The Missoula Fire Lab

Filed Under Fire, Video | 2014-05-28, 20:51

The Missoula Fire Lab sounds like a place I’d love to work, or at least visit:

The Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory staffs over 10 world renowned scientists in addition to wide-ranging and accomplished support personnel. The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art burn chambers, comprehensive laboratory facilities, extensive computing resources, and novel field instrumentation which provide a unique environment to conduct innovative wildland fire research. Original research at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory includes: fire behavior prediction modeling, soil heating modeling and effects, landscape fire ecosystem dynamics, smoke emissions and dispersion modeling, and fire danger rating.

The video above, produced by The Atlantic, features some absolutely gorgeous high res slow motion video of flames flickering.

via Laughing Squid

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FireHero 3: Christmas Special

Filed Under Art, Fire, Fire Art, Geek, Raspberry Pi | 2013-01-19, 18:46

I know the holidays are almost over (we still have my birthday!) but I had to share this video of Chris Marion’s latest revision of Fire Hero 3. I’ve been chatting with Chris off an on over the last 2 years about fire art, and how Interpretive Arson/Ardent Heavy Industries has gone about building and running our stuff safely and legally at events.

He goes into great detail on how he built a lot of the system which includes six flame effects that react to guitar playing and two 100ft flame cannons for even more fire. All the plumbing and accumulators are controlled by an Arduino Mega and a RaspberryPi with a custom built server and communication protocol (written in python).

The Python host software is made up of a series of algorithms designed to perform intelligent chord-detection, as well as detect single notes and place them appropriately. The software memorizes all the chord progressions of a particular song as the guitarist plays in order to ensure consistent output for each chord.

The system is designed specifically for live music performances. I’m hoping it gets booked for a show nearby so I can check it out in person.

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Largest Amateur Rocket Launches Successfully!

Filed Under Fire, News, Video | 2011-06-03, 10:33

The non-profit, open source suborbital space endeavor out of Denmark known as Copenhagen Suborbitals had a successful launch of their rocket today. The rocket, designed to carry a human into suborbital space launched in a test run with a human dummy payload this time. As you can see it was a success, with the rocket reaching about 2 miles (final calculations are still being done) before engine cut off and then parachute deployment. The engine burned for 21 seconds and the largest amateur rocket reached supersonic speeds. The parachutes were deployed while the rocket was on the way down rather than at the apex of the trajectory. The speed of the rocket returning to earth is believed to be the cause of the parachute getting destroyed. The rocket sustained some minor damage upon impact, but was successfully recovered with the dummy in good shape. This launch provided Peter Madsen and Kristan von Bengtson, Copenhagen Suborbital’s founders, with lots of data to help build better rockets.

Photo: Thomas Pedersen

As I mentioned, Copenhagen Suborbitals is non-profit and open source. If you’d like to help support them, they’ll gladly accept donations.

Copenhagen Suborbital’s site
Danish article about the launch


A Day in the Life of Ed: 2pir Testing

Filed Under Body Modification, Fire, Fire Art, Personal | 2010-03-02, 20:27

The following is my “extra credit assignment” for the BME World Tour. Thanks to everyone for their support, I’m one of the 9 finalists!! We were asked to do a video, photos, and blog post of our day in order to pick the final 4 (or 5!) people who get to travel the world.

When I got word that I was in the top ten finalists, my heart skipped another beat. Closer and closer to a trip around the world. I could feel my passport tugging on my sleeve, “can we go!? can we go!? please please please!”, but I calmly explained to my anthropomorphized government document that the decision was not up to me. I still had one more assignment to prove I was worthy of such a trip: a blog entry, video, and photos of a day in my life. Luckily the next day had potential to be interesting enough to share with the Internet.

My day started with my fiancée, Heather, waking me up early with the video camera rolling. It was one of those cherished beautiful San Francisco days where the sun was shining and it was actually warm. In between my half-awake grunts, she said goodbye as she was off to hike around Alamere Falls with friends. Shortly after she departed, I crawled out of bed and made myself a gourmet breakfast of Lucky Charms and soy milk. A quick shower and shave and I grudgingly sat down in front of the computer to do some work. The curse of working for yourself is that every day is a possible workday. Luckily addressing my emails and other chores only took about 2 hours this time and I was soon out the door.

Down the three flights of stairs with a laptop, camera, and flip video in tow; I jumped into my car and trekked across the Bay Bridge to Oakland. I was headed to NIMBY, an industrial art space in south Oakland, to work on one of Interpretive Arson’s fire art pieces, 2pir.

