Scroll to the bottom for a true chemical reaction story that should definitely not be done at home.  In the meantime, you can safely look at the GIFs below:


This is the Pharaoh’s Serpent (or Black Snake firework). The disgusting, growing mutant arm coil thing is actually mercury thiocyanate (Hg(SCN)2) getting lit on fire.

mercury thocyanate reaction

This is a dry ice (solid carbon dioxide sublimating into a gas) bubble popping:

Dry Ice bubble popping

This is what happens when you drop a cannonball in a pool of mercury (it floats because mercury is more dense):

Dropping a canon ball into mercury.

Some crystallization in action:

Crystallization GIF

Sodium polyacrylate (a.k.a. waterlock) is an awesome substance and it does wonderful things when it comes into contact with liquid. The compound is capable of absorbing 200 to 300 times its mass in water:

Waterlock (reaction)

Nicknamed “elephant toothpaste” for the cylinder of foam it produces, this reaction shows the rapid breakdown of hydrogen peroxide. The reaction is produced by mixing concentrated hydrogen peroxide (mixed with a little bit of dish soap) and potassium iodide. When the potassium iodide is added to the hydrogen peroxide solution, it acts as a catalyst, rapidly breaking down the hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water. The oxygen escapes from the beaker, quickly pushing out large amounts of foam from the dish soap.

Elephant toothpaste reaction

Explosive Polymerization Of p Nitro Aniline:

Explosive Polymerization Of p Nitro Aniline

Snake venom mixed with the blood of a virgin (jk, just regular blood):

Snake venom mixed with blood

This is aluminum and iodine reacting:

Aluminum and iodine reaction

More blood meets hydrogen peroxide:

Blood and hydrogen peroxide



Here’s a True Story

Do not do any of this at home.  Seriously.  It’s kind of funny now, but I’m lucky to have not hurt myself, my friend, his pets, or property.  DO NOT DO THIS EXPERIMENT.

In grade 9 chemistry class, our teacher demonstrated a simple chemistry experiment:  He put a few chips of zinc in a test tube and then poured hydrochloric acid on it.  The reaction produces hydrogen, which fills up the test tube.

Then, he light a match and placed it close to the opening of the test tube and we all heard a little “pop” as the hydrogen ignited.  He then repeated the experiment with a larger container and attached a balloon to the top of it… and the balloon inflated itself with hydrogen.

Pretty cool.  I wondered what would happen if it were scaled up?

So I scaled it up.  Before class ended, I “borrowed” a handful of zinc nuggets from the chemistry lab.  Later, I filled up half an empty beer bottle with the zinc.  I then borrowed some muriatic acid from my friend who had a pool (muriatic acid is hydrochloric acid).  Then, I poured the acid into the beer bottle on top of the zinc to kick off the reaction, which immediately bubbled furiously.

I placed a balloon over the top of the bottle and it expanded fully with hydrogen in at matter of seconds.  Then, and here’s the really, really stupid part (as if the other parts weren’t stupid enough):  I attached a match to a yard stick and lit it… then lit the balloon which immediately exploded… knocking over the bottle, spilling what was left of its acidic contents on the garage floor.

Bits of balloon stuck to the ceiling and walls, and little pools of frothy acid and whatever it was dissolving were strewn all over the place.  I was at a friend’s house (this too dangerous to do at my own house, of course) and he had dogs, so we rushed them inside (none were hurt).  We grabbed some baking soda from the fridge and sprinkled it on the various acid pools to neutralize them, then poured copious amounts of water to dilute it.

The balloon’s explosion?  It was huge – and I could feel the heat even though I was holding the hard stick and stretched out it out at arm’s length.  It was crazy dangerous and irresponsible… buuuuut it was pretty cool at the same time.

It looked a little like this:

Hydrogen bubble igniting

Very stupid.  1/10, would not recommend.  Don’t do this at home.  Just enjoy the GIFs above or ask your chemistry teacher for a (safe) demo.