Blowing It Up Out Of Proportion

, , , , , | Learning | May 14, 2018

During my sophomore year of college, our campus had a bomb scare, not because of a threat, but because of incorrectly stored chemicals. A professor had brought some picric acid into one of the labs and failed to screw the container’s cap on properly. Picric acid is a component of TNT. It’s relatively safe when kept in an aqueous solution, but when it dries it’s highly explosive and can be set off by being jostled. In response, the university cancelled classes and evacuated half of the campus. The cafeteria was also half-closed, and students were shuffled in to eat in small groups, and told to finish as quickly as possible and get out of the “blast zone.” The fire department was called, and they sent in a bomb squad to retrieve the container and detonate it safely.

Later that day, one of the professors found more dried picric acid in the lab, and asked another professor what to do. They just poured water into the container and dumped it down the sink.

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