Meanwhile I absolutely despise
the 3.5E style and find it a blight on gaming. Partly because it utterly slows down the act at the table and partly because of how it destroys any physical realism involved in the setting and turns it into just fiat physics that is unconnected to the real world.
I think that we can agree that the 4e and the 3.5 fireball descriptions are roughly equivalent to up to the end of the first paragraph of 3.5 and the major difference in content is the two paragraphs beyond that. If we go by up to the end of the first paragraph and you want to change squares to feet I honestly don't care. But fireball is the textbook example of why I want to see this form of spell writing disappear.
The penultimate paragraph I find to be one toxic to communication, roleplaying, and worldbuilding because of the way it implies an alternate physics model that isn't really mentioned elsewhere. The paragraph I'm referring to is, of course:
The fireball sets fire to combustibles and damages objects in the area. It can melt metals with low melting points, such as lead, gold, copper, silver, and bronze. If the damage caused to an interposing barrier shatters or breaks through it, the fireball may continue beyond the barrier if the area permits; otherwise it stops at the barrier just as any other spell effect does.
For the record Gold and Copper melt at just over a thousand degrees (C) and silver melts at just under it (and bronze has a melting point that that depends on the alloy but is somewhere round there) - so when four out of the five examples are about the same temperature I think we can call this consistent that it melts metals that melt at or below just over a thousand degrees). And it says melt - so the fireball must transfer enough heat to heat the gold, copper, and silver up past the thousand degree mark.
You know what else is just over a thousand degrees? The point where iron gets yellow-hot if we're using a colour spectrum or white hot if we're just talking about red hot vs white hot. Fireball puts enough heat into low melting point metals to melt them - why doesn't it turn swords and armour white hot? And in the process do interesting things to any sort of tempering or hardening.
What else is something that's about a thousand degrees? A low end but functional crematorium. A thousand degrees transferred into a body will do truly horrible things to it, killing it. This makes Indiana-Jones-surviving-a-nuke-in-a-fridge feel a paragon of realism.
So what's going on with fireball? Should it be melting the flesh off peoples' bones and leaving them as charred bodies? Is it some sort of concealed "Heat Metal" spell and if so why doesn't it affect iron? Do metals in D&D just have different properties to the real world and in which case why isn't this mentioned elsewhere? All this because some hack decided to add in a throwaway line they thought would be thematic without bothering to think of the wider implications and the editors didn't stop. 3.5 confuses better fluff and worldbuilding with more fluff and worldbuilding - and by doing so it manages to undermine anyone else wanting to rebuild unless they go through line by line rather than just change fundamental assumptions.