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Archives: Death By Science


Don't try any of these at home -- or anywhere else. These experiences could kill you. In fact, even reading these stories -- the last, in particular -- has a good chance of grossing you out and spoiling your dinner.

* Enigma brakes out the cans of Acme Dehydrated Water for the citizens of LA
Finchplucker: Um, taking the hydrogen out of water leaves you with H2, one of the more volatile gases known to man, and O2.
Enigma: Where do you think Acme Rockets get all their fuel from? Dehydrated water, of course!
Finchplucker: Of course. Or maybe.........Liquid oxygen.
Dave: Um if you "Dehydrate" water, you don't get H2 and O2. You get nothing. Dehydrate means to take the water out of. ;-)
Dave: What you guys want is Electrolosis, which will give you your H2 and O2
Dave: And you're better off using Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) instead of water (H2O) because you'll get an even mix of H2 and O2 that way ;-)
Finchplucker: But what if we don't want an even mix? I mean, we want to save our H2O2 because chunks of liver don't fizzle in water, now do they?
Dave: Sure. You just take a big battery, stick the two electrodes in a bucket of salt water, and VOILA! Those gasses that come bubbling out are H2 and O2 -- one collects near the positive pole and one near the negative. Can't remember which is which, though.
Silvercup: H2 by negative 'cause it's positive
Dave: I almost blew up my house one time doing this little experiement.
Finchplucker: H2 is stable, because the valence electron orbitals are filled, and it is neutral.
Dave: Of course, I made the mistake of using AC instead of DC. *shudder*
Finchplucker: Try this harmless one......Get a chunk of sodium the size of a golf ball and put it in a big pot of water......Just trust me on this.
Finchplucker: Oh, and then run really far really fast.
Dave: Do you think I never took chemistry in high school? We did that little experiment ;-)
Dave: In fact, our Chemistry teacher told a story of how he and a bunch of friends had stolen the whole big block of Sodium from their Chemistry lab in college and gone and thrown it off a bridge.
Finchplucker: OOh! What happened?
Dave: He said that even though they were probably a hundred feet from the water, the flames from the burning hydrogen reach all the way up to them. They had to run like hell. :-)
Enigma: That is one awe-inspiring story
Finchplucker: Wow. we were thinking of doing the same, except into the school pool. Bad idea, come to think of it.
Dave: WAY bad idea!
Dave: Actually, if you want the most ionic compound available, mix some Francium with some Fluorine gas.
Finchplucker: Cesium chloride does the exact opposite of sodium. Basically, the test tube gets so cold you can't hold onto it any more.
Finchplucker: Well, maybe in two years, for a senior prank. Hehe he heh
Dave: Don't throw it in the pool, man. Especially if it's an *indoor* pool. Take it to some really high bridge and toss it off. And be ready to run, if my old chemistry teacher was to be believed!
Finchplucker: How about just a tennis ball sized chunk? I mean, it's outdoors, and the flying sodium shouldn't do too much damage to the new gym.
Dave: First of all, that pool would need some serious cleaning at the least, probably it might not even be usable after all that Sodium Hydroxide ate away at it. Not to mention you'd probably blow up the school ;-)
Finchplucker: Maybe I'll just swallow a chunk of it and see what happens.
Silvercup: Now there's an idea...
Dave: Oh, *there's* a brilliant idea.
Dave: Although we used to joke in high school about filling up some guys swim trunk pockets with Sodium ;-)
Finchplucker: Now that would be a classic prank. He wouldn't even know what hit him.
Dave: Try this one -- pour some liquid nitrogen into your mouth.
Finchplucker: I did.
Dave: Cool!
Finchplucker: Yeah. I have no tongue, but it's still good. You see, after the cold, I figured the best thing to do was to drink boiling water to even it out. It kinda cracked my teeth, the temperature change.
Ticia: Wow, My chemistry teacher blew a hole in the ceiling once. But I don't remember what he used to do it. I do remember we got out of class because the fire alarm went off after that.
Dave: My chemistry teacher (a few years before I had him as a teacher) nearly did the same thing. He put a little too much sodium in the bucket of water during the classic "sodium in water" demonstration. By the time I got to chemistry class a few years later, there were these weird stains all over the ceiling ;-)
Finchplucker: My prof came close to too much, but instead he just filled the room with smoke and bits of sodium that burned the wet napkin when he tried to clean it up.
Enigma: Francium would be really awesome to throw into an ocean... if only it had a half-life longer than 20 minutes...
