#3. Spontaneously Exploding Powder
Nitrogen triiodide looks kind of like a clump of dirt, but you shouldn't use it in your garden unless you're super hardcore. As you can see in the above pictures, the stuff is so unstable that touching it with a feather is enough to make it go off with an ear-shattering bang:
So what is it used for? Well, practically nothing, besides the occasional ill-advised prank. It is so unstable that moving it around is as risky as eating a 12-pack of Doritos Locos Tacos and doing squats in the gym -- you'll note that all of the Internet videos demonstrating the "explodes at the touch of a feather" thing all have the feather tied to the end of a long stick.
"Hell no, I'm not moving it! Get one of the interns to do it."
Oh, and for style points, it gives off a cool purple cloud when it explodes.
This is how Prince exits every room now.
A similar substance is fulminating silver, which in very small amounts is what makes POP-ITS explode. Because seriously, what better use could you put it to than to make the most annoying toy possible? If you're looking for something more spectacular than the world's shittiest fireworks, fulminating silver is also the stuff that Walt uses to blow up a drug lord's lair in the first season of Breaking Bad.
"Let me demonstrate how dangerous this bag of highly unstable explosives is by detonating a piece right next to it!"
While this is fiction, some science people have analyzed this scene and concluded, yep, that's pretty much the scale of what would happen if you threw down a nugget of that size. The only quibble they have with the scenario is that Walt couldn't possibly have survived the journey to the building while carrying it.
#2. Hot Ice
Hot ice, scientifically known as sodium acetate, is a liquid that will turn solid at the slightest provocation. Touching it with your finger, bumping it too hard, or speaking a few angry words will cause it to spring from a clear, water-like state into solid ice-like crystals.
This process allows for the creation of instantaneous ice sculptures or for convincing your dinner guests that you are Mr. Freeze. For instance, you can just pour the stuff in its liquid form into a container ...
... touch it with your finger, or dick, if you prefer ...
Depending on how much you bet your friends.
... and watch "ice" crystals race across the surface in every direction, until the whole container has "frozen" in just a few seconds.
What's forming is not actually ice, of course. As the name suggests, it's warm to the touch, just to mess with your brain a little more. The chemical is used in hand warmers to ensure that your hands don't freeze and fall off while you're handling normal, non-crazy ice.
"Smooth move, Brian. How the hell are you going to get it out of there now?!"
So how does this process actually work? What happens is that sodium acetate is cooled down really slowly and tricked into getting colder than the point at which it should freeze. When you agitate it too much, it realizes that it has been tricked and the particles freak out and solidify. We should also note that this is the first item on the list that you can reasonably make at home, though we take no responsibility for when you find a way to explode your house with it.
#1. Metal With Memory
No, that sequence of pictures is not reversed -- pouring hot water on that twisty lump of wire did, in fact, make it spell out the word "HOT."
That's nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium that has the impressive ability to "remember" its original shape after you've gone and bent the crap out of it. All it takes is a little heat, like running warm water over it, and no matter how badly you've twisted and contorted it, the "memory metal" will spring right back into the shape it's supposed to be:
It may not seem like there are terribly many applications for this unless you're Uri Geller and you need some spoons that will bend without touching them. But engineers are developing a whole host of applications for memory metal, like eyeglasses that can be fixed right up again if they get bent out of shape, so it doesn't matter how many times your nerdy kid gets punched in the face by bullies.
We have no idea if they'll ever be able to make, for instance, cars that just bend themselves back into shape after an accident. All we know is that every video of this shit looks like they've just run it in reverse:
For instance, that guy takes a perfectly good spring made of this stuff ...
... completely fucks it up by twisting it in every direction ...
"Kill ... me ..."
... and shoots it with a blow dryer ...
... until it completely heals itself in seconds:
"Now let's use this stuff to replace the skeleton of an unstable, sociopathic mutant, right before we betray him."
Are we crazy, or could you not take all of the materials on this list and, with no other skills, become a pretty successful magician?
For more materials that just cannot be real, check out 7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics and 6 Man-Made Materials You Won't Believe Exist.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Hilarious Moments of Animals Ruining a Sporting Event.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which columnist has a symbiotic spider suit.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up RIGHT NOW and pitch your first article today! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!