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Originally Posted By: w of the dueck clan
Last year, I stuck a bunch of potassium into a beaker full of water. Thankfully, my nose wasn't an inch from the beaker like it usually was.

Alkali metals ftw!

Out of curiosity, what were you doing, other than making potassium hydroxide ( tongue )?

Every once in awhile, some people forget that you're not supposed to add water to an acid. Fortunately, no one has ever been burned because of that.

Originally Posted By: Dantius


Nononono, you've got it wrong. What you do is powder the lithium, and add it in small quantities to a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum. The result is thermite, a powder that, when lit, will reach over 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Have fun melting through the engine of your car!

Why would you want to put thermite into a car?
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Fun. Sadly, we're not allowed to have things like pure sodium in our classroom. The stupid school district thinks that such things are too dangerous. We're not even allowed to see sodium 'splode! And yet we can do labs producing high amounts of ammonia, and a bunch of other things. Not only do they keep us from having things, they do a wretched job of it.

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Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon
Heh. Our chem teacher routinely over-ordered sodium so that he could take the excess, and the class, out to the ocean to watch it be awesome.


I remember my college physics professor mentioning the time he threw a chunk of sodium into the Charles River to watch it explode. The oil pollution caught on fire. smile
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Sodium explosions in classrooms aren't that rare, or at least weren't. I know an area high school teacher made the papers by sending the front row of his class to the emergency room by dropping a bottle in the sink.

 

—Alorael, who suspects that science has an interesting safety curve. New bench users don't know how to work safely. Moderately trained scientists are careful and safe. Old hands are cavalier about the whole thing and are likely to cause explosions and/or teratogenic effects.

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I believe most dangerous activities have that sort of bathtub curve.

 

One of the privileges of my time at Los Alamos was to get to know Stirling Colgate, who worked on H-bombs and supernovas but also did things like patent an asteroid-mining laser and fly a Cessna around tornados firing wing-mounted instrument-carrying rockets into the funnel, while filming the whole thing from the cockpit. He threw a party every year where the video played on a loop, and I would too if I had ever done something so mind-bogglingly cool.

 

Among his many nefarious activities were a great deal of sodium exploding, since he wanted to drive large electric currents through large amounts of liquid sodium, in order to test some of his theories about stellar magnetism. I don't believe he ever got that working, but he wasted a lot of sodium along the way.

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Originally Posted By: Tyranicus
Originally Posted By: The Mystic
Ever rotate stock in a walk-in freezer that had a malfunctioning temperature gauge? The gauge was stuck at 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and since it was supposed to be 0 degrees or cooler, the refrigeration unit kept running and running and running, making the actual air temperature around -30 Fahrenheit.


Worse than that, I've spent a couple hours in one doing inventory. Although, I think ours was on down to -20º.
Point conceded, yours would qualify as worse. However, I will say mine does come fairly close: Our shipment came in three times a week, and out of all the people whose job was to put it away, I was the only one at the time to ensure proper product rotation.

Also, as a side note to mine, when you opened the walk-in freezer door while temperature gauge was broken, all the water vapor in the air nearby would instantly freeze and fall as snow.

Originally Posted By: Hypnotic
For those who don't know, here is
when you drop Alkali metals in water.

Cool video. Now we all know why a lot of batteries & electronic gadgets have warning labels about being immersed in water.
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The other thing alkali metals are good for is quantum optics — individual atoms of the alkali metals, that is, not solid hunks of the stuff. With only one electron in the outer valence shell, the atoms of the first column of the periodic table all have a simple, hydrogen-like set of energy levels, instead of the complex jumble of levels that other atoms have. So all kinds of magic tricks are possible by shining laser light at frequencies that just match, or just not quite match, the difference between two particular levels. With the alkalis, you can be sure that only two levels get matched up this way. So among other things you can do laser cooling, and get tiny clouds of alkali metal vapor down to insanely low temperatures.

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Originally Posted By: Hypnotic
For those who don't know, here is
when you drop Alkali metals in water.

Personally I want to see about a brick of Cesium dropped in water. It would be highly dangerous and stupid but it would also be fun to watch.


Sorry to disappoint you, but that was rigged.

Even though cesium has a lower electronegativity than sodium and potassium, it has much larger and heavier atoms, so pound for pound it's less reactive overall. Potassium gets you the most bang for your buck, with sodium close behind.
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I would like to argue that nuclear bombs are a virus which does have the potential to kill all of humankind (along with anything else on Earth that doesn't live at an undersea thermal vent). Nuclear bombs, obviously, cannot reproduce by themselves. However, merely with their presence nuclear bombs cause humans to construct additional bombs, in much the same way that viruses cause cells to construct additional viruses. Interestingly, if we extend the metaphor of bombs as an infection of human society and take countries to be the analogue of cells, we see that unlike viruses, which cause they cell they enter to build viruses, bombs cause countries adjacent to those directly infected to build bombs.

 

Also, no carbon-based virus will ever rival the destructive power of serious nuclear devices. Nuclear bombs with yields in excess of 10^40 Joules not only exist, but are common. The fact that they happen to weigh at least several solar masses and take millions or billions of years to arm is irrelevant. tongue

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Those aren't weapons of mass destruction, though. They're power plants and, on occasion, factories.

 

A virus made by a small group of malcontents is more likely to wipe out humanity than a dirty nuke. A serious effort by superpowers with grudges is more likely to kill everyone immediately if armed with atoms.

 

—Alorael, who thinks the day is not far off when the most dangerous dirty weapon could be a computer virus.

