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Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays: The Return

April 21, 2009

After a brief hiatus wherein I discussed conversations I've had with my dick hanging out and reports of large, feline predators stalking my property, we've returned with the series of posts most likely to get DHS rifling through my trash cans: Totally Blow Shit Up Tuesdays, Poobomber's Brainchild.

Today, let's take a look at what some people have dubbed the "methane tower". Here, we have an attractive dark-haired girl filling a sink with methane gas and a dorky side-kick with a flaming stick. Awesomeness ensues.

Okay, so it wasn't necessarily an explosion, but there was a towering flume and some bright lights. What happened was the attractive dark-haired girl took some soapy water and bubbled methane gas through it. Being lighter than water, the methane gas rose to the surface and was trapped in the soap bubbles. Once a nice pile of bubble has accrued, we touch a flame to it and *poof* we have a giant column of flame. No word on whether the Israelites are following it by night yet...

This is a classic combustion reaction, wherein we take a hydrocarbon (methane) in the presence of our friendly neighborhood gaseous oxidizer (oxygen) and we get the bane of Al Gore and the aliens from Signs (carbon dioxide and water, respectively).

CH4 + 2O2 + ignition source -----> CO2 + 2H2O + bitchin' light show

This is also the recipe for the "fire triangle":

Fuel + Oxidizer + Ignition Source -----> Increased Insurance Rates + Ostracized Catalysts

At this point, we should ask ourselves, where do we get methane? Methane gas parades about under the clever guise of "natural gas" and can be harvested from natural reservoirs, typically along coastal areas. It is a by-product of the natural decay of organic material, so the effervescence you see in bogs and swamps and such is a release of methane gas from material rotting on the lake bed. Occasionally, these will catch fire and float eerily over the surface of the water and are called "will-o'-the-wisp(s)".

Another source of methane gas is in your bowels. Yes, flatulence is primarily a release of methane gas (with some sulfurous compounds thrown in for taste). Essentially that means that, what we've seen here, is the lab equivalent of lighting farts...just without the feculent odor and singed ass- and grundle-hairs.

And you guys thought science was boring!


Poobomber said...

Mythbusters did this in an episode (of course) and although no one's hair caught on fire in this video, all I have to say is that science is beautiful.

So are nerdy girls that set fire to shit.

Anna Russell said...

Oooh, it's so puhrty!

Kristine said...

That's the teacher, right?

The most fun we ever had in chemistry was making these stupid Bunsen burner flame papers (like, why?) and building a damn bucky ball. Or maybe we just looked at pictures of a bucky ball. There was never any fire. Which is probably why I teach English now.

Scope said...

Fire good.

Fire make food warm.

Susan said...

Wow. My house is always filled with methane gas. But ours smells like sweaty grundle, remember?

*Note use of new word "grundle". Thanks for the vocabulary boost.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Poobomber: Yeah, I found the video for that, but I thought the girl in the lab coat was cuter than Adam and Jamie.

@ Anna: Aye-yup.

@ Kristine: Did you make the buckyballs with lasers or high-energy arcs of electricity? Oh, wait, I suppose you just made the models. *sigh* Whee. Black soccer balls.

@ Scope: Not only does fire make food warm, fire make food delicious.

@ Susan: I've taken it upon myself to get "grundle" worked into more people's vocabularies.

BeckEye said...

This just took me back to junior high science class. It was a mixed class of 7th and 8th graders, and I was one of the older kids. (Okay, so I took physical science because it was easy and I hated science. I was in Advanced English, so suck it.) I had this 7th grade lab partner who was like 3 feet tall and always looked like he wanted to make something explode. He often tried. I used to call him Calvin, as in Calvin and Hobbes. He was a menace. But fun.

dg said...

Heh. No word yet on whether or not the Israelites are following it? You make me giggle.

Also? I am one of the top producers of natural methane gas in the universe. I, yes I, have the bowels of a swamp / bog mixed with the entire bovine population of Pennsylvania. I am a sight to behold. Uh. Or a scent to inhale. Or something like that.

Must remember to stay away from pepperoni.

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

I'm trying that with my husband next time we have chili for dinner.

Margo said...

Science class and kitchens are never boring as long as there are brave mad scientists/pyromaniacs around. I have 3 of them. The downsides are my cleaning supplies and spice rack are always a mess and I'm always having to stock up on fire extinguishers. We want in on this.

Gwen said...

My grandma always said that playing with fire will make you pee the bed.

I think she was lying to me.

Cora said...


(I'm trying to be less-wordy today.)

(It was working until now.)

(Now I'm totally f*cking it up.)


(SHUT UP!!!!)

(Oh, I give up.)

(Tomorrow I'm going to try to be a little more conservative with my puncuation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

coolred38 said...

Now of course I have to view formerly benign soap bubbles as a whole new threat to my psychological make up...sigh!!!

Nej said...

Being told will-o-the-wisps can be explained by science, is like being told there is no Easter Bunny. :-)

In your head, you know there's a more logical explanation than a large bunny dropping brightly colored (cooked) eggs around your back yard.

Ψ*Ψ said...

Cuter than Adam or Jamie, sure, that's not difficult.
Not cuter than Kari. (<3)

Sass said...

My computer kinda froze up during the video, and at one or two points, the flame was penis shaped. Or shaped like Italy.

One of the two.

TishTash said...

I remember that methane gas is in farts because my Chem teacher in high school told us and said when someone farts, you can tell them "You're killing me" and it would be the truth.

He also used to play the air guitar which goes to show that science + rock and roll = still a total freaking geek.

That Baldy Fella said...

So science has now taught me that if I fart in the bath for long enough then light it, I'll probably lose my eyebrows. Hooray for science!

LiLu said...

The science of farts is NEVER boring.

Eric said...

Nice, what about compression though? Maybe soap bubbles into a plastic milk jug, wire it, duct tape it, stick it in an outer cardboard box for more fun? hehe

~E said...

Been there done that...wished I had the pics.

You should post the reaction that happens when you accidentally (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) leave a plastic sack of gummy bears near a very hot flame...add in a very pissed off lab supervisor, a couple of high powered fans later...


Chemgeek said...

If I could find the time, I would totally film explosions for you. That would be awesome.

Jan @ Struck by Serendipity said...

Awesome. You have such an educational blog.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

".....just without the feculent odor and singed ass- and grundle-hairs." You obviously have never been around a bunch of drunk farting frat boys at 4 a.m. because that would be a sentence you could not honestly write ;-)