“Harris and Klebold wanted to outdo Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber. They had planned meticulously for over a year - the only reason the devastation was not far greater was because they used the wrong kind of alarm clocks for their home-made bombs: the tickers were plastic, not brass, and therefore incapable of making the necessary electronic connection.”
Hello! I'm writing a Harry Potter fic (if there is no answer to my question, I can always say it's because of magic) where one of the characters is killed by potion experient gone wrong. What kind of chemicals (and the following question which is for a different script blog: where in the nature can I find them?) are needed for an explosion big enough to throw off a human too close to it?
A disclaimer up front – this post is going to deal with the topic of an individual being killed in an explosion-type accident. I’m definitely not going to show you any pictures of that kind of injury, and I won’t even be giving detailed descriptions (that’s @ScriptMedic’s gig, and the topic has already been covered), but I wanted to give everyone a fair warning before proceeding.
This is quite an interesting ask because the scenario you’re aiming for is actually fairly difficult to produce; you need enough oomph™ to get a person in motion, but it needs to be a controlled and directed oomph™ because I’m assuming that after the character is thrown you’d like there to be a body, a building, and potentially even some witnesses left to tell the tale. First we should take a moment to discuss what an explosion is, and the different sorts of explosions you can get from chemical reactions; then we’ll move on to how they might affect the surroundings and an unfortunate individual who happened to be nearby. Finally, I may be able to offer some advice as to how to throw your character and still have them be recognizable at the end of the scene, though it’s going to take some careful planning to do it in a realistic fashion.
Just so we’re all on the same page, an explosion is a very fast release of stored potential energy, with most of it being released as heat, light, sound, and pressure. Chemical explosives are usually compounds that decompose to release a lot of heat (energy from chemical bonds) and large volumes of gaseous products like nitrogen; the rate of this decomposition plays a large part in how useful a material is as an explosive. So-called ‘low explosive’ compounds decompose by deflagration, meaning that the reaction travels through the material slower than the speed of sound; low explosives include things like gunpowder, pyrotechnics, propellants (propane/gasoline), and many other mixtures of fuels and oxidizers. If the reaction propagates faster than the speed of sound, you have a ‘high explosive’ material that decomposes by detonation. As an example, let’s take a look at something called detonation cord (det. cord), a thin flexible line filled with the high explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). Below is a setup where a bullet is fired from right to left, activating an electronic trigger connected to the end of 16 feet of det. cord. (FullMag’s full video can also be found here.)
PETN detonates at 24-28,000 ft/s, so in the time it takes the bullet to travel the remaining 2.25 feet to the target (moving around 2800 ft/s), the reaction front of the explosive travels 16 feet to catch up with it. If you look closely, you can also see the blast wave from the newly formed gases expanding outward after the explosion – look for the ripple in the air at the top of the frame, or for the wave of dust knocked off the right-hand cinder block as the concussive force of the shock wave moves past it. This high-pressure, high-velocity wave of compressed gas is what causes most of the damage associated with an explosion, but unfortunately we’re going to run into a slight problem if we try to use an explosive to throw a person – humans are relatively small and squishy, which makes them extremely resilient to pressure waves and able to survive much more than you might expect. Here’s one more explosion gif to demonstrate how this works (and this time it’s a splodey-melon):
There are a few things to take note of here, besides the complete lack of eye protection – if the chunk of watermelon rind that struck his head was two inches lower down, that eye may very well have been lost. First and foremost, the individual pictured was completely unharmed by the pressure wave, and the melon shrapnel luckily only caused a welt; you can see the full clip here. However, if you watch the edge of the table you can see it flex down with the pressure of the explosion, and if you look really carefully you can see chunks of debris knocked off the bottom side of the table at very high speed (through a process called spallation). When a pressure wave encounters a solid object, it deposits some of its momentum as kinetic energy and is then reflected off the surface; that energy must either be absorbed or dissipated by the solid, and if the solid is rigid it will crack and crumble. If the solid is squishy and flexible (like a person), it can deform slightly to both absorb and dissipate energy without shattering and falling apart. This table compares damage to structures and humans at various peak blast overpressures in the frame of mining explosions; at peak overpressures of 5 psi, only 1% of humans exposed will even rupture an eardrum, but at this pressure most buildings will collapse. Real-world mining explosions that reach 5 psi overpressures do in fact cause many injuries and fatalities, but it isn’t the pressure that kills – it’s the shrapnel and the blast wind that accompanies large-scale explosions. The other factor protecting a person is the fact that humans have a relatively small surface area when compared to things like tables or walls or buildings, so only a fraction of the explosive energy from a pressure wave can even be absorbed by a person to begin with. In order for enough energy to be transferred to a person to throw them across a room, the explosion needs to be massive.
