed to cool to a balmy 1000°F walkers dip their feet in some water. When liquid meets intense heat, it can form an insulating layer of steam. It’s called the leidenfrost effect, and it’s why you can snuff out a candle’s flame with two wet fingers. The moisture may act as a protective glove for feet.

5) Walk, Don’t Run

Once experts step onto the coals, they walk briskly and don’t stop. Their feet would sink into the ashpit if they run or hard-step. The lighter the stride, the less chance scorching cinders will wedge between their toes. Each step should last half a second or less.

6) Believe in Physics.

Coals may be hot, but they’re terrible at transferring heat. They have a “low thermal capacity.” That is, it takes them relatively long time to bake a walker. (It’s like sticking your hand in an oven set to 400°F. The air feels hot, but it won’t burn you instantly.) As long as they keep moving, each step will absorb very little heat from the embers.

Why Are Shower Doors in Hotel Rooms Getting Smaller?

sl-f/iStock via Getty Images
sl-f/iStock via Getty Images

Shower doors are shrinking in posh hotels, and minimalism is to blame, Condé Nast Traveler reports.

In lieu of hanging shower curtains or providing full shower doors, many newer hotels are opting for glass panels that cover only half the length of the shower. That’s frustrating for many travelers, who complain the growing trend is inconvenient and leaves bathroom floors sopping wet and slippery after shower use.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, the half-door trend began in European hotels in the 1980s. “A lot of it comes down to people trying to design hotel rooms with limited space,” boutique hotel designer Tom Parker told the magazine. “It’s about the swing of the shower door, because it has to open outward for safety reasons, like [if] someone falls in the shower. You have to figure out where the door swing’s going to go, make sure it’s not [hitting] the main door. It’s just about clearances.” A smaller door also has the added benefit of making the space appear larger than it really is, according to the magazine.

The trend is also connected to the birth of minimalist “lifestyle hotels,” which cater to a younger, hipper clientele that gravitates toward sleek lines and modern design. Plus, half-size glass doors are easier to clean than shower curtains, which tend to trap bacteria and need to regularly be replaced, which can add up to significant additional costs for a hotel.

Theoretically, even half-door showers are designed to minimize water spillage. Designers try to level the floors in bathrooms so water doesn’t pool in random areas, and they place shower heads and knobs in areas that are more protected by glass paneling. And where design doesn’t work, hotels try to pick up the slack.

“Hotels tend to mitigate the risks by offering non-slip interior shower mats, cloth bath mats for stepping out of the shower, grab bars, [and] open showers or no-sill showers which avoid having to step up and over the ledge,” designer Douglas DeBoer, founder and CEO of Rebel Design Group, told Condé Nast Traveler.

But the half-door trend still has yet to gain much love from hotel guests. “The older generation much, much prefers having a shower door,” Parker told Condé Nast Traveler. “I’m like a 70-year-old man at heart anyway. I like [a shower door] if it’s in keeping with the style of the rest of the room.”

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Miami’s Dixie Highway Will Become Harriet Tubman Highway

A stretch of Old Dixie Highway in Homestead, Florida.
A stretch of Old Dixie Highway in Homestead, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Earlier this week, commissioners in Florida’s Miami-Dade County unanimously voted to rename parts of the Dixie Highway after Harriet Tubman.

CNN reports that Modesto Abety, former CEO of the county’s Children’s Trust, had written a letter explaining how his granddaughter had asked him why "Dixie"—a word referring to the Confederate states, south of the Mason-Dixon line—was still featured prominently on highway signage. She suggested it might be more fitting to rename the roads after Harriet Tubman, instead. Inspired by the letter, Commissioner Dennis Moss began the process of doing just that.

“[Harriet Tubman] was the antithesis of slavery,” Moss told CNN. “I thought that suggestion was a good suggestion.”

According to the Miami Herald, the update will only apply to the parts of the highway that run through Miami-Dade County—Old Dixie Highway in South Dade and West Dixie Highway in Northeast Dade—but commissioners are encouraging the rest of Florida to follow suit.

Even if that happens, there will still be quite a (literal) long way to go before we see “Harriet Tubman Highway” on the entire Dixie Highway: The roadway spans a total of 5786 miles across 10 states, all the way from Florida to Michigan.

That said, the lack of major opposition to the name alteration in Miami-Dade County bodes well for the future of Tubman-christened roads everywhere. Some locals did voice concerns about the cost of changing signs and business addresses, but the commissioners felt the importance of eliminating a term so closely associated with slavery would outweigh those costs.

“The time is always right to do what is right,” Moss told CNN, quoting the sermon Martin Luther King Jr. gave at the National Cathedral just four days before his assassination in 1968.

[h/t CNN]

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