Reader Mark Acey wrote me with a interesting note regarding fun with sodium. Sodium is a white and chalky in pure form and cuts easily with a knife. Sodium and the other alkali metals haven't been one of my favorite chemical series previously (I've always been partial towards halogens) but this might change my mind, for sodium reacts quite spectacularly with water, per this simple equation:
2Na + 2H2O --> 2Na+ + 2OH- + H2(g)
Here's an excerpt from his note:
I have not perused all of your blog, so don't know if you have noticed/mentioned this site. Suffice to say I'm glad THEY did it and video taped it rather than me (or my son). It makes one wonder when they are standing around this stuff while it's burning, breathing in some of the fumes and thinking aloud "I wonder what the smoke consists of?", while various people (and children?) get in for a close look (while various smoke induced coughs are going on in the background). Also, I wonder if this pretty much debunks the myth of the kid that bought a brick of sodium, rowed out to sea, and was never found again after one large explosion.
It seems that there should have been a number of (large) explosions as the brick shot itself back into the air. The only other thing I could surmise is that if the brick were to be dropped into the ocean unopened (I believe the story goes that it was wrapped in something like wax or wax paper), whereupon a hole is pricked open upon striking some corral or rock or whatever prickly ocean-bottom thing, creating a huge super-heated hydrogen bubble that created a massive single explosion upon entry into the more oxygen-rich atmosphere. But that's just a guess. Perhaps you could try it for your next book - "Fun with Sodium" or "Sodium Isn't Just For Food".
The URL of the page he is referring to is here. It's a really good page and I couldn't help but laugh and cringe at the same time. Anyway, after reading that page, I thought to myself, "hell yes, a sodium party! That's the ticket! I could bring brick of the stuff to my brother's lake cabin and do some sodium based explosive fishing.
So I went online to try and find solid sodium. I couldn't find any on Ebay, but Fisher Scientific sells scientific grade sodium. But it's nearly $300 a pound! That's a lot of dough to invest in a single good explosion, especially since commerical sodium goes for about $40 a pound.
So the sodium party will have to wait. If anyone knows of good deals on solid sodium, lemme know.