So what does this mean for your character and their exploding potion? If you want the actual explosion to throw them, you’re going to need something huge; it’s going to take out the room, probably the floors above and below it, and maybe even the entire building/wing of the dungeon. An explosion of this scale involves forces far greater than those holding the body together, so if the character is near the center of it then there isn’t going to be much left at the end; to get this effect from something the size of a potion would also require military-grade high explosives, and they’re not the sort of thing you make accidentally.
There is perhaps another way to achieve the same effect, but with a much smaller explosion – it’s even a plausible accident that could occur in the real world. Consider that fact that the amount of energy in a small firework, which can turn a watermelon into a vapormelon without injuring a person sitting a few feet away, is more than an order of magnitude larger than the energy required to fire a bullet from a gun. The difference here is how the explosion is contained; with the melon it expands in a spherical wavefront and can bounce around and reflect off of things, but with the bullet the explosion is funneled down the barrel, propelling a single piece of shrapnel to a very high velocity. If you can contain the explosive energy of your potion and channel it into a heavy, solid object, it could easily strike your character and carry them across a room, killing them in the process through blunt force trauma.
Perhaps your character was preparing something in an iron cauldron over a small open fire, and instead of grabbing that vial of Horklump juice they accidentally grabbed the hydrochloric acid. Iron (and a number of other metals) will react with hydrochloric acid to produce iron chloride and hydrogen gas; the reaction isn’t particularly fast or violent, and the gentle bubbling and yellow color of the solution might not even be noticed in the bottom of a black cauldron. If your character were to put a heavy iron lid on top and let it simmer for half an hour, quite a lot of very flammable gas would build up, but as long as the lid remained in place it wouldn’t be able to come into contact with an ignition source. Your character returns and grabs the next ingredient, but as they start to lift the lid off, hydrogen can escape into the room and oxygen from the air can diffuse into the cauldron. The escaped hydrogen is ignited by the small open fire, and it quickly flashes back towards the cauldron, snaking down under the lid where it meets an ideal mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. This results in a powerful explosion with almost all of the force being directed straight up into the iron lid; it takes off towards the ceiling and strikes your character’s head or torso on the way, causing them to fly back and collapse in a heap.
This is just one way to spin this unfortunate tale, but it would give you a plausible potion accident with a readily available material, and it could cause an explosion that (indirectly) kills your character and sends them flying across the room. You could even have any number of people standing around with ringing ears who are otherwise uninjured, and besides that dent in the ceiling you haven’t done much structural damage.
Of course it goes without saying that you are always free to exclaim “MAGIC” at any point to either augment or supplant chemistry and physics, but going that route is entirely beyond the purview of my expertise.
You don’t remember much. Just the cold metal slicing through your side. Just the deafening thrash which dented the car like teeth. And then? Silence.
Much to the Doctor’s surprise, you were the first to wake up. You coughed, ached, shook and grimaced but you survived. A small women with long black hair tied up in a high pony tail smiled down at you. “Miss Winchester, can you hear me?” She asked, her voice calm and sweet.
You nodded, adding a quiet “Yeah.” on the end.
“Well, I’m Doctor Henley-”
“Where are my brothers?” You cut her off, suddenly aware of their absence, you looked around the room to see nobody but you and the Doctor. Mistake number one. As your head turned a wave of pain raced through your body and you winced, resting your head back on the pillow. “Ow.” You wheezed.
“I’m sorry to to be the bearer of bad news but you seem to have the worst of it.” She explained, changing something on an electronic pad connected to the bed, completely ignoring your question. “Try your best not to move, it’ll only hurt.”
