Ask a Scholar: A Burning Question

Kosta Steliou

Editor's note: As the weather grows cold and we seek the warmth of our hearths, let us remember that kindling the flames of learning can produce strange byproducts. When the fire has run its course, many college students graduate with only the porous excesses of politically correct ideology.

Dear Ask a Scholar,

I have a wood burning stove. This year it is producing a porous rock-like byproduct from wood after a fire burns down to coals. It is kind of like lava rock, if that helps. I am using a mixture of hardwoods like cherry, black birch, oak and locust and some unknown species that is extremely dense like oak; even after split and seasoned (2 years) it retains a high moisture content. Is it forming a "coke" like substance from the coals because there is a high moisture in the wood?

- Timothy W. May, Westmoreland County Community College

Answered by Kosta Steliou, Ph.D., Professor at the Cancer Center at the Boston University School of Medicine and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Boston University. Dr. Steliou is also Research Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at the Boston University School of Medicine and CEO of PhenoMatriX, Inc.

I suspect the wood being burned has a high mineral content, which is the porous substance being left behind after burning. The water-logged attribute is consistent with this possibility and the density characteristic of petrification (turning into stone).

* * *

About "Ask a Scholar"

Have a question Wikipedia can’t answer? “Ask a Scholar” matches readers’ questions to scholars with answers. We invite readers to submit questions. Click on the link to send us an email, or you may submit questions via Intellectual Takeout's Ask the Professor feature.

Questions submitted for consideration should call more for educated judgment than for facts that can be found easily with an internet search. We especially welcome questions that provide professors the occasion to draw erudite distinctions and incorporate mention of matters you had no idea were connected to the topic at hand.

Image: Fire by Matthias Ripp // CC BY

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