• Question: What is the most reactive and dangerous experiment you have done/heard of?

    Asked by raushan to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 15 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by daidai, rachelmcguinness, mwilliams, kitana356.
    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      One of the early explosives was called nitroglycerin. It had a bad habit of exploding when you didn’t want it to, so lots of people were trying to make an explosive that was safer. Can you imagine mixing things with a dangerous explosive just to see what would happen? Lots of the time it didn’t make it safer, it made it explode.

      The man who eventually solved the problem was Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite. He used the money he earned to start the Nobel Prizes.

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Hey Raushan! The most dangerous experiment I routinely do is probably working with radioactivity – I do this on pretty much a weekly basis for a technique called Southern Blotting…its pretty freaky because the geiger counter screams at you as soon as you take it out of the pot because of all the radiation!! 🙂

    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Hi raushan…. good questions… Last week I was doin some hydrogenations… which is basically adding hydrogen molecules into my compounds, this requires hydorgen gas and an active species to make the reaction go (a catalyst).

      If the air gets into the reaction with both hydorgen and the catalyst present it can go Boom! as in blow up my entire fumehood! As the Hydrogen and oxygen rapidly react to form water in an exothermic (gives out a huge amount of heat) in a very short amount of time.

      I had to be super carful!

    • Photo: Kimberley Bryon

      Kimberley Bryon answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      I haven’t done many reactive experiments. I am very clumsy and it doesn’t seem like a good mix! The most dangerous thing that I do is freezing worms with liquid nitrogen as it can cause nasty burns. I also use lots of toxic chemicals so I have to be very careful when using those.

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Hi raushan! I don’t do experiments so I don’t have to worry about all the scary safety issues. However since you asked about ones we’ve heard of, I do have a sad story. When I was in graduate school a faculty member at my university died of mercury poisoning. A tiny drop of mercury seeped through her rubber gloves. She died ten months later. It was very tragic. This is the hard thing in science sometimes – you are pushing boundaries of knowledge, and sometimes that is dangerous. Look at Amy handling radiation every week – that is brave!! But, I am sure she does it because she believes her work is for the great good. Scientists are cool people.