“Where are my brothers?” You asked again, this time more sternly. The Doctor looked a little taken back at first before smiling. “Don’t you worry, they’re fine, they’ll be in soon to see you.”
And with that she was gone.
Like the stubborn person you were, you heaved yourself up so you were no longer lying down but instead sat up against the headboard. As you did so you completely ignored all the pain stretching across your limbs persistently.
After about five minutes of pain and silence the door to you room swung open and Doctor Henley walked in briskly, followed by your brothers Sam and Dean.
Doctor Henley stopped when she saw you sat up, she crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head disapprovingly. “I told you not to move.” She sighed, picking up the clipboard and scribbling down some notes.
“Hey, kiddo.” Dean smiled, pulling up a chair next to you, Sam perched on the bed.
Both your brothers looked tired and in pain, but they were walking mostly fine and seemed to have less cuts and bruises- perks of being in the front.
“How’re you feeling?” Sam asked, looking worried about you as per usual.
You smiled reassuringly, “Half dead, but I guess that makes me half alive so things could be worse.”
Your brothers chuckled and shared a look of relief.
“You know,” Doctor Henley began “something tells me she’s gonna be just fine.”
Heeey me again ;) just a request *-* can you do an imagine where the Winchesters are in a car crash and they’re all hurt but there sister is even worse hurt? But not dead please ); I hate death!fics o.O Love :3 Marie ;D
Sure thing! Thank you for requesting ^_^
Day 263 - Voltolos | ボルトロス| Thundurus (Therian Forme)
Lightning is churned from within Voltolos’ body. Using stored static electricity, it connects electron feelers to the ground to guide its bolts. When there is a powerful storm, that is Voltolos’ anger manifesting itself.
“So Kamille spent every class that was not connected to electronics and computers with his mind elsewhere. On the other hand, he had been able
to pick up some special tricks. He showed off, his trick of sitting
with his back up straight all day long, sometimes even falling sleeping
that way, better than anyone else’s.”
– from Zeta Gundam novelization, by Yoshiyuki Tomino
Hello Cassie! Since The Tales Of The Shadowhunter Academy is supposed to be before Lady Midnight but gets published after, won’t be there spoilers? Because I really want to read The Tales but I can’t stand to read online and I really don’t want to get spoiled… Thanks xx — brianharoldbae
Well, the thing is, it’s true that TFSA comes before Lady Midnight chronologically, but not true that it’s published after — it’s already been published, just as an online book. I totally understand if you don’t want to read it in that format, of course. People have their favorite formats — some readers I knew wouldn’t read the Harry Potter books until they came out in paperback. The thing is, though, that the publishing world, and the reader-world, will still consider those books “already published” — even if you’re waiting for your preferred format — and proceed accordingly.
I am conscious of the fact that a lot of people don’t like e-books, or e-readers, and also that the ability to even e-read a book at all is a privileged one, requiring a fast internet connection and an electronic device you can read on which are rarely cheap. So I would be unlikely to publish a full Shadowhunter book as an e-book.
The assumption when you’re reading TSFA is that you’re reading it in the order it was published — in between City of Heavenly Fire and Lady Midnight — but one nice thing about the collections of short stories (The Bane Chronicles and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy) is that they offer little bits and pieces of the Shadowhunter world and its history in bite size chunks that you aren’t required to read in order to understand the main series. And because you aren’t required to read them, nothing that world-changing or earth-shattering can happen in them.
Characters from TMI will appear in the background of Lady Midnight, so you will see glimpses of where they are in their lives after Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. If you read Lady Midnight first, TftSA will fill in a little bit about how the characters got where they are, otherwise they’re facts about these characters that will be told to you in a few sentences. Even if you don’t read Lady Midnight, it’s already true that the majority of the spoilers about everything that happens to the characters in TFSA are already all over the web. I’ve seen gifs about them, I’ve blogged about them. Is Simon alive at the end of TSFA? If you know the answer to that then you probably don’t need to worry too much about being spoiled for anything that happens in TSFA because you likely know the rest of it too.
