Did you miss me yesterday? Yeah, I missed you, too. I had one of them meeting things that the corporate world is so fond of. It was alright. I got free lunch, I didn't have to work in the lab, and I giggled and tittered and tee-heed at my boss' picture from a recent skiing trip in which his goatee--coated over with snot-drippings and snow--caused him to bear an uncanny resemblance to Wilford Brimley and/or Diabeetus Cat. The only drawback was the chair I was sitting on made my ass hurt. A lot.
Anyway, let's talk less of my boss' resemblance to old men with oatmeal fetishes and more about blowing the living hell out of some shit! Remember last week's post, in which a bunch of morons were blowing up a balloon and deafening themselves at the same time? Here's a link to take you back in time and refresh your memory, should you need it.
The comments section (spurred on by my own concrete lack of knowledge) brought about quite a number of guesses about what was in the balloon in order to cause it to detonate so grandly. I originally wavered between hydrogen and methane (both readily accessible); Scope thought it had to be something else, something incendiary; Hap thought that since it wasn't fully buoyant that it had to be something like methane.
This is where blogging life spills over into real life. My friend Joe--the third smartest person I've ever met, right behind Dr. John Nichols and Dr. Xavier Creary--knew exactly what was in the balloon. Apparently, when he was in undergrad, he had a professor who showed the kids how to make good homemade bombs. After Joe told me about this guy, I suddenly thought that maybe I would make a good teacher...except for that whole stare lingering too long over the comely lass in the front row with a short skirt. Wait, where the hell was I?
Oh, yes, last week's explosion. Apparently, if you combine hydrogen and oxygen in a stoichiometric mixture, you get a bang like that. It just flashes and "boom" and very little fire is given off from the explosion--it's gone in a flash. For instance, there's this; apparently, someone snuck a camera into Joe's professor's lectures:
Now, compare that to a "pure" hydrogen fire. There's plenty of sound and there's plenty of flame...which I've never understood because hydrogen itself burns with no visible flame, according to experts. Being as how I'm just a schlub, I'll take their word for it, but I've seen it burn this bright yellowish-orange flame. In fact, here's a pure hydrogen balloon going up.
Notice how that guy was all safety first, what with the gloves and the long pole to ignite the fire. Fuck safety glasses, he said. Tsk tsk. We'll have to write you up, Mister Hydrogen Balloon Man.
So, what's the difference? Apparently, the presence of oxygen is the key here. See, in the second balloon, the oxygen is pulled from the surrounding atmosphere. In the first, I assume that the hydrogen has been mixed with the correct amount of oxygen in order to undergo the accordant combustion or combination reaction (take your pick which you want, since--technically--this reaction falls into both).
How to know the amount of oxygen to mix in there? That's a good one. You need to balance you some equations. For instance, we know that what we have here is hydrogen reacting with oxygen. Hopefully, you also know that hydrogen and oxygen mix to form water. I'll also assume that you know that hydrogen and oxygen are both diatomic molecules. What, were you sleeping during chem class? So, we write the reaction like this:
Except, you'll notice, that on the left hand side of the arrow (which is used to show a reaction has taken place), you have 2 oxygens and on the right hand side, you have only one (remember, subscripts go with the element in front of them). Since matter cannot be destroyed nor created, we have what is called an unbalanced reaction. Therefore, we must put numbers out in front of our reactants (on the left hand side) and our products (on the right hand side) so that all the amounts of atoms match up. It should look something like this:
So, essentially, what that tells us (other than the fact that you can't subscript on Blogger), is that you need twice as much hydrogen as you do oxygen in order to get the big ass bang that we saw last week and in the first video.
And who says science can't be fun? Oh, right. Everyone. And they'd be right.
And now...I'll let Chemgeek--a Real Professor of Chemistry--pick apart my post.