July 19, 2006

Sodium in water? Bah..try Caesium!

Back at high school, I took chemistry, and one class proved to be very memorable.

It involved the old sodium-in-water experiment, where you get a rice-sized piece of sodium and put it in a little bit of water and marvel at it fizzing around, reacting with the water. During this class, me and Affa decided to super-size it, chopping off a piece of sodium as large as an M&M. At the time, we were allowed to do it ourselves, but they banned students doing it after our attempt...

Into the water it went, and the little chunk quickly melted and started dancing on the water. Suddenly - it caught fire! This large blob of molten sodium was spitting sparks all over the bench, giving of white fumes - that's all we expected to happen. Then in an instant - BOOM! - the thing exploded, sending a mushroom cloud into the ceiling, and burning chunks of sodium across the room, giving one guy a couple of impressive holes in his shirt!

We stared in amazement for half a second before it registered, and the entire room fell silent. "Whoa!", came the Neo-esque cry. The teacher, who'd been out of the room at the time, quickly rushed back in to see what caused this earth shattering kaboom and his first glance was at us two - evidently he knew instinctively that it was us. Stifling his own laughter, he banned us from lab for a week, and gave us a puny punishment of 100 lines of "I will not put explosive quantities of sodium into water", but this punishment was more out of procedure - our "thinking outside the box" seemed to impress him more than anything else. The blast marks on our lab notebooks gave some graphics to our results section, and we ended up getting nearly top marks for that lab - minus a point for "unsafe method".

Which brings me to this video of two of the most reactive metals in existence, getting the water treatment. Our puny explosion is nothing compared to this stuff! Good ol' Brainiac...

Posted by Ben at July 19, 2006 08:51 PM
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