"Pyrophoric" comes from the Greek word for "fire-bearing"—purophoros—and describes substances, such as uranium or iron sulfide, that are highly reactive and ignite spontaneously when exposed to air or even, strange as it sounds, to water. Though it may seem like they should be handled only in controlled environments, pyrophoric alloys are used to produce the spark in a very common household item: the automatic lighter. What special equipment is needed to put out a pyrophoric fire?
Back in the day
Nearly four years after the HMS Dreadnought entered service, the revolutionary battleship was "honored" with a visit from Abyssinian royalty. Though the ship's commanders only received last-minute notice of the Abyssinian delegation's impending arrival, they managed to arrange for their guests to be greeted with pomp and circumstance and then given a tour of the vessel. The royal visitors were later revealed to be mere pranksters in blackface. What now-famous author took part in the hoax?
Born on a day like today
Probably the greatest satirist of his era, Lewis wrote novels that present a devastating picture of middle-class American life in the 1920s. His first literary successes were Main Street (1920), a merciless portrayal of Midwestern provincialism, and Babbitt (1922), an equally satiric portrait of a conformist businessman. Lewis refused a Pulitzer Prize in 1926, citing his objection to the idealized view of America espoused by the Pulitzer panel. What award did he accept in 1930?