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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Pipe Bombs 101

I have to admit that upon reading about an Orlando teaching arrested for teaching his high school chemistry class how to make explosives, I was alarmed. It is because I have some personal experience with this.

When I was in 8th grade, my science class teacher invited some local firefighters to demonstrate the dangers of certain common household chemicals, and also some that were not so common, like liquid nitrogen.

The one that caught me eye, and those of my two buddies, was the volatile mixture of car brake fluid and pool cleaning chemicals. When combined in small amounts – maybe a cup full each at the most – they produced a five-foot high column of flame for a few seconds.

Of course, in Florida, both substances were pretty easy to find, and you can bet that my buddies and I went straight to one of their garages and scooped up some pool chlorine right away. Brake fluid, however, was nowhere to be found, so we tried substituting different car-related fluids, to no avail.

We did take a few precautions, such as turning on the garden hose and hiding around the corner of the house from where we had sat the old coffee can and mixture. But there was no column of flame, much to our disappointment.

And thank goodness. Looking back as an adult, and now having two young kids, I wonder – what the fuck were they thinking, teaching us that? Kids often see the lessons we teach as opportunities for fun, especially when those lesson involve pyrotechnics.

What gets me about the Orlando teacher was that he didn't seem bothered by the fact the one of the students had taken this knowledge, made a bomb and detonated it on a local golf course. He apparently had praised the child's smarts.

At least one of them had some.


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