From MetaFilter, a collection of Thermite and other memorable experiments:
The thermite page has a nice little video of its own, but the separate thermite video shows a couple of obvious lunatics using much larger quantities of thermite to (1.) drop white-hot molten iron into liquid nitrogen; (2.) burn through the engine block of a small French car; and (3.) burn through the roof, passenger compartment, and fuel tank of said car, having thoughtfully filled the fuel tank first.
Unsafe-science-experiments-you-did-in-class-Friday: an advisory on dangerous chemistry experiments (they mention Nitrogen Triiodide, Chromate Volcanos, Whoosh Bottles, and Potassium Chlorate and Sugar), unwise microwave oven experiments, and, of course, thermite (and a great thermite video). I am amazed anyone survives high school. … Read the warnings.
Note: Nitrogen triiodide is what Heinlein was trying to explain how to manufacture in Farnham’s Freehold. Good thing he got it wrong. The video clip linked from MetaFilter will show why you shouldn’t mess with the stuff.
The guy who does the Unwise Microwave Experiments, also an obvious lunatic, is affiliated with the University of Washington, and is available to do what he calls “An Unwise Science Presentation.” (Puget Sound-area conventions take note, if they haven’t done so already.) He does jolly things like liquefying Pyrex, melting garden-variety ornamental red rocks until magma pours out, and this thing:
At the end of his list of high-voltage kitchen experiments, he says:
During WEIRD GENIUS REAL SCIENCE I tried some extremely pure argon in a spherical glass flask with a tiny piece of aluminum foil as an igniter inside. (The argon used previously had quite a bit of air mixed in.) Hit the button. WAAAA! THE WHOLE GLASS FLASK FILLS WITH BLUE WHITE LIGHTNING! Tiny bright lightning filaments! And afterwards the flask was full of transparent orange gas.
So next, I put a little bit of argon in a white kitchen trash bag, threw in a piece of carbon fiber, then squeezed out the argon (to flush any nitrogen totally out.) Then I filled half the bag with argon, tied it off with a plastic tie, and stuffed it into the oven. Close the door. Hit the start button. Ten seconds of stunning noise, lights, and patterns, and the small audience broke into spontaneous applause, because…
The patterns are easily visible with white kitchen trash bags, although a clear plastic bag might work better. Argon can be had from any welders’ suppply outlet, and a tankful costs about $20… but you need a constant-flow regulator. These cost about $70 new. And there’s a rental charge if you don’t buy your own metal tank. But man, it’s worth it.
- First the ENTIRE OVEN FILLED WITH JITTERING LIGHTING BOLTS
- Next the bag started melting and collapsing, holes appeared
- The lightning spewed right into the air through the holes as the bag shrunk
- The lightning remaining in the bag turned into bright turquoise plasma
- As the bag entirely collapsed, brilliant plasma amoebas crawled frantically around, burning the bag and finding every last bit of remaining argon.
- Silence. Darkness. The stunned crowd cheers.
Why am I not surprised that he links to Jon Singer?
Now go play w/dangerous supermagnets.
Addendum: Erik Olson, in the comment thread:
Thermite is actually very useful for welding rails together. Otherwise, I find it best consumed 1500 pounds at a time. Every state should have a volcano, and if your state wasn’t issued one, make one.