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This is a question Home Science

Have you split the atom in your kitchen? Made your own fireworks? Fired a bacon rocket through your window?
We love home science experiments - tell us about your best, preferably with instructions.

Extra points for lost eyebrows / nasal hair / limbs

(, Thu 9 Aug 2012, 17:25)
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Petrol - It's good enough as it is.
As a pyromaniac youth in the mid 70’s a friend (RGP) and I decided that the petrol we were using to blow up Dinky toys, drop in petrol bombs off bridges, use as lamps as we toured East Lancs sewer systems (washed clean by the copious rain) wasn’t ‘powerful enough’.

Over a short period of time between us we knicked from school everything required to distil petrol – conical flasks, tripods, bungs, rubber tube even a foot ish long spiral distilling condenser.

We set all this up on the garage floor, added petrol to the flask and placed under it a small meths Bunsen burner. Cooling water was run occasionally through the coil to condense the soon boiling petrol. Excitement was palpable as two 13 year olds chatted about blowing more stuff up. As expected the ‘more powerful’ petrol dripped from the end of the condenser into an open topped flask.

Unknown to us was the fact that the petrol fumes were climbing out of the open topped flask and were slowly spreading across the garage floor. Eventually, after I guess being wafted around the garage by our walking about the fumes reached the small Bunsen burner under a quarter full flask of petrol.

Whooooomph it firkin went!!

The pressure in the garage rose and our ears popped. My trousers were on fire, along with all the hairs around my ankles. The smell was appalling. The flasks remained in tact and the fire was quickly beaten out (thankfully) however in our panic to escape we found that the garage door was now the shape of a large dustbin lid and was off it’s hinges. I’m surprised we survived, 1. The explosion and 2, the bollocking for buggering up the garage door.

Petrol is quite powerful enough as it is. Leave it alone.
(, Thu 16 Aug 2012, 12:51, 3 replies)
Oh dear fucking Christ - I read that with my mouth agape.
My great uncle burnt to death while using petrol. I'm pretty sure it was a case of Darwinism in action, but whatever - I was brought up with a healthy respect for it.

I remember my father spilling some on the grass while refilling the lawnmower, and ensuring we all took note of it, then calling us back a couple of hours later, and lighting it with quite a fwoomph.

Certainly not a chemical to be treated with disdain.
(, Thu 16 Aug 2012, 13:03, closed)

I'm clicking this for the sheer monumental stupidity. Even at 13 you should have known better.

Glad you survived though!
(, Thu 16 Aug 2012, 13:16, closed)
Petrochemical volatility
One of my dad's stories from his engineering days involved one of his tutors prising the lid off a full barrel of petrol in the lab and immediately throwing a match in. The petrol fumes hadn't had time to dissipate on contact with the air, so the match hit the liquid petrol and just went out. History does not reflect how many seconds' pause would have produced a different result.
(, Thu 16 Aug 2012, 14:01, closed)

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