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Phlogiston (also known as terra pinguis), is an element contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion. Phlogiston has no colour, odour, or taste in its pure state. Once burned, the “dephlogisticated” substance holds its “true” form, the calx.
“Phlogisticated” substances are those that contain phlogiston and are “dephlogisticated” when burned. All living things have a degree of phlogiston within them, which explains their ability to burn. Some materials contain low or absent levels of phlogiston (like most varieties of rock and stone), and some (like water) contain anti-phlogiston, which when brought into contact with phlogiston-rich materials during combustion can neutralize them. Air can absorb phlogiston, but can only absorb so much per volume, and even less when water vapor is present.
One of the primary functions of air is to remove phlogiston from the body of living things; if it is not removed regularly, phlogiston can build up in the tissues, leading to spontaneous combustion.
When air has become completely phlogisticated it can no longer serve to support combustion of any material, nor can it support life, nor will a metal heated in it yield a calx. Interstellar air has been thoroughly dephlogisticated due to the long slow burning of stars, which is why men cannot breathe in space. Rust is a result of neutralized phlogiston particles suspended in moist air binding to a metal’s surface and coaxing residual phlogiston out of the metal itself.
===Phlogiston Ore and Modern Usage===
Phlogiston was discovered by the ancient Greeks, but has been developed far further through scientific experimentation in recent years. That experimentation has led to the identification of phlogiston ore (extensive deposits of which exist just outside the walls of New Babbage). Mining phlogiston ore is extremely dangerous, since even the smallest spark can set off tremendous explosions. Modern phlogiston mining techniques requires the mines to be flooded with water to minimize the negative effects. Many mines are worked almost exclusively by mechanicals, programmed to act autonomously far below the earth’s surface.
Dephlogisticated air can be quite valuable – when the phlogiston in air is burned and trapped in an enclosed space it can provide lift. This theory was one of the more useful in developing the modern airship. Concentrated phlogiston, when combusted, can explode quite violently. This theory explains why charcoal(partially burned phlogiston reduced to a concentrated form) is a fundamental component of gunpowder.
Extensive work has also been achieved in recent years in refining techniques. Refined phlogiston pellets burn in an intensely hot manner for long periods, while liquid phlogiston (refined ore suspended in a phlogiston-rich liquid) provides a convenient fuel. Theory holds that if a technique is ever developed to remove all impurities from phlogiston ore, the result – if provided a steady stream of impurity-free air – would burn forever.