Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, October 6, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 5



Mountain Views News Saturday, October 6, 2012


By Christoper Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of “Self-Sufficient Home,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and 
other books. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.]

Everyone is interested 
in fire, child or adult. 
There’s something 
very primal about fire, 
and whether we understand 
it intellectually 
or not, we know 
that fire is basic and 
essential to life. And in our modern and pampered 
society, though we all still use fire, it is usually 
controlled in the heater, in the stove, in the 

One of my most popular classes over the years 
– besides the classes in identifying wild foods – 
are the Fire Workshops. In the fire workshops, 
students get to see a large number of fire-starting 
methods, and they get to try most of them too.

Fire can be made by countless variations of utilizing 
electricity (batteries), the sun, chemistry, and 
friction. We go from the modern to the primitive 
so that everyone goes home having experiences 
several methods of fire-making.

I begin with the hypothetical car broken down 
in the winter on a back road. How do you make 
fire with things that are in, or a part of, your car? 
Though there are several dozen possibilities, 
I stick to the four easiest: The cigarette lighter 
(electricity), the flare (chemistry), the battery 
(electricity), and the headlamp’s reflector (sun).

The cigarette light and the flare are self-explanatory. 
The battery is a little more complicated but 
not much. Since a car battery can explode if improperly 
handled, we demonstrate a safe way to 
attach jumper cables and then connect a paper 
clip to the two free clamps of the jumper cable. 
If we first wrap tinder around that paper clip, 
we get a good, quick coal. The headlamp should 
only be removed if there is sun (obviously), and 
it will usually require a screw driver to remove 
the shroud. Caution: Not all car reflectors will 
work because the shape is not always round. You 
should experiment with your car to see if it will 

We discuss the ways to make fire if you’re in the 
woods with some basic gear, but no Bic and no 
matches. If out duck hunting, you can empty 
a shotshell of the shot and wadding, and stuff 
some cotton into the shell and fire it. The cotton 
will come out glowing red, and it can quickly be 
wrapped into tinder and coaxed into a flame.

There are two ways to make fire with a flashlight. 
The reflector around the bulb can be used by inserting 
tinder where the light bulb was and pointing 
it at the sun. And steel wool can be stretched 
from pole to pole on a battery and the steel wool 
will burn. 

Binoculars, detachable camera lenses, and rifle 
scopes can all be used to focus sunlight to a point 
to make a coal.

Flint and steel is an ages-old standby for fire. You 
take a piece of carbon steel – could be an old 
fire, or a C-shaped piece especially made for fire-
starting – and strike the flint or quartz. If you hit 
it right, a shower of sparks flows off and you can 
direct those sparks into fine steel wool, charcloth, 
or other ideal tinder to make a flame.

 Of course, I never leave home without a magnesium 
fire starter, which I carry on my keychain. 
You scrape a bit of the magnesium into powder, 
and then with your knife you scrape the built-in 
sparker to ignite the magnesium. Presto! Once 
you’ve failed many times at other fire making 
devices, this is one that you never want to leave 
home without. (They can be obtained at School 
of Self-reliance,, 

41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041).

Then there are the ancient methods of fire by friction: 
the plow, the piston, the bamboo saw, the 
thong, the hand drill, and the bow and drill. I 
generally only demonstrate the last two since -- 
though hard – they can be mastered easier than 
the others. (By the way, you saw Tom Hanks fail 
at the hand drill in Castaway, and succeed at the 
plow, though the movie didn’t show the fire ignite 

The hand drill consists of twirling an approximately 
18 inch long, pencil-thick stick onto a 
baseboard or hearth, until you generate enough 
heat and dust to create an ember. The bow and 
drill is the same principle, except you are twirling 
a fatter, shorter drill using a bow, and you 
are pressing down on the drill from the top with 
a rock or hard piece of wood. I’ll share some of 
those details later, or you can read about it for 
yourself in my “How To Survive Anywhere” 
book, available from my web site, from Amazon, 
or wherever fine books are sold.


