Fahrenheit 451 is the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel (soon to be a film) about a “fireman” who burns books rather than saves them, as a means to keep society illiterate and complacent. The novel has been a lightning rod for issues of censorship and book banning, and it begins with the sentence, “It was a pleasure to burn.”
Charles Nypels Lab posted a video on Instagram that shows this science in action. The blackened paper reacts to the flame of a lighter, revealing the words within. As paper typically chars and blackens when exposed to fire, it’s as if we’re seeing oxidation in reverse.
It’s a lovely twist on the novel itself—the fact that it’s made with fire-retardant material. The creators will be preventing a book as thought-provoking as Fahrenheit 451 from being destroyed by fire--a book that was challenged as recently as 2006.
Famously, Bradbury came up with the title Fahrenheit 451 because he believed it was the temperature at which paper auto-ignited. According to Slate, paper actually ignites at 480 degrees (depending on density), but that’s an estimate for a single sheet of paper. It would take a higher temperature for an entire book to combust.
Not that we have to worry about that.