Sunday, January 08, 2006

Anvils, Danger, and Questions

A couple of questions for readers:

1. I'm really interested in hearing from you if you've witnessed or participated in anvil firings. Please comment and share your experiences.

A message I received from a reader on the previous post raises an important point -- whoosh, boom, and splat activities can be dangerous, and you can't trust everything you read on the Internet. (The above pic comes from, which has a lot of good generic anvil info.)

2. Many of the posts here relate to experiences that are certainly dangerous when done incorrectly and may be dangerous even when they are done correctly (see previous post regarding the Bird-Man suit).

Skydivers, I assume, risk death every time they jump. Making your own high powered rocket engine is by most accounts, extremely hazardous. Big tesla coils require big,highly dangerous capacitors to work. Yet people do and make these things all the time.
What's the most dangerous science or technology related thing you've ever built ? I'd love to hear about it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"What's the most dangerous science or technology related thing you've ever built ? I'd love to hear about it!"

Well, there's ammonium tri-iodide; contact explosive. I don't know how far you want to get into "kitchen" explosives formulas and the like, but this stuff is prettty incredible. You can leave out the insttructions--they are on the web elsewhere.

A simple mix of high molar amonia (ammonium hydroxide, not washing amonia. Contrary to what you might read, this stuff won't work) and pure crystaline iodine will precipitate Amonium tri iodide. USed to be you could buy both at Payless in the pharmacy, but these days... Pass it through a coffee filter and it's a nice workable--and safe--sludge. Let it dry, though, and it's one of the most unstable compounds you can find--MUCH less stable than mercury fulminate or even nitroglycerin. Literally a touch, or even a little heat, will set it off.

So what good is it? Well, in tiny quantities, while still wet, you can "splatter" tiny droplets over a concrete floor and let it dry. When your little brother walks across the floor, he'll be met with tiny ladyfinger-sized bangs (OK, it was my big brother; I lived pretty near the edge).

In larger quantities, it can be injected, while wet, into things like... locks. When, say the principal opens his private office door, and when with great luck, the school bully happens to be walking past, well, life altering things canand do happen.

When the stuff explodes it makes a big noise, a cool pink explosion and a cute little purple mushroom cloud--all highly toxic and very, very staining.

If packed in small chunks into something absorbtive--cracked tapioca pudding--dry--for instance, it both dries quickly and is cushioned--maybe enough to be put into gelatin or plastic capsules, which then become mini grenages you can actually put in your pocket--just a few!--for later throwing (again at your hypothetical little brother). It can also be shot from wrist rocket slingshots some pretty good distances. Best not to forget that aiming the slingshot puts the explosive capsule rather near your eye; if it should detonate in the pouch... well, my vision eventually cleared and the story about the big brown and yellow "bruise" all over my face evidently worked with Mom.

We came to our senses before accepting the dare to put an ounce or so into one of those big plastic capsules out of the 50-cent vending machine--and before we actually got expelled from school. Of course when we were older, there were the black powder and flashcube boobie traps we used to set while the deer hunters were out tramping about, but that's a story for another day.