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Fahrenheit 451: What’s The Temperature At Which E-Books Burn?

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
November 29, 2011

From our How To Do Everything podcast:

Today, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was released as an e-book for the first time. If you’re not familiar, it takes place in a dystopia where firemen burn books — 451 degrees being the temperature at which they catch fire. But what about e-Books? Theo Gray, a columnist with Popular Science, told us:

The one big advantage you’ve got when you’re trying to burn an e-Book reader is that a good fraction of the total volume is lithium polymer batteries. Which are really flammable. There have been incidents of these things — defective ones — they set themselves on fire. You don’t even need to help them. And when they do … I mean, it’s spectacular.

How does Theo know?

I collected a bunch of old laptop batteries, and grilled them to set them off, and they’ll shoot like a rocket 100 feet in the air, shooting flaming balls behind them.

This seems like a good time to mention Theo is author of a book called Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do At Home But Probably Shouldn’t.

Anyway, because it has so many different components — the lithium polymer batteries, the organic solvents, the plastic casing — it’s tough to measure the temperature at which an e-Book reader burns. But Theo says at its peak, you’re looking at 1,000 to 1,500 degrees somewhere.

So if you’re looking to create a dystopia in which human expression is all but extinguished, now you know. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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