 Voters who want to be in the know about the 11 propositions on the November ballot can expect lively discussion 
and even debate at a free public forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area. Titled 
“Are You in the Know?” it will be held Oct. 6, 9:30 to noon, at the Women’s City Club, 160 N. Oakland Ave., 

 A team of League members who have studied the measures in depth can help people separate 
fact from fiction regarding the hotly debated, competing tax measures of Gov. Jerry Brown 
and education advocate Molly Munger. Speakers also will analyze and present background 
information and prospective effects on each of the other 10 measures, including a business tax. 
Three other propositions address criminal justice issues: ending the death penalty, tougher penalties for human 
sex trafficking and modifying the three-strikes law. Three affect the legislature: a two-year cycle for the state 
budget, limits in campaign donations, and a challenge to the recently redrawn political boundaries for state senate 
district. Two address consumer issues: genetically altered food and auto insurance.

 As a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government, the 
League invites people at the forum to share information and express divergent views. At this forum the League 
will only analyze the measures. 

 Lunch will follow the program and costs $20, including tax, tip and parking. Information and reservations are 
available by calling 626-798-0965, 10am-1pm M-F. Walk-ins are invited with no cost for admission.



Humanity has landed rovers on Mars. Now, say scientists, it’s time to land 
a boat on Titan. This outlandish scenario could become reality, according 
to engineers presenting their proposals at the European Planetary Science 
Congress on September 27.

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is one of the most Earth-like bodies in the solar 
system. With a thick atmosphere, a diameter between that of Earth and of 
planet Mercury, and a network of seas, lakes and rivers, it is in many respects 
more like a planet than a moon like the Earth’s.

The Cassini-Huygens mission, which has studied Titan extensively, confirmed 
that lakes, seas and rivers of liquid hydrocarbons (similar to household gas) 
exist, covering much of the satellite’s northern hemisphere. Although the 
Huygens probe eventually landed on solid ground, it was designed to be able 
to float for a short period.

The new plan, called the Titan Lake In-situ Sampling Propelled Explorer 
(TALISE), proposes a boat-probe that would be propelled by wheels, paddles 
or screws. The probe would land in the middle of Ligeia Mare (the biggest 
lake, near Titan’s north pole), then set sail for the coast, taking scientific 
measurements along the way. The mission would last around six months to 
a year.

“The main innovation in TALISE is the propulsion system,” says Igone 
Urdampilleta, a member of the TALISE team. “This allows the probe to 
move, under control, from the landing site in the lake, to the closest shore. 
The displacement capability would achieve the obtaining of liquid and solid 
samples from several scientific interesting locations on Titan’s surface such 
as the landing place, along the route towards the shore and finally at the 

Titan’s environment is too cold for life as we know it, but its environment, 
rich in the building blocks of life, is of great interest to astrobiologists. The 
satellite’s atmosphere is made up largely of nitrogen (like Earth’s), and is rich 
in organic compounds and hydrogen cyanide, which may have played a role in the emergence of life 
on Earth.


Detailed observations of Titan have now spanned 30 years, covering an entire solar orbit for this distant 
world. Dr. Athena Coustenis from the Paris-Meudon Observatory in France has analyzed data gathered 
over this time and has found that the changing seasons of Titan affect it more than previously thought.

Coustenis explains, “As with Earth, conditions on Titan change with its seasons. We can see 
differences in atmospheric temperatures, chemical composition and circulation patterns, especially at 
the poles. For example, hydrocarbon lakes form around the north polar region during winter due to 
colder temperatures and condensation. Also, a haze layer surrounding Titan at the northern pole is 
significantly reduced during the equinox because of the atmospheric circulation patterns. This is all 
very surprising because we didn’t expect to find any such rapid changes, especially in the deeper layers 
of the atmosphere.”

Coustenis explains why it is important to investigate this distant moon: “Titan is the best opportunity 
we have to study conditions very similar to our own planet in terms of climate, meteorology and 
astrobiology—and at the same time it is a unique world on its own, a paradise for exploring new 
geological, atmospheric and internal processes.”

You can contact Bob Eklund at: