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From: Patrick Hughes <phughes#NoSpam.swbell.net>


I have the dubious distinction of having been the only one I know to have
blown-up my very first chemistry experiment.  Basically it was done not so
much to acquire knowledge as to familiarize us with the equipment.  The
idea was to put some materials on a flat piece of steel, place it on a ring
above a bunsen burner, and heat it.  As I recall we had a strip of
magnesium, some sugar, a piece of iron, some sulfur and a few other odds &
ends.  The sulfur was the only thing that did anything interesting (so
far).  It's important to note the arrangement of the counters on which we
worked.  The tops had a sink off to one end and there were two gas valves
for the burners, one on each side of the sink's faucet with the outlets
pointing toward the sink.

Anyway, once I had successfully made the collection of stuff on the steel
plate red hot and noted the results on paper it was time to clean up.
Unfortunately in the process of shutting down the heat I had pulled the
hose off the gas valve shortly before turning it off.  The gas collected in
the sink.  When the hot metal met the gas: WHOOMP!  Credible observers tell
me I was standing there momentarily enveloped by a bright blue ball
 that stretched from the sink to the ceiling.  I lost most of my eyebrows,
the hair on my arms, but got a fairly good haircut once I'd shampooed the
odor out.

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From: "Charles S." <michele.seipp#NoSpam.verizon.net>

IN 6th grade our delightful teacher had decided to take us on a field trip
to Pisgah (I think this is how yo uspell it) Volcano in Barstow CA. He had
wanted us to crawl around in the lava tubes and check them out. Well about
3 hours later we emerged dirty and with major headaches (From banging our
head on the freaking ceiling) he told us it was time to take a special
trip. 1/2 of us would go with him into a "Secret" Cave and the other half
would follow Mr. Johnson to the VOlcano. I was one of the lucky ones to go
to the cave. I will never forget the hell that broke loose there.
First thing that happened was we had a bomb threat. We were 50 feet into
the earth and we have a bomb threat. It was amazing. Some fool found a box
that was heavy and contained some black powder in it. He started screaming
I Found a bomb!  I found a bomb! We all looked up and took off failing to
scale the wall that mared the entrance to the cave. Then our teacher
lumbers over there and opens the box.......... in it contains the
"Bomb". This bomb was made up of powdered lava rock and paper and a bit of
ink. College students had been signing the paper in this box for an
experiments. The fool who scared us didn't have a good day after school :p.
The second thing and most devestating has to be when we traversed this
little one foot by one foot hole in the wall. I was the first one in along
with my obese friend. Well halfway through we come to a low point in the
ceiling. I get through with a tad of difficulty but as I continue on I hear
a frantic shout "What the he** I am stuck!" sure enough my fat little
friend had gotten himself wedged inbetween the low ceiling and the floor. I
panicked and tryed to turn around and I couldn't move! I as well had gotten
stuck. I uttered some curses at him for being so stupid. We called through
the tunnel for help. About 10 minutes later our teacher came through and
gave us a shove. We were free and scrambled frantically to get out of
their. I crawled a little too fast and shot out the hole expecting to hit
the floor without injury. What I disregarded however was the fact that the
tunnel climbed upwarcds! and not at a slight angle! By the time I had
reached the end we were over 12 feet off the ground. As I came out the end
and didnt tou h the ground, I tumbled 12 feet down onto the floor. And if
that wasnt bad enough, I missed the side of the pathway and rolled another
5 feet into a pit of blackness. Barely being able to see I got up and felt
along the edges till I reached the pathway to the main area were the
students were laughing their butts off. I was ok except for these few
things: A) I was covered in a black soot B) My shirt was ripped C) My pants
kinda fell down... D) I was extremely cut up and a tad dizzy. My fat friend
got the message and refrained from fallign down. He had the parent helper
below help his rolly polly butt down. Anyhow, the girl that was mainly
laughing at me about my pants fell and sat on a cactus. I got the last
laugh heh.

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From: glyle#NoSpam.marie.seas.ucla.edu (George Lyle)

Not quite a prank, but dang funny:

While I was in a high school chem class, the teacher was showing how to
properly heat a test tube with a Bunsen burner.  He said "never point the
mouth of the tube toward you like this (pointing tube at his head)" Always
point the test tube away from your body (turns test tube away).  At that
instant, the alcohol/acid solution in the tube shot out and ignited,
flaming a 5 foot periodic table on the wall.  Half of class broke out
laughing while other half was frozen in seats.  Teacher grabs fire bottle
and puts out fire.  Teacher never gave that demo in the same way again!

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From: tomcheng#NoSpam.soda.berkeley.edu (Thomas T. Cheng)

We must have had the same chem teacher or something.  The exact same thing
happened in our class, except it was our homework that caught on fire.

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From: michaec#NoSpam.beaufort.sfu.ca (Strider Coyle)

        This happened to me, except the *bottom* of the tube blew off and
lit my binder on fire.

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From: Caththomas22#NoSpam.aol.com

My science teacher was such and interesting specimen. On our introduction lesson while explaining the safety in the classroom, he told us never to wave our hands about during experiments as he did this, he knocked over his bunsen burner setting light to all his lesson plans for most of the term. The next year while taking a class exam I caught him looking for some chemical in a jar. By sniffing the bottles. (not like we were told how to) but by sniffing them nose to rim. I just burst out laughing when I saw him stagger after finding the amonia. Good Old Mr B.

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From: isoner#NoSpam.clt.fx.net (Isoner)

My science teacher gave a demonstration on electric current by makeing
circits in beakers of salt water.  Then he dropped it so that half of it
was in a beaker and the other half was out.  Theoreticaly he should have
been able to pick it up with no problem because it was not completing a
circut.  would have been safe, except he was leaning against the metal
plumbing.  He almost put a dent in the chalk board.

Later in the year he used the gas lines in the class rooms to blow bubbles
and them ignite them with a match.  There is still a scorch mark uon the

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From: jmartin#NoSpam.ll.mit.edu (James Martin)

While I was a junior in high school, I took chemistry under our department
chairman, Peter Quackenbush McKee. Mr. McKee was sharp, except for a
tendency to do experiments that get out of hand. His most notable exploit
(?) occurred during a demonstration of the thermite reaction.  This was
done in a ceramic "cup" which sat in a sandbox on a lab bench covered with
asbestos paper. In order to give a better idea of how hot it gets,
Mr. McKee put a couple of nails and a couple of brass screws in the bottom
of the cup before filling it with thermite. Well, actually he filled the
cup about half-way with thermite, paused, then said "Well, let's go all the
way" or words to that effect, THEN filled the cup. This immediately got our
attention, since we had seen him in action before. He then put a little
starter mixture on the top, and stuck a magnesium strip into it. In order
that we might see the proceedings more clearly, he turned out the
lights. As he was lighting the magnesium strip, he advised us, "This may
spit a little, so why don't the guys in the front row move back a little?"

This was enough to cause the entire class to move to the back wall. He
shrugged, then lit the strip.

The magnesium strip burned brightly until it reached the starter mixture,
which sputtered a little, then the thermite caught. It did indeed spit a
little, but as soon as the reaction zone moved below the surface it all
became rather tame. After, say, 15 or 20 seconds, he remarked that we had
gotten excited for nothing.

Then the reaction zone reached the bottom of the cup.

Now, thermite is hot enough that the byproducts are molten aluminum oxide
floating in molten iron. This does nothing to iron nails, but it is hot
enough to vaporize brass.

In the darkened classrom, it looked for all the world like a Bessemer
converter firing off in a steel mill. Blobs of molten iron were scattered
across the floor like incandescent blobs of mercury as everyone tried
simultaneously to levitate. Smoke rose from the benchtop, where puddles of
iron had eaten through the asbestos paper, and from the baseboards where
they had caught fire. It was all very impressive and no one was hurt. What
more can one ask from a science experiment?

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From: GMNiehues#NoSpam.aol.com

 Liquid nitrogen can be a fun thing.  In my freshman chem class at a large
university, the prof was fond of demos.  In a class of 300 people,
something is needed to keep them awake.  So one day, he has several liters
of liquid nitrogen, which he was using for his demos.  He did the usual --
freeze a rubber ball and then shatter it, shrink a balloon, etc.  When he
was finished, he had quite a bit left, but decided to do something with it
rather than just return it to the storeroom.  Since liquid nitrogen in an
open container will produce a nice fog, he said to the class, "I'll just
pour it in the sink here."  He did, and continued lecturing.  About half a
minute later, there was a nice POP! when the cast iron sink cracked in
front of 300 witnesses.

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From: Huw Gallon <hgallon#NoSpam.openlinksw.co.uk>

My father graduated in Chemical Engineering just after the war. About this
time, some of the first polymers were being produced, specifically urea
formaldehyde. My father's class were told to evaluate and "cost" the
process. Naturally he began with a rough-and-ready demonstration of the

The constituents are, of course, urea and formalin. Sulphuric acid is used
as a catalyst to start the reaction. The word of caution is that one must
add the sulphuric acid FIRST, then pour the reagents in a few drops at a
time. Not my Dad. Into a flask went a pound or so of urea, several pints of
formalin and finally the acid.

The revolting mixture shuddered, heaved and made several disgusting
noises. My Dad and his fellow students first gathered round and looked
interested, then hastily backed away. Finally, the mixture erupted, the
narrow neck of the flask allowing the "ejecta" to accelerate to quite a
speed. It hit the ceiling and splattered over nearby desks and
equipment. There it set, very rapidly and very hard.

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                      COLD FUSION
From: Chris Murray 

 Hello group,

I've lurked in and out of this group occasionally over the last 6 months or
so, but I just remembered a story that might make some of you chuckle.

When I was studying Materials Science in Trinity College Dublin years ago,
the whole cold fusion thing erupted. Of course the media went mad over the
whole thing and public interest was huge. Out of public demand, and no
doubt spotting an opportunity for some free publicity, the Physics
Department decided to give a public lecture on the science behind cold

The day came and the crowd was much bigger than I thought it would be,
maybe about 300-400 people - students and other lecturers and I suppose
people from the press.  They filled the physics large lecture theatre and I
believe the technicians even rigged up a TV connection to the smaller
theatre downstairs. I was late for the lecture (as usual) and the only
remaining seat in the large theatre was right in the middle of the front

Prof. Mike Coey was giving the talk, an old hand in magnetism and
superconductivity. He had even set up a little experiment on the desk in
front of him, consisting of a few beakers, bits of metal, wires and a
couple of thermometers. He explained that he had loaded some Pd with
hydrogen and would now look for the reaction. He said that if the reaction
worked, one could expect to see a temperature rise in the fusion cell over
the control cell. There were little lead bricks surrounding the experiment,
presumably to stop any radiation which might escape. The was a little
unnerving as my seat meant that I was sitting about 5 feet from the thing!

Anyway, he started the experiment and proceeded to give the main part of
the talk. Interesting stuff, specially the bit about the original
discoverers' experimental meltdown! The came the big moment - did the
desktop experiment work!?

The crowd went expectantly quiet. Mike was having a little difficulty
reading the exact temperatures from the thermometers and had to stick his
head right into the guts of the experiment to have a good look.
Unfortunately I decided that this would be a good time to take a photo.  I
grabbed my ancient Zenith camera, switched on the flash and ......POP!
Poor Mike must have had a bit of a fright when all of a sudden there was a
blinding flash of light! It must have seemed like the whole bloody thing
had gone off! The crowd were pretty amused, although I don't think Mike was
too impressed.

Funny thing was that the experiment had actually produced a positive
result! The temperature was higher in the fusion cell!

Pity the bloody photograph wasn't in focus!


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From: "Ironclad Taco" <scones#NoSpam.fish.co.uk>
From 'scones' scones#NoSpam.fish.co.uk
When I was In year 7 (thats 11-12 yr olds) we had a trainee teacher for
science for a while. It was the lesson of term so he decided to 'show off'
a bit. He was going to show us the H2O + K -> H2 + KO2 (I think thats
right) experiment, so he had a large water bath on his desk with perespex
screens surrounding it. He started small with lithium and the class gasped
as the lithium fizzed a bit and then dissapeared. He then used sodium the
sodium whizzed around the bowl, caught fire and gradually, it all reacted
with water and was gone with a small 'pop'. He then moved to pottasium. For
this demonstration he made the people in the front row wear goggles. He had
trouble cutting the pottasium and broke several stanley-knives attempting
to do so. Eventually he gave up and dumped the large chunk in the bowl. The
class watched as the potassium spontaneously caught fire, whizzed around
the water bath and then exploded. It would have been fine had it not been
such a large chunk of potassium. Pieces of pottasium shot up into the air
and melted holes in the ceiling which are there to this day. One piece of
potassium shot over the screen and burnt a clean hole in the fleece of one
of the people in the front row at the base of their zip.
And the moral of that story is *never* *ever*, under *any* circumstances
sit in the front row of a science lesson. :-)

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From : tomas_thefox2003#NoSpam.yahoo.ie (Tomेs Fuchsbauer)

                Japanese Advances in 'Toilet Technology’...

