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This is a question Darwin Awards

Bluffboy says: My mate cheated death and burned his eyebrows off looking down the barrel of a potato gun. Tell us about your brushes with the Grim Reaper through stupidity.

(, Thu 12 Feb 2009, 20:01)
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I did done a whoopsy.
When I was a chemical undergrad (my first ‘dregree’, ahem), I was renowned for fucking up quite badly in practical experiment class to the extent that nobody wanted to be my lab partner. Although not totally moronic, the reason why I always fucked up was because the practical class was always on a Friday morning and the Thursday night before was the BIG night out of the week and I always got hammered and came home late, then rocked up to the class late, horrifically hungover, and probably inflammable. Anyway, this usually meant that a PHD student would be my partner.

This was good because I always managed to do well because of this by getting them to do the work and obtain decent product or whatever the aim of that particular experiment was.

Until the day that I was banned from practical experiment class.

We were tasked with trying to do some complex multi-staged series of reactions starting off with fluorite, a type of mineral. As you might guess, it contained fluorine. Not the nicest of elements. Also, there were a few PHD students missing so I was without a partner.

Due to my hungover and regular ineptitude, I unfortunately used the wrong reagent by mistake and instead used concentrated sulphuric acid. A product of this reaction was HF (hydrofluoric acid). Of course I didn’t really know this at the time.

I realised that I had perhaps had fucked up when I noticed an odd smell and that the glass of the fume cupboard had started to ‘frost up’. I called a supervisor over, and he amiably asked me what the matter was? I asked him about the glass. He quickly looked at the bottle of reagent that I had used, then grabbed me and sprinted over to the chemical spill place and smashed the fire/hazmat alarm.

Oh dear I thought. Oh dearie me. Also, my hands and wrists were tingling.

Everyone in the whole building was evacuated and a few minutes later some ambulances and a fire engine turned up. My supervisor ran over to the ambulance, dumped me with some paramedics, and ran over to the fire fighters. It turned out that once the fire brigade knew the nature of the alarm they refused to go in as they weren’t equipped. We had to wait for another twenty minutes before a specialist chemical spill team got there tooled up like a SWAT team with rebreathers.

I was taken to hospital and was diagnosed with HF poisoning and immediately was placed on a life support as HF can react with the calcium in the body to cause a cardiac arrest. As it was, I was already hypocalcaemic due to the sudden low levels of calcium in my body. The bones in my hands were fucked (they were ‘etched’ with HF) and I had to undergo treatment for weeks afterwards. I was told I was lucky to have kept them and if I had been splashed with HF they would have had to amputate.

I had caused £22,000 worth of damage to the chemistry department and that didn’t include the cost of the hazard team callout which apparently was ‘not cheap’.

It was all insured, but I was severely reprimanded by the Head of Chemistry and the University Chancellor and I was almost expelled. I was also banned from practicals and so I had to change my degree to incorporate another discipline to make up for the lack of practical credits.

However I had pulled an absolute beauty on the Thursday night before though so it was totally worth it.
(, Fri 13 Feb 2009, 11:16, 5 replies)
Fucking Hell!
You lucky, stupid, lucky bastard! :D

I thought I managed to fuck up some chemistry experiments, with flames and burnt fingers etc, but they were a paragon of safety compared to this escapade!
(, Fri 13 Feb 2009, 11:45, closed)
Tell me about it
When I have more time I will write the account of how my friends and I tried to make thermite in our dorm kitchen.
(, Fri 13 Feb 2009, 11:49, closed)
My old Chemistry teacher
Used to tell a similar story from when she worked in industry. They actually used Hydrofluoric acid in certain tests - the catch was that it would etch through glass, given time. They tested each vessel by holding it over a bin and hitting it with a hammer. If it didn't break, it passed.

All was well, until one day when someone didn't hammer quite as hard as they should have. She left an experiment to run for 20 minutes and returned to find that the flask had broken, the acid dissolved all the others (another twelve I think), melted its way through the fume cupboard and was in the process of burning its way through the floor.

She also said that they had a special pot of cream in case someone got some on them - it was a cast-iron, pain-of-sacking-on-the-spot rule that you were never more than six seconds away from the cream because after that, there wasn't much point using it.

(For those that don't know, Hydrofluoric acid is particularly nasty because it doesn't really burn the skin - it sinks through and dissolves your bones from the inside)
(, Fri 13 Feb 2009, 20:19, closed)
Too right
HF is horrible stuff. The reaction with bones is catalytic, too, so once it starts it just keeps going. If you get splashed and don't deal with it at once, the ONLY treatment is amputation at the next major joint up, On your finger, lose your hand. On your wrist, lose your forearm.

I used to use it in a cocktail for etching niobium superconductors. It is the only thing I have ever used at work which seriously terrified me.
(, Sat 14 Feb 2009, 1:49, closed)
(, Sat 14 Feb 2009, 0:56, closed)

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