Hitting droplets of nitroglycerin with a hammer in slow motion

In the interests of science, the presenter from the BBC's "How We Shook the World" hits a droplet of nitro with a hammer, over and over again, in slow motion. I am enscienced!

Nitroglycerine Detonation Filmed in Slo-Mo - Explosions: How We Shook the World, Preview - BBC Four (Thanks, Freeal, via Submitterator)


  1. Why can’t they show it in real time? The slo-mo is very dramatic, and even informative. But without the real-time vid I have no reality to compare it to.

  2. Pfff, that’s nothin.

    Me and my little brothers used to take a whole roll of caps (for those cheap cowboy cap guns that you can’t get anymore), put it on the granite curb out front, and whack it with a hammer. The bang was bigger than that video, your ears rang for 5 minutes, it smelled great, and it made Mom and the other neighbor ladies mad. And two rolls were even better!

    1. Pfff, that’s nothin.

      Me and my coworkers used to take a whole 500lb warhead (from those cheap WWII bombs we don’t make anymore), put it on a stand in the woods, and detonate it. The bang was bigger than the video or your caps, blew the crap out of the test environment, shook our bunker, and made the locals worried.

      This video makes me miss my old job in warhead design.

    2. I used to do that too. One time the roll of caps became a fireball that shot off into the garden. I never figured out how to reproduce that outcome, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. I probably wouldn’t have stopped trying if I hadn’t then found out about dry ice bombs. Cue nostalgia, now.

  3. Uhm, we actually did this experiment in school – it’s not that hard to do. Proper cooling is essential. And slow stirring, too. Purchasing the chemicals would be a problem nowadays, but it wasn’t “back then” (to my knowledge, not even schools are allowed to have this type of chemicals; at least not in Germany). A friend of mine did this on a large scale – using a remote controlled mixer.

  4. tiene mas potencia de la que pensaba una simple gotita. porcierto os habeis fijo de que a mayor velocidad de grabacion mas oscuro se ve, esotambien relentiza la velocidad en la que la luz nos llega por eso se ve mas oscuro

  5. Taking those rolls of caps and winding them very tightly around a heavy coin or other small metal thing, winding around each roll with a bit of stickytape (clear tape which is not elastic), repeat two or three times (depending on size/weight of coin, and finish off with a thicker coating of sticky tape.
    Throw at wall or ground, very good from a second or third floor balcony.
    Big Boom ;)

  6. He notes that the guy who discovered it had his face scarred by glass shards.

    Anyone else notice that this chemist seems to have scars on his face as well… the kind that you might get from shrapnel? Wonder where he got those!

  7. I did this once. I had a whole line of drops, hitting them one after the other with a hammer. Problem was, my hand slid further and further down the handle on the hammer, getting closer and closer to the head without me noticing. At drop 4 or 5 I held the hammer so close to the hammer head that the blast ripped open my index finger, about a 2cm long tear. Plenty of blood and screaming followed. I taped it up and shut up about it, but boy was a I popular in science class after that!

    The things we could get away with in elementary school back in the good old days.

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