For those not familiar with it, 2pir is “a blisteringly interactive large-scale fire toy”. It consists of two circles: an inner circle fitted with motion sensors and an outer circle comprised of 16 large flame effects. When a participant waves their hands, feet, or any other body part over the motion sensor it triggers a large column of flame. While on the inner platform, many people perform their best sorcerer imitation, summoning fire with their hands, while others choose to dance and twirl around, flames following their movement. The beauty of the piece is that the performance is different everytime.

2pir was designed and built by Interpretive Arson, a Bay Area fire art group that I’m a member of. It was originally built in 2006 and has since undergone several upgrades. This year it’s time for another one of those upgrades as the ignition system was no longer up to our standards for reliability. In addition, several components needed to be upgraded in preparation for our second international run in Denmark later this year at Smukfest.

The previous day we had spent some time finalizing a design for new flame effects and built a single prototype for testing. We wanted to make sure one new flame effect worked successfully before building the other 15. Today it was time to actually test this prototype and see how well it performed.

Fire against the sky

We dragged the prototype outside, hooked all the plumbing up to a tank of propane, plugged in the electronics and hit the switch. The resounding sound of combustion echoed off the walls of the warehouse. Success! But it wasn’t perfect. Ignition wasn’t 100% reliable and we wanted the best shape of fire we could get. After a period of tweaking, adjusting, and experimenting we were mostly happy with what we had. We made a quick run to Home Depot to grab a few materials and then stopped off for some burritos to refuel ourselves.

Back at NIMBY, the sun had set and the darkness of the seemingly deserted industrial section of Oakland was just asking for some noise and light. We fired the flame effect back up and enjoyed lighting up the yard and bouncing the percussive sounds of explosive propane combustion off the walls. After a bit of fun it was back to work: grinding, cutting, drilling, and welding the frames for the new effects.

Tom grinds

The work went late into the night before we all decided to call it a day and I headed home. The late night drive across the Bay Bridge on the way back into San Francisco is always one of my favorites times. The bridge is relatively empty and all lit up, as are the downtown skyscrapers and streets of San Francisco. It’s a great time to turn up the music, coast over the water, meander through the empty city streets and clear my mind. My ritual-like return home always includes a hot shower before sleep and this night was no exception. After climbing into bed with Heather, the echoes of our controlled explosions rang in my ears as I drifted off to sleep.

A selection of photos: 20100228-2pir Testing


Beautiful Thermite Explosion

Filed Under Fire, Video | 2009-05-02, 15:12

Definitely file this one under “Don’t Try This At Home” or even “…At NIMBY”. The above video is a wonderful example of what happens when you pack gunpowder into a pipe and then top it off with thermite. It’s a beautiful mushroom cloud of molten metal that you’ll want to be far away from when it goes off.

via Jon Sarriugarte

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DDI at How To Destroy The Universe Part 6

Filed Under Events, Fire, Fire Art, News, SF Bay Area, Video | 2009-04-27, 17:25

Dance Dance Immolation - Inches from fire

On Saturday, we pulled Dance Dance Immolation out of storage for the first time in almost two years, dusted it off and got it running again. The event was “How To Destroy the Universe Part 6”, an industrial party held at the new NIMBY location in Oakland. We ran one of the longest and most problem-free runs in the history of DDI.   BoingBoingTV came and filmed and we had a chance to shoot the infamous sfslim with fire. We also got to shoot fire at several Noisebridge members, the newest blogger for Laughing Squid (Burstein), and a bunch of others.  Many photos and videos were taken. My photos can be found in this Flickr set and this album on Vimeo.

If you’ve never seen Dance Dance Immolation, here’s what it looks like in action:

One of my personal favorite photos of the night was captured by Audrey while I was practicing my Fire Art DJ skills:
Fire Art DJ
More photos and videos:
Audrey Penven
Neil Kandalgaonkar
Kristen Ankiewicz
Vanessa Naylon


Celebration and Explosive Sledgehammers

Filed Under Fire, Video | 2009-02-12, 15:53

Unfortunately we missed it this year, but next year you should grab your Thor costume and head down to San Juan de la Vega, Mexico in February for some explosive celebrations.

Every year on the Tuesday of Carnival (which fell on Feb 5th this year), the residents of San Juan de la Vega get together to “recreate” the great battle of their patron saint (San Juan de la Vega of cours) and the government. The story is that this Juan was a bit of a Robin Hood character and stole from the rich to give to the poor. During Carnival, there is a little bit of a recreation of the story of some thieves stealing gold, but not all making it out. The captured thieves are then offered up for a ransom that exceeds the amount of gold stolen. Money is collected, but apparently not all goes according to plan and there is the resulting battle with the government. This isn’t a small recreation though. Tons of potassium chloride and sulphur along with many thousands of people gather to set off these explosive hammers.

