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Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays Once More

June 9, 2009


I've been bored with doing other crap around here, and frankly, I'm tired and sore from a weekend adventure. So, let's get to it and blow some shit up already.

This week's installment is some classic chemistry, right out of the jar of petroleum. Back in high school chemistry, my teacher showed us what happened when you mixed water and sodium. She took a wee piece of metal, dropped it into a beaker, and it spun around, fizzing and foaming. She then took a wee piece of potassium and added it to another beaker of water. This time is fizzed and buzzed around and then it burst aflame.

You had me right there, Mrs. B.

So, as you go down the periodic table, the alkali metals (first column) get more reactive toward water. Lithium is somewhat benign, whereas cesium is...well, let's find out, shall we.


Incidentally, "they" wouldn't let the Brainiac Squad have any francium because it's pretty radioactive stuff. Exploding it everywhere might not be the best idea, if you know what I mean, Jon Tickle.

And, did you notice, Tickle refers to cesium as the "emperor of the alkali metals"? Why does he say this, aside from the fact that it's the most reactive? Well, in Europe, cesium is spell "caesium". Look familiar? Well, look there. The beginning "cae" reminds me of another word. What is it? Something to do with salads...Oh, right, Caesar! Probably, that's what Jon Tickle is alluding to.

But wait! While cesium/caesium does get its name from Latin, it comes from caesius, which means "bluish-gray", not "came all over of the Gauls". Caesar's name is actually something called a cognomen, which is essentially a third name and is usually derived from some personality or character trait. Caesar's cognomen probably came from "caesaries", which means "hairy". A touch ironic, given that he was bald as coot later in life. When burned, cesium gives a bluish light, hence the reason for deriving its name from caesius (pronounced "kie-zee-us"). In fact, at first, its discoverers though it was no different than rubidium or potassium; if it wasn't for the blue light when burned, the discoverers would not have known they had a new element (at the time) on their hands.


Also, just for reference--and so that this doesn't become a Tuesday Morning Latin Lesson (perish the thought!)--cesium carbonate is my absolute favorite inorganic base. If I need to make an ether, I use an alcohol, an alkyl halide, and stir that shit up with a bunch of Cs2CO3. Voila! It's like magic.

15 comments:

Jess said...

I hope that they did a safety review!

Sass said...

Did he say dog's nuts?

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Jess: Moreso, I hope they followed the "detonating a bathtub" SOP.

@ Sass: That's British for doughnuts. If you ever visit the Isles, you should always ask for dog nuts to go with your morning tea.

Del-V said...

Just like Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke...

Scope said...

I love seeing "the Hampster" in any context.

Too bad it was "Mr. Tickle" (is that his real name, or one of those "cognomen" you were on about) instead of "The Stig" doing the work.

If you don't watch "Top Gear" ignore this comment. It makes very little sense out of context.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Del-V Except bigger. And Mythbusters probably hasn't doubted the veracity of dropping 2g of alkali metals into water and getting an explosion.

@ Scope: From what I understand, his name is actually Jon Tickle (and he has a twin brother named Phillip). He's a physicist, so I guess he takes some time off between theorizing about subatomic particles in order to blow the hell out of bathroom implements.

And...you're right.

LiLu said...

My goal for my 4th of July party: Blow at least 3 things up.

erin said...

I'm super duper afraid of all things even relatively explodable. Well, except for one very important and integral to life thing...

Regardless...

The Ambiguous Blob said...

I'm trying to determine if a good mixture from this text could be effectively used during the eventual zombie apocolypse.

Nej said...

#1 totally jealous of your job...what can I say. Getting to mix up fancy brews...a pinch of ether, a dash of alcohol...season to taste and serve. :-)

#2 if I'd known about these things in high school...my friends and I would have blown ourselves up. Actually, I don't know how we made it out alive as it is.

#3 why does the guy in that video look so familiar to me?

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Is it an honor to be refered to as the dog's nuts?

Eric said...

I've never made ether, but I've seen it made on television. I envy you, sir.

Chemgeek said...

I'm sorry to report that this and other Brainiac videos have been staged and enhanced with various other incendiary devices.

http://www.badscience.net/2006/07/brainiac-fake-experiments-scandal-make-it-to-the-evening-standard/

It is still good TBSUP, but that sure isn't rubidium or cesium.

dg said...

So...if you eat 20 bananas and then drink a gallon of water, technically, shouldn't your belly explode?

I mean, did you see that potassium and water thing? Jeez.

Science is cool.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

When are you going to show the ever popular but VERY low grade Menthos and Coke bomb? I still don't know how that works, but I love watching it every time. Oh please great Chem Wizard (and side-kick Wizard Cat) please enlighten us on how this reactio works