by josh orter

In the spirit of the grilling and pyromania season, here's a lightweight for a summery friday. Last weekend I helped friends grill up hundreds of burgers, hotdogs, and ears of corn on an 8-burner, 116,000 BTU grill. But, like British humor, so very dry is the British Thermal Unit. Can you visualize a BTU? Me neither. But I do know how a match burns and it certainly makes for more entertaining measurement. How extraordinarily lucky then that a BTU can be approximated as the heat produced by burning a single wooden match.

Our grilling session had all burners running on high for a total of 5.5 hours.

116,000 BTU x 5.5 hours = 638,000 BTUs consumed.

This works out to the equivalent heat of 638,000 spectacularly flaring matches. Or at least that's what it could be.

Sadly, I can neither transport nor rationalize the purchase of thousands of boxes of matches in order to film a 10 or 15-second conflagration. I settled instead for three boxes of 300-count match boxes for calculation and picture-taking. At 300 per box, the grilling works out to 2,126 boxes. The front of each measures 4.75" x 2.625" for a total of 12.468 square inches per.

2,126 boxes x 12.468 square inches = 26,508 square inches. That's 184 square feet. Without further ado, here's a pyromaniac's dream in human scale. Apologies for the cabbage-like effect when scaling down the box.

Now what if one preferred to walk on a solid floor of 638,000 matches? This would explain the shot at the top of the post wherein I vertically-arranged all 900 matches in an empty iPhone box.

With an interior of 5.5625" x 2.9375", the box has an area of 16.3398 square inches. Although it looks fairly full at 900, figure another 20 could be packed in.

16.3398 divided by 920 matches gives a packing density of 56.304 matches per square inch. 638,000 matches / 56.3 = 11,331 square inches or 78.68 square feet, a bit less than an 8x10' room.

Ah, if only...

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