7 Mind-Blowing Chemical Reactions You Won't Believe Are Real

Chemistry is mind-numbingly boring to most of us. It's like calculus, but with letters where numbers should be. It takes a unique kind of psychopath to get excited about doing math with the alphabet. But put chemistry through a "YouTube" filter, and you get some truly incredible stuff that will surely blow your mind*.

*If you're stoned. If you're sober, you'll probably just say "neat" and then go on to check your bank statement, or whatever it is normal people do with computers.

#7. Hypnotizing Bromic Acid

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Dealer out of town? Miss your daily dose of LSD? All you need are two simple substances and a Petri dish to fake your own lava lamp screensaver (or one crusty keyboard and like two spare minutes if you just want to watch it).

Tim Kench
Annnnnd five minutes have passed.

According to science, the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction is an "oscillating chemical reaction" during which "transition-metal ions catalyze oxidation of various, usually organic, reductants by bromic acid in acidic water solution," making it possible to "observe development of complex patterns in time and space by naked eye." That's science-speak for "slap some bromine into an acid solution and forge your own chemical Hypnotoad."


The acid turns the bromine into a chemical called bromide (which is a different color and an entirely different letter), but the bromide quickly turns itself back into bromine, because the science elves that live inside of it are stubborn jerks. The reaction then repeats, and you can watch the pattern undulate unto infinity, or at least until you pass out into your bag of ranch flavor Bugles.

#6. Clear Chemicals Instantly Turn Black

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Question: What happens when you mix sodium sulfite, citric acid, and sodium iodate? Close, but the right answer isn't "Who gives a shit?" Also, you should really check your attitude at the door to the lab. There is very little room in science for that kind of wanton brusqueness. The correct answer is this:

The chem version of your toilet after Jager night.

When you mix the aforementioned ingredients in certain proportions, you end up with a finicky liquid that starts out transparent, but then turns deep black in an instant. This is handy if you want to observe something called an "iodine clock" reaction, or convince your cousin that he truly is haunted by a Japanese well ghost after watching that YouTube clip you sent him. Put simply, a chemical clock reaction happens when specific compounds are mixed in such a way that their concentration slowly changes. When it passes a certain threshold -- BOOM, you've got Shenanigoats climbing everywhere!

But wait, there's more. By changing the proportion of the ingredients, you can even reverse the reaction:

The chem version of flushing after Jager night.

And, using different ingredients and formulas, like the Briggs-Rauscher variant, you can even get a schizophrenic mixture that constantly switches from blue to yellow. Look, if you need any more than this to convince that primitive village that you're their new wizard-king, we don't know what to tell you. Maybe invest in a quality robe.

OK, if your toilet starts doing this, you may want to seek medical attention.

#5. Creating Plasma in a Microwave

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But what if you want to mess with your high roommate and you don't have access to a bunch of obscure chemicals or the basic knowledge needed to mix them safely? Don't despair! Can you get your hands on a grape, a knife, a glass, and a microwave? If not, then we're really sorry the economy turned on you so viciously. If so, cut the grape into two pieces. Then take one of the pieces and slice it in half again, leaving the two quarters connected by the skin. Place it inside the microwave under an upturned glass and turn it on. Then step back and watch aliens abduct a piece of chopped fruit.

Terrence Smith

What you're actually doing is creating a very small amount of plasma. You probably learned in school that there are three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas), but there's actually a fourth type, the hard-to-define rebel matter called plasma that comes from superheating a gas until it ionizes. Grape juice happens to be rich in ions, so it's one of the better mediums to use if you want to observe some simple science or make some bets and take cruel advantage of your impaired housemates.

As a responsible website, we must remind you to never try this experiment at h- you already went out and bought some grapes, didn't you? Just be careful: The ozone generated inside the glass can be toxic in high quantities. So tell your friends that the microwave needs to recharge its death ray after every use.

#4. Separating Mixed Liquids by Stirring the Other Way

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If you stir milk into your coffee, you can't ever get that milk out again. It is gone to you forever, and you will have to live with polluting the purity of that noble beverage. That's just how liquid works, right? You stir something into something else and the two are forever joined. And then there's laminar flow. To see this witchcraft in action, just put a few drops of colored dye into a vat of corn syrup, caaarefuuully stir them up ...

UNM Physics and Astronomy

... and then stir it back in the opposite direction at the same pace.

UNM Physics and Astronomy
Holy shit, Superman was right.

We know it looks like it, but we swear we didn't just reverse the video there. Laminar flow can happen in all sorts of scenarios with all sorts of liquids, but this dramatic example happens because corn syrup is so viscous that mixing the dye into it twists it up into layers. It's more like stretchy elastic than a fluid. So if you reverse the action exactly, you can reverse the effect, and the dye goes back to where it was. It's like being the crappiest time traveler ever!

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