With A Poof And Boom, Water!

, , , , , , | Learning | October 24, 2019

Our science teacher was pretty relaxed and mellow. In the four years he tried to teach us the principles of chemistry and physics, I only saw him mad two times. One of them involved another teacher.

He entered the classroom seething mad and told us [Other Teacher]’s key to the cupboard and storage room with chemicals and materials had been taken away and he was never ever to touch the school’s equipment again. 

He did say some things not to be said about other teachers, especially not to your teenage students, but he was beyond mad. The show was not around at the time, but what happened could have figured in a Seconds Before Disaster episode. 

[Other Teacher] performed a small experiment regarding the electrolysis of water, basic stuff. This means an interconnected two-tube system was hooked on to a generator, sending a current through the water and splitting it into its components: hydrogen and oxygen. Those gases amass at the top of each tube. First of all, the generator used for the current was set on AC instead of DC. No harm done at this stage, if he remained vigilant. 

The chemical formula for water is dihydrogen oxide, meaning that for each oxygen molecule, there are two hydrogen molecules. As a consequence, in one tube should be twice as much gas as in the other tube — invisible but you can see the “void” space. [Other Teacher], however, failed to notice that due to the AC, the volume in both tubes was the same. The next step — students are fond of this — to prove the hydrogen, you are supposed to tap some of the gas in an upside-down test tube — hydrogen is lighter than air — and to light the gas. It will result in a small “poof.”

[Other Teacher], for some reason, did not take a test tube and let the gas escape from one of the tubes and lighted it directly. If you hold a flame next to hydrogen and oxygen, they want to come together, resulting in a “boom” rather than a “poof.” As the tube contained a mixture of both, an expensive piece of equipment made out of glass exploded… onto the first two rows of students, who luckily remained mostly unharmed or had only minor scratches. He was lucky.

For some reason, our very strict principal did not see it as a reason for dismissal but [Science Teacher], who was also responsible for the material, revoked his privileges. He had to fight the principal but he won that one.

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