The scientists recreated the conditions on the days of the fires in their lab. They used high-speed video cameras and “powerful scanning electron microscope analysis” which showed that when the titanium clubs struck or grazed a hard surface, very hot sparks were produced. The sparks were up to 3,000 degrees and lasted up to one second. When they used stainless steel clubs, there were no sparks.
Chemical engineering and materials science professor James Earthman said:
“Rocks are often embedded in the found in these rough areas of dry foliage. When the club strikes a ball, nearby rocks can tear particles of titanium from the sole of the head. Bits of the particle surfaces will react violently with oxygen or nitrogen in the air and a tremendous amount of heat is produced. The foliage ignites in flames.”
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