Dave: A kid in my class got a small speck of sodium on his arm during that demonstration. One of the other teachers was like "wash it off, wash it off!" but he just stood there until it stopped fizzing then flicked it off, *then* washed his arm. He was like, "The stuff reacts with water, I'm not sticking my arm underneath the faucet with a big chunk of it on me!"
Finchplucker: I remember the experiment when we put magnesium into water to get H2, and we bottled the H2 and made a makeshift rocket.
Darien: Have you guys heard the story of my physics teacher and the Vandegraff generator?
Darien: Do you know what a Vandegraff generator is?
Finchplucker: I do not.
Finchplucker: What is a Vandegraff generator?
Darien: A Vandegraff generator is a large brass ball on a pedestal that generates a strong static charge. Typically, the instructor has students place their hands on it and the whole class gawks at said student's hair stands straight up. Also, there is a little glass-handled gizmo with which litlle lightning bolts can be generated by moving it along the surface.
Finchplucker: Oh, I know those. My teacher lit a lightbulb from fifteen feet away on one of those.
Dave: I've had quite a few encoutners with Vandegraff generators, actually ;-) What's *your* tale of woe?
Darien: My physics teacher got bored with his glass-handled gizmo and decided to poke the Vandegraff generator with a ball-point pen. With a metal casing.
Darien: And then a jag of electricity jumpend up his arm, he shrieked, and he threw the pen across the room and screamed. And this man had a PhD in Physics, no less. :-}
Finchplucker: Oh, that must have been great. One of the chemistry teachers touched one of the bulbs full of hydrogen gas that was having an electrical current run through it. She shocked herself, as is to be expected.
Finchplucker: On the simple side, what's fun is heating a clay triangle on a bunsen burner for ten minutes and putting it on a sheet of paper.
Finchplucker: Or playing "Hot Clay Triangle" with it.
Finchplucker: You know, for when hot potato gets boring.
Dave: Ok, anybody want to hear *my* Vandegraff story? I think mine's better than Darien's ;-)
Darien: Dave, you always think your stuff is better than mine.
Enigma: Go for it
Dave: Ok. Well, we students were playing with the generator one day, and were also going tired of the "usual" demonstrations. We had heard the stories of being able to light lightbulbs with a vandegraff, so we wanted to try that one out.
Nyperold: Watt a way to glow!
Dave: So I dug around in the physics/chemistry teachers spare room, and found a short fluorescent light bulb. Meanwhile, my friend stood in two plastic buckets with his hands on the Vandegraff building up a charge.
Dave: I walked out of the junk room with the bulb, and walked right over to my buddy, who's hair was standing on end by now.
Dave: As I approched him, he says, "No no, wait, not like that!" as I pointed the end of the bulb at him and held the other end.
Dave: I didn't even get to touch him with the bulb. A lightning bolt about three inches long shot out of his shoulder and struck the lightbulb. My hand hurt from the shock. He fell backwards and caught himelf on the table behind him, thus grounding himself again and giving himself *another* nasty shock.
Dave: The he starts yelling at me. "You were supposed to get in the buckets too!"
Dave: I still have no idea how that experiment is *supposed* to work, but it sure didn't work *that* way!
Dave: I'm not sure what either of us were thinking, actually. I'm not even sure the experiment works with a fluoresent bulb.
Nyperold: I'd guess he kept his ion you after that!
Dave: I have a faint recollection of the bulb lighting up briefly, but I've never been sure if that was really the bulb or just that huge static discharge from my friend's shoulder ;-)
Dave: It was insane. He must have been standing there holding the generator for ten minutes while I rummaged around for a lightbulb.
* Brunnen_G thinks Science is Wonderful
Brunnen_G: Especially when you can get lightning bolts to shoot out of your friend's shoulder. That RULES.
Dave: So, anybody else have any tales of science class woe?
Enigma: Anybody up for a kinda-not-really-pretty biology class story?
* Darien is afraid of anything described as a "not-really-pretty Biology class story."
Nyperold: You're "in luck", this is a kinda-not-really-pretty Biology story.
Dave: Does it involve disection or eating
Enigma: Yes, no.
Dave: I'm game.
Finchplucker: Let's hear it
Enigma: Ok, this is what happened: We were dissecting frogs in Bio, and one of the kids (a class clown) used one of those pokey-things to poke the frog in the belly.
Enigma: He made a little froggy-geyser and proceeded to shoot the people around him with it.
* Darien was justified in being afraid of this story.
Enigma: Other inbreds followed suite, and soon there were a whole bunch of people squeezing frogs at each other. Juices were flying.
Dave: Eeeewwww.
Enigma: They didn't know that it was the bladder they had punctured.
Silvercup: that's gross
Dave: That's disgusting.
Finchplucker: Hee hee hee cool

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