Two more chemical reactions, just for you (and that other guy)

Earlier this week, Cracked ran my article about chemical reactions.

The article reached over a million views, and even went viral—holding the number one most viral spot on Cracked for a single glorious day yesterday. Yes, I took a screenshot of that, because if you’re going to be an obnoxious narcissist, you may as well document it.

Yet I’ve submitted two more reactions that didn’t make the final cut.

Now, following my tradition of sharing cut Cracked entries with you, here they are:

1. Potassium Chlorate & Sugar

Potassium chlorate is an insanely powerful oxidiser. It was commonly used in fireworks to make them fireworkier. But its use in fireworks has long been banned, because it’s the unstable lunatic of the chemistry world. If you so much as look at it the wrong way it will explode (and possibly stab you in the eye with a rusty fork).

Potassium chlorate continues to see many uses today, most of which center around making things go “BANG” in various ways.

Sugar is both a good source of energy and easy to oxidize. That’s why when you drop a sugar cube into a bit of molten potassium chlorate, you get this:

The reaction between the two gives birth to a shrieking, purple-fire-spitting banshee, bent on consuming our world and everything we love.

What happens is that potassium chlorate undergoes rapid thermal decomposition, producing potassium chloride and oxygen (and the demonic banshee, which is suspiciously missing from the description). This ignites the sugar cube, which generates heat. This heat is enough to further decompose potassium chlorate, resulting in a self-sustaining combustion reaction that continues until the banshee is banished to the netherworld.

I know some of you are wondering: “What if I want to try this at home, but don’t have the necessary ingredients, because they’re hard to come by?”

Don’t worry, I have good news for you: You can use gummy bears instead of sugar!

The advantage of using this method is that you can appease your inner psycho by pretending that the gummy bear is shrieking in agony throughout the whole process. Just make sure there are no kids nearby when you do this—trauma counseling is expensive.

2. Hot Water & Liquid Nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen is obtained by cooling air until it liquefies, then separating nitrogen from oxygen by distillation. Its formula is LN2, but it’s more commonly known as “the liquid that froze the T1000 in Terminator 2.”

Hot water is obtained by heating ordinary water until it’s hot.

So what happens when you mix hot water and liquid nitrogen? I’m glad you asked:

Damn, that looks like a rogue smoke machine gone berserk at a rock festival. What’s your freaking deal, nitrogen?

Here’s what happens: Liquid nitrogen boils at −196 °C, because it’s goddamn nuts. This basically means it’s constantly boiling at room temperature. When you add hot water to the already boiling nitrogen, it boils even faster, because logic!

Those few among us who had the unique opportunity to observe a pot of boiling water know what steam looks like. That’s pretty much what happens to the quickly boiling nitrogen: It escapes as vapor. But since this vaporised nitrogen is still very, very cold, it condenses the water into tiny droplets. The result is a thick mist, or a cloud, if you’re feeling poetic. Or demonic smoke that accompanies the arrival of Lord Lucifer into our plane of existence. Your choice.

Equipped with this knowledge you too can now disappear in a puff of smoke like a true ninja. All you need is to have a bucket of water and 5 gallons of liquid nitrogen on you at all times.

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15 thoughts on “Two more chemical reactions, just for you (and that other guy)

  1. Congratulations on your Cracked success. Ok, the honest version: a million views? I hate you!

    The chemical reactions, so entertainingly described with your usual flare (see what I did there??), brought back memories of my chemistry classes almost 40 years ago. In those days before health & safety strangled all our fun, we used to make gunpowder in our lunch breaks – if I recall there was a potassium compound (? nitrate) involved in the mix.

    Like

    • Yeah education was badass back then. I’m assuming people learned about cannons by firing them in the school yard and about ninjas by stalking strangers in the night and attacking them with nunchuks. If I’m wrong, don’t tell me…I want to hold on to that illusion.

      Thanks, sir. I can only take a minor part of the credit, though. Cracked has a huge established audience of dedicated readers.

      Like

  2. Yeah Daniel!!! I didn’t realize you were a chemistry guy- but you are so smart, I’m not surprised.
    I see many more Cracked articles in your future!
    I would never say you are a narcissist- you have a right to be very proud. Your hard work continues to pay off.
    I enjoyed both the Cracked article and your two experiments here. Very fireworky indeed!

    Like

    • Well I wasn’t a chemistry dude until I started working on that article. That’s the beauty of writing for Cracked–you get to become a temporary expert in a niche subject.

      Thanks for words of encouragement. There are definitely more articles in the works. Glad you enjoyed the fireworkage.

      Like

  3. Congrats on those numbers! That’s fantastic! So is the word “fireworkier.”

    When I froze warts off kids in clinic, if there was a little bit of liquid nitrogen left in my container, I’d pour it in the sink and turn on the water. They thought that was pretty cool. And so did I…

    Like

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