Common Chemicals that Misbehave (Jun, 1935)

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Common Chemicals that Misbehave

by KEN MURRAY

FOLLOWING textbook instructions in performing chemical experiments at home may be conducive to safety, but the real thrills of research come from those experiments which you work out for yourself.

Certain chemicals just do not get along well together, and can misbehave in a manner which may cause acute embarrassment—and pain. To avoid accidents, keep the following list of chemical tricksters in mind whenever you venture into free-lance experimenting. IODINE mixed with ammonia water forms a brown sludge at the bottom of a test tube. This is nitrogen iodide; when a piece the size of a pin head is dried on paper, it will explode with a very loud bang at the slightest jar. Larger quantities explode of their own weight before becoming powerful enough to do damage. Never add volatile oils to crystals of iodine—they will fulminate, and explode.

HYDROCHLORIC ACID mixed with nux vomica is an unstable solution, liable to break its container several hours after mixing.

COPPER NITRATE which is perfectly dry is unsafe to pound with a hammer or pestle.

SULPHURIC ACID mixed with oil of turpentine may explode. When sulphuric and nitric acids are mixed, never add hydrocarbons in any form. Even the addition of sugar syrup will make a compound which may become extremely undesirable.

CHLORATES, particularly potassium chlorate, are very unstable and combine explosively with other common chemicals such as sulphur, sodium hyposulphite (ordinary photography hypo), tannic and oxalic acids, iodine, and potassium permanganate.

POTASSIUM PERMANGANATE will cause spontaneous combustion when mixed with either glycerine or oxalic acid, or with a mixture of alcohol and distilled water. To show the danger of this chemical, mix ten grains of the permanganate with five drops of sulphuric acid; place a little on a glass rod, and touch to a bit of cotton soaked in alcohol. The cotton will ignite immediately.

ANTIMONY SULPHURET, the chemical which provides the crackling sound in Fourth of July “heel-crackers,” must be mixed carefully with other chemicals. Particularly avoid mixing it with a chlorate.

8 comments
  1. Stannous says: April 29, 20079:16 am

    I have a small bottle of iodine… I’ll get back to you about whether this still works.

  2. jayessell says: April 29, 20073:40 pm

    Oh those naughty, naughty chemicals!

  3. Rick Auricchio says: April 29, 20077:02 pm

    Aw, jeez, now you’ll be rushed off to Gitmo…

  4. Caya says: April 29, 20077:44 pm

    Knowledge is a powerful thing. In 1935, Hitler was coming into power. During Hitler’s reign, radios and newspapers were banned- this kind of information would have been gold to the various Underground Movements, fighting not so many years after this article was printed. Now, we have all the information one could ever think of, right at our fingertips. But the general populace is too hypnotized by television, movies, video games, and lying rhetoric and propaganda from all sides. They are overwhelmed with stimulus and input, to where rational thought and awareness are inbred out of them. The information that would save them does them no good, for they cannot think. And, it is no coincidence.

  5. Caya says: April 29, 20077:48 pm

    And getting rushed off to Gitmo isn’t that far-fetched. Compare the Nazi gun laws and other Nazi laws with America’s, and the direction we are headed, and you’ll see. We are in a totalitarian military dictatorship, and the time will come when the velvet gloves will come off. The laws that we let Bush pass that allow any U.S. Citizen to be held without counsel, without recourse, will be fully enforced, someday.

  6. Rick Auricchio says: April 30, 20074:28 pm

    Yes, that was the gist of my comment. Police state…

  7. MAKE: Blog says: May 1, 20073:56 am

    Common chemicals that misbehave…

    The real thrills are really what always attracts me when performing chemical experiments at home… Modern Mechanix 1935 FOLLOWING textbook instructions in performing chemical experiments at home may be conducive to safety, but the real thrills of res…

  8. mlines says: May 2, 200711:52 am

    Teaching chemistry without explosives is like teaching a foreign language without cuss words. It makes for more politically correct lessons, but the lack of knowledge may get the student into trouble some day.

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