Survival skills: Starting a fire out of thin air

05/2/2010 | Popular Science

Compressed gases get hot, and air is no exception. Compress it enough and it will catch fire -- which is exactly the principle behind fire pistons. "[T]his same principle also explains how many high explosives work," Theodore Gray writes. "They are called 'high' because their explosive reaction expands through a supersonic pressure wave that travels much faster than ordinary burning, making them far more powerful than low explosives like gunpowder."

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