Taking Inventory: Blaze Powder
What in blazes..?
Minecraft’s Nether dimension is home to several resources that have something in common – they’re extremely useful, but very dangerous to get hold of. Ghast tears are one. Wither skeleton skulls are a second. A third is blaze powder – which also happens to be our item of the week.
Blaze powder was added to Minecraft in the Adventure Update, which is also when Blazes and blaze rods were added. This is not a coincidence. You’ll need to hunt down a blaze, hope it drops a rod, and then crush that rod into powder on a crafting table if you want to acquire some.
Once you’ve got some, there are several things you can craft with it. Sprinkle it over a slimeball to get magma cream, which lets you create potions of fire resistance and magma blocks. Mix it up with some coal and gunpowder to get fire charges, which, with the aid of a dispenser, let you pretend to be a blaze yourself.
Blaze powder, as well as being an ingredient in the brewing process, is needed to fire up the brewing stand. Regular ol’ fire just doesn’t get hot enough to distill magic from everyday ingredients into powerful potions, y’see. Each pile of blaze powder can brew up to 20 batches of potion.
But the reason why most players will want to acquire blaze powder is to craft the powerful Eye of Ender – a strange artefact with the ability to locate strongholds and activate the end portals inside. Without blaze powder, you’ll never get to The End, and therefore never be able to complete the game. So that’s a reason to get hold of some, if nothing else.
In the real world, the closest thing we have to blaze powder is probably powdered magnesium – a greyish metal that sits in the upper-left corner of the periodic table. Magnesium is pretty common – it makes up 13% of the Earth’s mass, though most of that is locked in our planet’s mantle, which surrounds the core – rather than in the crust which we live on.
That’s kinda crazy already, but let’s continue – the only place where magnesium is produced is inside huge, aging stars. When they go supernova, that magnesium is scattered across the galaxy, where it eventually becomes a part of new star systems. That’s how all the magnesium on Earth got here – it’s old, exploded stars that reformed into our solar system.
So why is it like blaze powder? Well, magnesium is extremely flammable and burns very hot – as hot as 3,100C. Unlike wood or paper, which only burns in oxygen, magnesium will happily burn in oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and even water. The best way to put out a magnesium fire is to smother it in sand.
The brightness with which magnesium burns is impressive too – which is why it was used by early photographers as “flash powder”. It’s also used in fireworks, and for various theatrical effects like lightning and pistol flashes. Oh, and its ability to burn underwater makes it useful for marine flares.
So there you have it. While it might feel dangerous to get hold of blaze powder in Minecraft, with so many handy uses it’s almost certainly going to be worth it.
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- Duncan Geere