Basic Moral Wisdom : 


This is meant as a comical observation of international ineptitude. No
disrespect is meant to anyone, quite the contrary. Such inquisitive acts
frequently facilitate us getting a good well-needed laugh in an
increasingly more serious world. If there are any errors and someone is
more familiar with this kind of latrine, please let us know ! Here goes :

I was told the 'skeleton of this exquisite parable’ by a Japanese co-worker
over a decade ago (back in late 1992), about how a 'Westerner’ tried
unsuccessfully to understand the inner workings of Japanese toilet
technology through performance of some personal 'invasive’ research...

It was a long time ago so I cannot recall the Japanese gentleman’s name and
hope the tale is essentially accurate... arigato gozaimashita Nihon Jin-san
(thanks again for the story). I have elaborated somewhat to facilitate a
more entertaining read : The inventive Japanese have long been ahead in
matters of technology and innovation. Even the humble lavatory has been
taken to new levels of scientific development. The control units on either
side of some models make the things look like they don’t look out of place
on 'Star Trek’, 'Deepshit Nine’, 'Voyager’, or somewhere similar.

What we used to term the 'luxurious wooden toilet seat’ long ago is now
making a come-back. But in Japan the seats are typically electrically
heated (to a nice comfortable temperature). Some models also have a thin
rod that moves forward and squirts a thin stream of 'cleaning fluid’ (most
likely plain water) up the users 'back-side’ after the job is done. One
curious Westerner (what else would you expect from a 'manager’) wanted to
examine this a bit more closely, so during a toilet visitation break he
decided to take a 'real’ look. This close-up inspection resulted in the
jacket of his suit, aswell as the shirt & tie..., receiving a nice dose of
liquid. He did his very best to 'clean himself up’, but the evidence was
still clearly visible. Apparantly a few Japanese managers and other
personnel happened to be in the vacinity (ie. the corridor), according to
my information, and they did manage to keep a straight face (with
difficulty) until he had passed them by. Then an uncontainable eruption of
laughter followed.  

Exactly when this incident transpired I was not told, suffice to say it had
probably been a relatively recent event.

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From: "Steven Ryder" <steven_rangers_rule#NoSpam.hotmail.com>

in third year chemistry we had just finished an experiment with meths or
asatane and the teacher started talking about this experiment that she
thought we had done we couldnt be arsed listening to her talk so we said we
hadent done it so she told us to gather around the front desk she went to
the store cupboard and got this old batterd syrup tin that had a pipe
coming out from it the bit where you put the smoking stuff in she then
proceded to put a spatulaor two off chrushed charcoal into the pipe then
lit a candle she then started talking about how when things brunt the gases
made have more volume than the substance burnt me and a freind looked in
the pipe and thought thats not very much so we ladled in tons more charcoal
when she wasnt looking she then came back placed the candle in the tin took
no notice of the seemingly multiplying charcoal ,attached a footbal pump to
the pipe ,explaind that when the pump was pushed it would make the charcoal
in to a cloud and come into contact with the flame and explode she put the
lid on me and my freind backed away passed the message on to other freinds
only two people were standing close to the front this geordie bastard and
the teacher she took hold of the pump we coverd our ears then boom which
doesnt nearly cover the sound made the top fired off with a huge flame out
of the top the sides split a bit of the tin went flying off smashed a glass
off asatane with a flame following closely behind the asatane went up which
left another scorch mark the teacher didnt have any eyebrows and the
geordie one seemed to have had a little accident.

apparently people in the college which was across the football (or if you
are american soccer) field heard it.i am bloody surprised the teacher didnt
investigate the nature of such a big explosion.

p.s do not try this if the class room has a low ceiling that class room had
a ceiling about 3.5 metres high

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From: "Katrien De Gusseme" <katriendegusseme#NoSpam.hotmail.com>

One class of organic chemistry, had us making esters... the smelly ones. We
were supposed to make one that the assistant called "banana oil". That it
hadn't stolen it's name became very clear when I was doing the final step
in the process. Gently shake the ingredients in a "scheidtrechter"
(separating funnel?) en release the CO2 that forms while the reaction is
taking place.

