Trivia 074: An explosive return

It’s been a while. I apologize for dropping the ball with this newsletter. Things just became so busy last summer that I started falling behind. And then things continued to get even busier all the way through December. Basically, the second half of my year went: our busiest season at work –> family trip to Japan –> preparing for an annular eclipse  –> running things while my boss was sick –> getting ready to move –> moving. But now all of that is over and done with, and I finally have more time to work on things like this. I will have to figure out what sort of posting schedule will work best for me, but these will probably be coming to you Monday evening (Tuesday morning for some people) for the time being. I have developed an even larger backlog of fun trivia to share with you, so without further ado, on to the trivia!

If you visit Japan in late December or early January, you may see a pair of special decorations called kadomatsu at the entrances to some buildings. Typically one is placed on either side of the entrance to a building, and they become the temporary dwelling place of a kami, a god or spirit. Kadomatsu typically consist of a small pot containing three upright bamboo stalks surrounded by pine needles. In traditional Japanese art and culture, pine represents longevity. Meanwhile, fast-growing bamboo symbolizes vitality and prosperity. In fact, bamboo grows so quickly, specimens have been recorded growing over a meter in a single day! This makes it an excellent alternative to wood for many applications. It is also a fantastic option for carbon sequestration.

A bamboo forest in Kyoto. Picture by me!

After the New Year’s holiday, around January 7th to 15th, kadomatsu are disposed of by burning. This is said to release the kami that is inside them. However, special care must be taken when using bamboo for fuel in a fire. In a very early post, I talked about how water trapped inside microscopic pockets of river rocks can turn to steam, causing the rocks to explode if you put them in a fire. The same thing happens with bamboo when it burns, but on a larger scale. A bamboo tube consists of many hollow chambers running the length of the stalk. Each of these chambers can become a pressure cooker when placed in a fire. As a result, a bonfire of bamboo will sound like a bunch of firecrackers constantly going off. This can also send shards of bamboo and burning embers flying.

Luckily, there is a very easy way to prevent this from happening. All you have to do is make sure the chambers inside the bamboo are open. This can be done by drilling a hole vertically through the length of the bamboo, or splitting it in half lengthwise. That way the steam can escape and pressure cannot build up inside them.

I hope that whatever your New Year traditions are, you are able to face the start of 2024 with hope and productivity! If you want to see what else I get up to, here are some links to other places you can find me:

In order to share my creations with other people, I have started posting my photography on Flickr. I also have been uploading my timelapses to YouTube. My latest one features the moon rising above the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque. I have a few more in the works that I haven’t posted yet, so if you want to see them first, be sure to subscribe! Here’s hoping you all have a fantastic 2024!

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