Will we ever learn? More than 30 people were burned during a June 23 fire-walking event hosted by New Thought guru Tony Robbins in Dallas, Texas – the second time in the last few years when similar injuries were reported.
According to a report by Dallas CBS, Dallas Fire-Rescue ambulances assisted over 30 injured attendees as they left the Kay Baily Hutchison Convention Center just after 11 p.m. on June 23 after attending a Tony Robbins event. Five had to be taken to the Parkland Hospital Burn Center.
“Apparently, as part of a motivational event being held at the location, several people attempted to walk across hot coals,” Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans told CBS Dallas. “As a result, a large number of these people sustained burn injuries to their feet and lower extremities.”
That’s not how Robbins’ team saw it.
“In Dallas tonight, someone not familiar with the fire walk observed the event and called 911 erroneously reporting hundreds of people requiring medical attention for severe burns. While we are grateful to the quick and robust response from Dallas emergency services, only 5 of 7,000 participants requested any examination beyond what was readily available on site,” Robbins Research International said in a statement following the event. “ We are pleased to have completed another successful fire walk for 7,000 guests and look forward to the remainder of an outstanding weekend with them.”
Fire-walking is part of Robbins’ stage show known as “Unleash the Power Within” which is a 3.5 day event “designed to help you unlock and unleash the forces inside that can help you break through any limit and create the quality of life you desire,” his site explains. “Learn how you can surpass your own limitations to achieve your goals and take control of your life.”
Part of that “unleashing” apparently suggests that the newly motivated walk on hot coals to prove that they can overcome their fear. Robbins claims that thousands have walked on the coals, including Oprah Winfrey, and only a few have been burned.
So how can this be? Is it really mind over matter that allowed so many people to walk over hot coals without being burned?
Of course not. A little research uncovered the fact that firewalking has been around for centuries and is completely possible because of sound scientific principles – not the power of the mind. The phenomenon is similar to how a person can stick their hand into a hot oven and only get burned if they touch the metal racks or ceramic walls of the oven. This is because air has a low heat capacity while our bodies have a very high heat capacity.
As this article appearing on Skepdic.com explains, “Thus, even if the coals are very hot (1,000 to 1,200 degrees), a person with ‘normal’ soles [the skin on the feet is thicker than on the rest of the body] won’t get burned as long as he or she doesn’t take too long to walk across the coals and as long as the coals used do not have a very high heat capacity. Volcanic rock and certain wood embers will work just fine.”
Believe it or not, both hardwood and charcoal are good thermal insulators, even when in fire.
“Nevertheless, some people do get burned walking across hot coals, not because they lack faith or willpower, but because the coals are too hot or have a relatively high heat capacity, or because the firewalker’s soles are thin or he doesn’t move quickly enough. But even very hot coals with a high heat capacity can be walked over without getting burned if one’s feet are insulated, e.g., with a liquid such as sweat or water. (Think of how you can wet your finger and touch a hot iron without getting burned.) Again, one must move with sufficient speed or one will get burned.”
Apparently, some people at these events don’t walk fast enough and end up with burned feet, such as the two dozen firewalkers who were burned after a Robbins conference in San Jose, California in 2012.
While the gullible walk away convinced they have some kind of new mental power, the bottom line is that it’s all very scientific and not the least bit magical.