Apparently, I was not gentle enough for the cork shot out and my whole
lab-table was covered with the stuff. Making the whole lab smell like
banana's instantly.

It still smelled after cleaning with solvents and airing the lab for 24

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From: "Timothy Riley" <trileynd2#NoSpam.earthlink.net>

 I have not always been a geologist.  No, I am still a physicist, and am
learning to be a geologist.  There is just two small problems with this.
One I hate being out doors, and two I am accident prone.  Perhaps this is
not the best combination for a geologist, but I make it work.  I have had
to make it work for past experiences have forced me to make them work.
Perhaps a few examples would help.

I learned that field work is not for me.  This was painfully obvious when I
was taking glacial geology and not nice things happened to me.  Okay in
Ohio we have very nice glacial deposits.  Now we can usually only see, up
close, the deposits when a small stream or river has cut out a section and
exposed the glacial deposits.  Well on one of those trips with the class I
found the one spot in the stream, that we had to cross, where there was a
three foot hole.  I am only five feet eight, and the water was up about two
feet.  You do the math!

It was also on glacial field trips that I found I have bad luck with
falling rocks.  There were trees growing on top of these out crops of
glacial material, and well a stiff wind can blow these things over.  One
incident of this I had a choice.  I could have a hundred and fifty pound
tree land on me like a pile driver, or dive into the river.  I came home
wet that day, but without a cracked skull.

One field trip with my mineralogy class we went to a quarry and scavenged
the large boulders before they were crushed up into gravel.  Okay these
were huge boulders.  I was standing on one the size of a bus and planned on
jumping over a deep space between the boulders and land on another bolder
and swing my legs over the top.  That didn't happen.  Okay first I had to
jump onto a lower bolder and then I would jump onto the bolder I planned on
swinging my legs over.  When I jumped onto the lower bolder my momentum
carried me face first into the bolder I planned on swinging over.  Well I
was wearing a garment that had pockets on the front, and in those pockets I
had the minerals that I intended to keep.  Well I hit a mostly flat bolder
and those minerals were jammed into my abdomen.  I say mostly since there
was a part of the bolder jutting out right where my right leg came into
contact (I still have the scar).  Well when I hit the bolder I hung on for
my life.  You see I was hanging over the deep pit between the boulders, and
if I fell I would be even more hurt.  So pulling myself up by my finger
tips I made it to the top of a different bolder.  When one of my class
mates asked if I was okay my response was, "let me check.  No."

My latest excursion out of the lab was on a paleontology trip to collect
fossils.  We went to a road cut just outside of Cincinnati where the road
cut was gigantic thirty to twenty foot high steps in shale and limestone.
The way we could get to the next step was to climb up the area where the
rain had washed down the step.  Well I was climbing one (in hopes of
finding a trilobite) and going slow.  I was carrying my rock hammer and
collection bag with me and when I had my head just peeking over the top of
the next step I placed the bag and hammer on the step and started to pull
myself up.  That was when the shale decided it didn't like me anymore.  If
you have ever played with shale you know it crumbles under any pressure,
and that is what it did to me.  I felt like I was on a three stooges show
because as me shirt was ripped apart so did my skin begin to do so.  When I
stopped at the bottom of the step a quick inspection just meant that I
needed Band-Aids, and I had to climb up and get my rock hammer.

On that same trip we were on the other side of the road just getting to the
level we needed.  Okay I was trying to get to the step and my boot got
caught under one rock and my body still went forward.  Well to get both
feet under me I sort of jumped, not the smartest thing I had ever done.  I
went forward head first.  I have always said that being short is not so
bad, now I think that it is a God send.  If I was the six foot tall man
that all the women find attractive I would be dead.  When I landed I landed
on my knees and hands.  My fingers were curling over the edge of the step.
My head stuck over the side and I was looking at the thirty feet down to
the next step, and the seventy feet down to the road.  I was told that the
professor fell silent and was in shock when he saw me almost go over the
edge.  My line after that was, "Guess who still has a heart beat?"

These are just some of the experiences that lead me to believe that when I
become a graduate student I will not even make it to my doctoral thesis.  I
will die so quick that I might not even get to see a winter.  So this is my
testament to people that says, "I warned you."

-S. P. Riley

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