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Quote:
I think nuclear weapons are just nasty. I can't wait until we find a way to completely neutralize the threat.


Nuclear weapons are a very complex issue. Are they good? Of course not. Are they the best tool we currently have for staving off the alternative of wide-scale conventional conflict like we saw in the Second World War? Many would say yes.

Making the cost of war between two nuclear-armed powers unacceptably high forces these nations to find other ways to settle their disagreements. Interestingly enough, if you look at the statistics you see a massive drop in deaths from war post 1945. While there are probably several factors, many scholars believe the aforementioned impact of nuclear weapons helped bring this about. Remember the "nuclear umbrella" extends to non-nuclear armed states allied with a nuclear-armed state as well.

Of course, all of this is a Faustian bargain because in doing so we inject the risk of a very quick end to civilization. So long as nuclear weapons are held in the hands of a few nations that would have far more to lose than gain by using them (as was the case of the Cold War), the chance of this occurring is very small because of mutually assured destruction. Where the balance shifts is when the number of nuclear powers increase or those who hold them could gain by, say, giving a device to a terrorist group. That really is the biggest risk right now from nuclear weapons.

My personal feelings are that it would be great to get rid of nuclear weapons. I'm unsure how this could be achieved in the current global climate or even if it would be desirable. One proposal is for the US to unilaterally disarm which would, in principle, set an example. Sadly, the most likely outcome of this would be for smaller states currently under our nuclear umbrella (think Japan, South Korea, and much of Western Europe) to build their own arsenals. This would be even worse than the current situation.

Furthermore, even if someone could magically destroy all nuclear weapons right now, the incentive to cheat and develop a nuclear device becomes very high. I'm not sure how one prevents this. If we even go into further depths of fantasy and somehow uninvent nuclear weaponry, this brings us back to where we were in the 1930s. Suddenly, war amongst large states becomes an acceptable way to settle differences again. This is also very, very bad.

Ultimately, ridding the world of nuclear weapons will require that we live in a world much different than today. While I would like to be optimistic, I sincerely doubt that we could achieve the conditions to permit this in our lifetimes. Nonetheless, we still should try to achieve this goal. Perhaps we will be able to find a better way of deterring war in the future. We can only hope.
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Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon
I imagine that the greatest threat will be to those pretentious enough to think that a label will protect them from harm.

W-dueck was talking about blue screens of death, which is how Windows responds to a major system error. A Mac's screen of death is grey, so yeah, it's "immune" to a blue screen of death because it uses a different color...which makes me wonder what Master1 meant.
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The blue in Blue Screen of Death is Windows-specific, but a kernel panic would get much the same reaction from *nix (and Mac) users.

 

—Alorael, who doesn't think inducing suicide would be particularly fascinating. Causing automated machinery to run amok? That would be worthwhile.

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I've always had a phobia of computer errors, Game Over screens, and that screen in Win95 with the black background and orange text that said "It is now safe to turn off your computer." I'm not entirely sure what brought this on, but it's haunted me since I was a young child.

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Originally Posted By: The Almighty Doer of Stuff
that screen in Win95 with the black background and orange text that said "It is now safe to turn off your computer."


That screen existed far beyond Windows 95. It was even still part of the OS in Windows XP. The reason most people never saw it was because it was only used for computers with AT power supplies which had a wired power switch.
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I always wondered why it was so unsafe before that particular point but then again I was about 7 so when I saw that screen the first time, I would wait for it to apear before I turned the computer off. Then In my 7 year old lack of patience I would turn the computer off straight away and Ignor the warning.

 

I only used that computer to play simcity2000. I loved that game!

 

I remeber our Windows95 had a little button called "Turbo" and when you pressed it a number would changhed from 95 to 98 or something like that. Never understood the numbers or what that button actually did.

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Originally Posted By: *i

Nuclear weapons are a very complex issue. Are they good? Of course not. Are they the best tool we currently have for staving off the alternative of wide-scale conventional conflict like we saw in the Second World War? Many would say yes.
Ultimately, ridding the world of nuclear weapons will require that we live in a world much different than today. While I would like to be optimistic, I sincerely doubt that we could achieve the conditions to permit this in our lifetimes. Nonetheless, we still should try to achieve this goal. Perhaps we will be able to find a better way of deterring war in the future. We can only hope.


I guess I just read and enjoyed the Orson Scott Card books. True, it's fiction, but its good.

And by initially, I meant that the BSoD would appear even on macs and *nix computers. Although, any death screen would work. Computer failure scares people. That reminds me of cyber crimes, which is an issue for a whole separate thread...
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Originally Posted By: Hypnotic

I only used that computer to play simcity2000. I loved that game!

Maxis had some pretty fun games back in the day (SimCity, SimCity2000, SimAnt, and SimLife), but I think it kind of declined after it was bought by EA. I was never interested in the Sims, and the new SimCity games don't look like they're worth the money. Spore looks like it might be fun, but my computer is too old to run it.
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I bought this set of SIm games from a garage sale a few yars back that had SimCity Classic, SimCopter, Streets of SimCity, SimIsle, and SimTower (you could also get SImCuty 2000 by exploiting a bug in either SoSC or SimCopter). That collection entertained me for years before I got internet.

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Is that a warning against the topic drift? If so, ignore what I'm about to say.

 

I played SimCity 3000. It was my first of the games. I loved it. For years I had watched a long-distance family friend play games like SimTower and Zoo Tycoon. When I decided to buy myself a SimCity (rather than playing at school), I got SimCity 4 Deluxe. I haven't played it in a long time. If I could, I would play 3000, but, sadly, I can't.

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