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Author: Subject: Mythbusters "explosive snake" mystery compound
Oscilllator
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 14:23
Mythbusters "explosive snake" mystery compound


In the most recent mythbusters episode (s13e05) mythbusters undertook a particularly awesome reaction, a kind of souped-up H2SO4 + Sugar dehydration reaction in which sulfuric acid dehydrates a compound and causes a black cylinder of carbon foam to form. Unlike the sugar version, this reaction was over in a fraction of a second and produced a pillar of carbon around a meter high. The compound mythbusters used was "classified" and this is what I want to determine, as before now I have always been able to figure out the myster chemicals that mythbusters refuse to name for legal reasons.
So, here is what information I was able to glean from the episode:


  • The reaction was both a "dehydration" and a "deaminization" reaction.
  • The compound used was a brownish powder
  • The reaction required heating for a significant period of time, and before ignition occured the reaction mixture melted into a black, bubbling soup.
  • As far as I could tell, the only reagents used were the mystery compound and 98% sulfuric acid.
  • A screenshot of the reaction:

Capture.PNG - 473kB




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Varmint
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 14:46


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4pNXAtPJp8

Truly remarkable reaction.

DAS
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 16:16


That reaction looked very similar, however p-nitroaniline is a yellow powder (at least in the video you linked) whereas the powder used in mythbusters was brown. Also nitroanaline is apparently toxic, so I doubt safety-paranoid mythbusters would allow someone to be standing next to it when it went off.
Still, I suppose that could be the chemical.




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Xenoid
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 17:34


This reaction is a well-known chemical demonstration, I remember seeing it way back in the 1960's. I saw it at an open day at the local university - my friends father was the professor doing the demonstration.

I asked him later what the chemicals were and was told para-nitroacetanilide and sulphuric acid, slowly heated to about 250 oC.

He timed the demonstration very well and the explosive eruption occurred just as he was winding up! The snake almost reached the lecture theatre ceiling.

See here; http://firstyear.chem.usyd.edu.au/demonstrations/files/10.12...

[Edited on 3-2-2014 by Xenoid]
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Metacelsus
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 17:37


It could be impure p-nitroaniline.



As below, so above.
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Varmint
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 19:39


The wiki (yeah, I know) describes the chemical as a yellow or brown powder.

I think the OP was just disappointed in the speed the answer was delivered.

Could have been much faster in fact, I just had trouble recalling the search terms I used to discover the video the first time.

DAS :)
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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 20:25


Its such a shame the best science show on TV is the mythbusters. Their chemistry ass-covering and self-censorship is infuriating.

Then they go and set off some C4 and shoot some guns, America Fuck Yeah!!!




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[*] posted on 2-2-2014 at 23:52


Ok, so it appears either p-nitroaniline (nice work on the prompt reply varmint) or p-nitroacetanilide will work in the reaction. They look structurally similar, so this is unsurprising. The obvious next question is how am I to obtain these chemicals to conduct the reaction myself :cool:



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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 04:33


1) Add Acetic Anhydride to Aniline
2) Nitrate with Sulfuric acid, Nitric acid, and Acetic Acid
3) Add to Water and Acid (Reflux if needed)



600px-Synthesis_of_nitroaniline.jpg.png - 16kB

(Don't know what is wrong with the picture, but if you press on it, you can see it.




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Mailinmypocket
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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 04:52


Quote: Originally posted by mr.crow  
Its such a shame the best science show on TV is the mythbusters. Their chemistry ass-covering and self-censorship is infuriating.

Then they go and set off some C4 and shoot some guns, America Fuck Yeah!!!


Yes I agree. I was watching an episode and I found the way they represent chemistry to be cryptic and annoying. Guest chemists are treated as magicians that cannot reveal their tricks. Fine don't give exact steps to making dangerous things, but don't enhance the mentality that chemistry is a secret thing only to be done in professional labs. Then again, this is on today's TV so I suppose most people are fine with mystery reagents :(
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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 04:56


That, and the total ignorance of statistics in their interpretations.

[Edited on 3-2-2014 by phlogiston]




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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 05:13


Mythbusters isn’t a ‘science’ show. Science is used only as a very thin veneer because it’s ‘sexy’.

90 % of their projects involving motion or mechanics of sorts could be debunked on paper by someone with an A-level in physics, a pen and a piece of paper. Still they go on to build these complicated contraptions anyone should know don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of delivering anything.

Their use of 'statistics' is often cringe-inducing.