Cheap Graphene Reported From Laser Fired At Plastic
Scientists have come up with a cheap and easy way to make electronics and energy storage components out of the supermaterial graphene.
Researchers can now make the amazingly strong material that is an excellent heat and electricity conductor by firing a laser at cheap plastic sheets. The laser burns patterns into the polyimide polymer, which create microscopic interconnected flakes of the single-atom-thick sheets of bound carbon atoms.
One of the chemists behind the material says the laser actually creates a hard foam of graphene flakes that remain connected to the plastic from which they are burned. The process can be done at room temperature and pressure, another important manufacturing advance.
Are you against testing on rats? I know that this question might seem obvious because you're against using animals in that manner, but scientists have made a lot of progress with cures for a lot of human diseases by using rats.
yeah i am against vivisection (live animal testing). although i do agree that modern medicine has been somewhat furthered through the use of animal testing, these tests have been proven to be unreliable due to the physiological differences in humans and the animals used in testing (rats, guinea pigs etc).
the food and drug administration (FDA) has noted that 92% of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials because they are ineffective or dangerous. furthermore, of the small percentage that are approved for human use, half are relabeled because of side effects that were not identified in animal tests.
animal testing is unreliable due to the artificial environment they are placed in, differences between species (e.g. penicillin kills guinea pigs but is inactive in rabbits; aspirin kills cats and causes birth defects in rats, mice, guinea pigs, dogs, and monkeys; and morphine, a depressant in humans, stimulates goats, cats, and horses — all of these are different to the reaction in humans)
conducting observational or experimental studies on willing humans is the way to go.
Selective formulation: Choosing previously tested ingredients to create new products eliminates the need for further testing. Many manufacturers follow this principle in planning their product lines.
Human cultures: Epiderm and EpiSkin are human skin cells grown in test tubes that are layered to mimic the structure of human skin. Cosmetics and household products can be tested on these rather than the skin of live rabbits. Corrositex is another test-tube option that gives an easy-to-read color change reaction to a hazardous product. And EpiOcular, a mass of skin cells specially grown to form a thin layer like that of the human cornea, has the potential to completely replace the cruel rabbit eye irritancy test.
Skin cultures: taken by permission during surgical procedures (such as breast-reduction surgery) can be used to test whether a chemical can pass through the skin and be a potential poison risk.
Surgical specimens: are also the main source of human tissues available from the National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI) in Philadelphia. This non-profit tissue bank makes more than 100 types of human tissues available for medical research. NDRI, along with Asterand, a company with offices in the US, UK and Japan that supplies human biomaterials for research, has made it easier than ever for companies to access human cells for testing.
Physiological chip: Just as a microchip holds an intricate system of electronic connections, this 1×1-inch square of cultured cells is made up of cell compartments that are linked by a lifelike circulatory system that mimics the complex functions of the human body. The chips, developed by the Hµrel Corporation in Beverly Hills, CA, can be used to test for harmful (and beneficial) effects of experimental drugs, as well as toxicity of the liver and other organs.
Cellular tests: Experiments that measure white blood cell response to chemicals and medical substances can be used in place of rabbit injections. These tests check for unexpected fever and inflammation—especially from receiving intravenous medications. The European Union just approved the use of five of these tests.
Bacteria-based: tests performed on common microbes such as salmonella can be used to assess whether chemicals can damage DNA, and therefore present a cancer risk.
Microdosing Minuscule: amounts of a test substance—much smaller than a typical dose used for medical purposes—are given to human volunteers so that researchers can track how the substances are transported and absorbed throughout the body xxx
Read quickly, because this message will self-destruct in five seconds.
Researchers at the University of Illinois are developing electronics components that can destroy themselves when heated. They’ve also created a radio-controlled trigger to remotely initiate the reaction.
It sounds like a high-tech spy device right out of Mission Impossible, but the idea behind the research is to put a dent in the global electronic waste stream. The team argues that making components that can be quickly degraded will let manufacturers recycle the materials from used equipment into new devices.
“We have demonstrated electronics that are there when you need them and gone when you don’t need them anymore,” said aerospace engineer and study leader Scott White. “This is a way of creating sustainability in the materials that are used in modern-day electronics.”