The Royal Institution posted this demonstration of an explosively unstable substance called nitrogen triiodide. I love the purple smoke it makes.
Nitrogen triiodide is so unstable that even something like a mosquito landing on it can set it off. Three iodine atoms cluster around one side of a nitrogen atom. Being crowded around one end causes something called bond strain as the atoms repel each other in a small space. The result is that the molecule is prone to falling apart, explosively.
An explosion last weekend at a National Institute of Standards and Technology lab in Gaithersburg, MD threw a blast-shield 25 feet. Investigators found "pseudoephedrine, drain cleaner, and a recipe for meth" in the wreckage.
Against the backdrop of a beautiful Sound of Music type village, this fellow sent a wheelbarrow 15 meters into air. It did not achieve escape velocity, but it did make a perfect landing. According to our friends at Geekologie he used a Cobra 6 firecracker, "which packs 48.5-grams of explosive powder (versus 2-3 grams for an M-80)."
'The 58-year-old information technology specialist is now so fearful that he uses a rope to flush the toilet from behind the bathroom door at a safe distance.
"Those fears are part of his damages," said his lawyer Sanford Rubenstein. "Clearly toilets are supposed to flush, not explode." Three other tenants were also injured by what the Daily News website dubbed "the porcelain bomb."'
Like the people cheering at about :25 into this video, I'm a sucker for dramatic explosions. This one comes from Texas, where the transportation department blew up an old bridge in the city of Marble Falls on March 17th. Also, apparently, it's warm enough in Texas that multiple gentlemen could watch a bridge explode from the comfort of their jet skis.
During the storm a couple of nights ago, we heard an almighty thunderclap and our dogs came dashing into the house. Once the rain ebbed and we went outside, we found this scene just around the corner: a wall apparently blown to pieces, with cinderblock chunks thrown as far as 40 or 50 feet. It seems too far for a plain old wall collapse. Could that have been caused by the lightning strike? If so, how? Steam pressure from the waterlogged bricks being suddenly superheated, like a tree strike?
Plinian eruptions are named after Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and died during said eruption, respectively. This is one of several different types of volcanic eruptions, but it's also one of the most iconic. In a Plinian eruption, a column of magma, gas, and ash shoots straight up, with the gas and ash reaching all the way up into the stratosphere. These are the big, explosive eruptions, with mushroom clouds and rains of rocks and boulders.
Matt Kuchta, geology professor at the University of Wisconsin Stout, recently recreated a classic Plinian eruption using a 32-gallon trash can filled with water, 100 rubber ducks, and some liquid nitrogen. In slow motion, you can see the column of water and ducks rise straight up, fan out at the top, and fall back down to Earth. Just imagine the damage if all the ducks were boulders, and you get the picture.
LA's Museum of Contemporary Art invited the city to the opening party for Cai Guo-Qiang's "Sky Ladder" exhibition, the highlight of which was a massive explosion of rockets and other fireworks, titled “Mystery Circle.” Thousands of people filled the museum grounds for the big event.
Several introductory speakers (including the artist) described what was about to happen, but I don’t think anyone was anticipating the effect of 40,000 rockets launched directly at us. The light, heat, and concussive force were terrifying and beautiful.
Cai Guo-Qiang has gotten so much attention lately that he is starting to get endorsements, including a limited-edition Lomography signature camera. I'm a crappy photographer, but that didn't deter the nice people at Lomography from lending me a Cai Guo-Qiang camera to document the explosion event and the exhibition. The camera is really neat and I enjoyed messing around with analog settings - it's harder and much more rewarding than slapping an Instagram filter on a digital image. Here’s the best shot I got of the installation, which includes a crop circle hanging from the ceiling:
In this video, you'll learn how to use an ultraviolet LED to kickstart a chemical reaction capable of sending a cork flying halfway across a lecture hall. It's a hazardous science demonstration! Hooray!
Quick note: The sound quality gets a little sketchy at times. If you click on the CC option in the lower-right corner of the player window you'll be able to read the English subtitles.