I give them loads of points for working very hard (there must be easier ways of making a decent living!) and for a general high level of craftsmanship. And occasionally it’s entertaining but science it ain’t.

Their best 'bust', IMHO? Cracking a fingerprint recognition 'security' device, quickly and elegantly.

There’s far, far better in terms of popsci on Discovery, PBS etc.


[Edited on 3-2-2014 by blogfast25]




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forgottenpassword
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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 05:49


It must have been an interesting day for someone doing a routine sulfated ash!
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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 07:33


Am I the only one who sees the important point? Yes the show is cryptic and pathetic in their portrayal of science. One name: Kari Elizabeth Byron. From the first time I saw her on the show I was hooked. Watching her mow down a row of trees with an M134A I realized they would have to pry the DVD's from my cold dead fingers before they could get me to admit what a stupid example of 'science TV' it really is.




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[*] posted on 3-2-2014 at 12:34


I liked this episode of the Mythbusters. It is sad there can't be a better science show, maybe get the best of the science youtubers to form a consortium for television. Or drive around the country and visit all the universities and find people who are doing interesting things or studying nature.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57338281-71/mythbusters-ca...

Sometimes even simple devices are fun to see.
Ball Bearing Motor - How to Make/How it Works
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjKhggNJGls

Trevelyan's Wieger,Wackler,Rocker
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U23iwbVX-Dk



[Edited on 3-2-2014 by Morgan]
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[*] posted on 9-2-2014 at 16:47


Here in Québec we've got a real science show, it's called Génial and it's pretty awesome. It's a quizz in which two teams try to guess the results of real experiments or surprising facts. It's in french but if anyone want to take a look at it ; http://genial.telequebec.tv/

Chemistry, physics, maths, bio, neurobio... they show pretty much everything and give the real explanations... of which casual people often understand only the half but it doesn't matter :p
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[*] posted on 9-2-2014 at 16:56


Alex, I have seen that show a few time, and it is highly biased. Sometime, they give questions that could have many answer, and sometime they give answer which are clearly not the right one. It is fine for non scientific people. Anyhow, TV is not for scientific, books are.

Still much better then mythbuster.




I never asked for this.
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[*] posted on 9-2-2014 at 17:06


I have seen some questions that could have many answers but very rarely, however I've never seen false answers... do you have an exemple?
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The WiZard is In
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[*] posted on 9-2-2014 at 17:35
Myth Buster snake


The H2SO4 - paranitroacetanilide reaction is in —

Leonard A Ford
Chemical Magic
Fawcett Publications 1959
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IrC
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[*] posted on 9-2-2014 at 21:37


Quote: Originally posted by The WiZard is In  
The H2SO4 - paranitroacetanilide reaction is in —

Leonard A Ford
Chemical Magic
Fawcett Publications 1959


Page 106 of the book, = page 56 of the PDF.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&a...




"Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts" Richard Feynman
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[*] posted on 10-2-2014 at 05:55


Quote: Originally posted by plante1999  
Anyhow, TV is not for scientific, books are.

Still much better then mythbuster.


True but the Beeb produces some excellent science shows. Some of the Discovery/History channel stuff is quite decent too. Mythbusters is an excuse for loud bangs of all manner, while pretending to do science.




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macckone
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[*] posted on 10-2-2014 at 08:21


Quote: Originally posted by IrC  
Quote: Originally posted by The WiZard is In  
The H2SO4 - paranitroacetanilide reaction is in —

Leonard A Ford
Chemical Magic
Fawcett Publications 1959


Page 106 of the book, = page 56 of the PDF.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&a...


Excellent link, should probably be in references.
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Morgan
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[*] posted on 10-2-2014 at 10:33


I remember reading that book when I was about 12 years old. Still the drawings seem as familiar as yesterday, looking over the images in the link today. Funny how that is. Even the words and details are familiar.
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[*] posted on 10-2-2014 at 18:09


Hello world,
how much do you think a "CARBON SNAKE" reaction can push if confined?

Could it be a substitute of blackpowder in a quarry to detach and separate big valuable rocks with the minimum damage to the rock itself?

Is it worth of a test? I can propose a test at the quarry, should you think it makes sense

Cheers!
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[*] posted on 13-2-2014 at 13:34


It may not be the most efficient way to do it as not all the reagents are transformed into a gas (the transition from liquid/solid to gas being the reason why pressure is created) but I guess it should be worth a test. However you'll have to clean all the black crap left after :p

All in all it is not a very good way to do it but it could work.

[Edited on 13-2-2014 by alexleyenda]
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