The explosive recreation of the “battle” used to take place in the main square of the city, but due to damage to buildings (I can imagine!) it has since been moved to a soccer field where there aren’t any windows to break. Surprisingly with this large number of explosives and close proximity of exploders, there are very few injuries. In 2007 there were 17 reported minor injuries, and 50 in 2008.

There’s a translated article (thanks Babelfish) about the 2007 celebration if you want to read more about the reason behind it all. There is also the original article for those fluent in Spanish. And an article on last year’s celebration: English / Spanish.

The above video is from a previous year, and here’s a video from 2008:

And thanks to avidd, there’s also a humorous Instructables based on the top video entitled “Physics experiement with exploding sledgehammer”.


The Fuel Girls, aka hot chicks

Filed Under Body Modification, Fire | 2008-10-17, 14:02

The Fuel Girls are a kick ass, ultra-sexy, fire breathing rock and roll, dance and stunt show! We perform all over the world, with a passion for FMX shows, rock festivals, motorshows, rallies and WILD parties! Our crazy no holds barred attitude and our awesome mad-max rides mean you get a bit more than you bargained for when you book our show!

Become a Fuel Girl:

Personality is equal to looks and fun, geeky, mischievous characters are always welcome to apply! The Fuel Girls show requires MASSES of sex appeal and an individual twist – whatever that may be. We love tattoos, dark hair, punk rock and glamour in equal measures, rock and roll, fire, saying YES, indie, real boobs, excitement, dare-devils, black cars, fast bikes, getting wet, mischief and naughtiness… yeh!

That’s what their site bills The Fuel Girls as and what they’re looking for in new members. I stumbled across this and I’m still not really sure what I think just yet. On one hand: hot girls, fire, body mod, and industrial art (we’ll use that loosely) are right up my alley. On the other hand: it all feels kind of like high-fructose pop-culture performance. But even if it is a guilty pleasure, damned if it doesn’t look hot!

It’s of course hard to tell without seeing it in person, so hopefully they’ll make their way to San Francisco sometime in the future. In the meantime, YouTube will have to suffice (NSFW for most of my readers):

Obviously they need more fire (girl with flamethrower = sexy!) and some suspensions to really crank it up a notch in my book. Then again I guess the typical car show guy crowd might not be so big on that.


The Balsa Man burned!

Filed Under Burning Man, Fire, SF Bay Area | 2008-08-31, 17:41

The first ever Balsa Man was a huge success. There was a large turnout of familiar and new faces on Baker Beach last night as we all gathered to burn our own Man. The Balsa Man built by Colin and Nifer was impressive in person, even after already seen the pictures of the build. Several art pieces were shown including the Temple of Reduced Expectations (by JRad), a Balsa Phoenix (by Jordan), a last minute Waffle, Balsa Shave signs on the beach leading to the Balsa Man (by MissySB), little pink statues (by Anthony Ricci), and the MiniDDI (by me). There was even a mini-trash fence to keep people from wandering off into the dunes!

The Man burned first of course (even before the one on the Playa due to whiteout conditions), and was followed by the Temple and the Phoenix. While attempting to run MiniDDI, Rubin missed a step in “Butterfly” which triggered a terrible software glitch and caused the whole thing to go up in flames. It was a beautiful disaster.

As with every event, there was of course photo and video documentation:
My Balsa Man 2008 photos
My videos (Balsa Man Burn, DDI Burn)
The Temple Burn (video)
Forest’s photos
~Jeanne~’s photos
ebisue’s photos
Balsa Man 2008 Flickr pool

And of course blog posts:
Official wrap-up from Colin

If you have yours to add, drop a comment. It was awesome to see so many people come out and so much participation in this little event. A huge thanks specifically goes out to Colin for putting everything together.


Balsa Man: a diminute effigy for a reduced community!

Filed Under Art, Burning Man, Fire, SF Bay Area | 2008-08-29, 13:28

Is it The Man or Balsa Man!?!

Originally uploaded by catcubed

There’s a large number of people who didn’t go to That Thing In The Desert this year. If you’re one of those lucky ones enjoying showers, real beds, flushing toilets, and the beautiful weather of the Bay Area, but looking for something to do this weekend, then look no further. Camp Riverton is hosting Balsa Man at Baker Beach this Saturday. Colin, Nifer, and Supervisor Ghastly have been hard at work building a 3ft version of the Man. For photos of the build check out the Balsa Man set.

The Balsa Man will not be alone on Baker Beach though. This little effigy has sparked creativity in other local artists, and rumors has it there will be a Temple of Reduced Expectations, at least one mini-artcar, and of course entrance signs. There are also rumblings of other small-scale projects that may make it to the beach. If you are an artist that wants to bring your small piece to the beach, get in touch with Colin for more logistics.

So, show up on Saturday, the 30th at sunset (8pm-ish) on the north end of Baker Beach to watch the little man burn. For all the info, check out