6 Chemical Reactions That Look Like Scenes From Horror Films
Science is fun ... if you're a bit of a nerd. But even if you're nerd-free (which you're not, let's be honest), it can still knock your socks off. That's because sometimes learning and opening portals to Fel Dimensions of mind-warping terror go hand in hand. So maybe I should have said science is less "fun," and more "a dark force that should not be trifled with." Same difference, really.
Mercury + Aluminum = Satan's Ivory Boner
Everyone knows mercury as the T-1000 metal in old thermometers that for reasons you can't explain you always wanted to taste. It's super toxic, so please never do that, no matter how much you think it will taste like raspberries from the future. You also likely know aluminum as the foil in your kitchen or the siding on your house. Surely if you put the two of them together, you'd just get shiny wet siding, right? How foolish we all are. To the alchemy room!
Metallic aluminum has a thick layer of oxide on it all the time, like the shame those of us who spend too much time on Twitter. It keeps the aluminum as cool as a cucumber and protected from the real world. Because when pure metallic aluminum is exposed to oxygen, this is the madness that happens:
When you mix aluminum and mercury, you create what science types call an amalgam reaction. You have to get past the oxide layer to make it go, and in this video, that happens with the help of acid. But once it does and the aluminum is exposed to oxygen, it starts producing flakey, creepy new layers of aluminum oxide, which is what you're seeing rising up like a pale fist from the colorless depths of a Stygian floor tile.
You can't do this very easily on your own, since you need to get through that oxide layer to start, and that requires the use of acid, so you're doubling down on terrible poisons to try this in your own home. Please don't.
Elephant's Toothpaste Looks Like Demon Birth
If you've been on the internet more than six months and are still mostly sane, there's a good chance you've seen this baffling video going around. It's so popular that you can also watch Jimmy Kimmel, Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, Rachael Ray, Jimmy Fallon, and James Corden all copy it on their programs, because variety is the spice of life, but not talk shows.
This looks dramatic, but it's nowhere near as dangerous as you might think. The ingredients include 30% hydrogen peroxide, soap, color, and potassium iodide. The entire reaction is mostly the peroxide and the potassium iodide getting all dramatic together and producing a hell of a lot of gas and the soap capturing it all in bubbles, which is what makes the insane foamsplosion. It looks kind of like when Craig T. Nelson barfed up that old man in Poltergeist, only colorful. Remember that scene? Fucked up, right? Yeah, it's like that, except fun for all ages! Look!
The reaction does produce heat and oxygen, so keeping it away from an open flame is probably a good idea ... and also from your face. That's a good rule of thumb for all science, though. Never in the face.
The Zombie Fish
There's a good chance even Aquaman hates zombie fish, so these videos are disturbing to just about everyone, save maybe one or two people who have been to the far edge of the internet and lived to tell the tale. Nothing here looks like the sort of thing you want in your kitchen or later in your mouth, probably. I won't judge you if you salivate a little, though. You do you.
So why, dear god, just why? Well, 10% of the time, it's because your home was built on sacred land and you're about 20 minutes away from having your soul sucked out of your butthole by a mummy dressed like a cowboy. The other 90% of the time, it's an unsettling chemical reaction that happens to all kinds of seafood, and maybe even you, if you get hollowed out in a kitchen one day! Don't quote me on that part, though. I stopped taking biology in high school.
The basic explanation for this cockamamie corpse dance is that even though it's dead, the muscle tissue in the fish still contains adenosine triphosphate, which is what allows muscles to contract. All it takes is stimulation -- say, from salt, or soy sauce, or a really powerful Taylor Swift song -- to send those muscles into lifelike spasms. Is it true that MSG would make the fish latch onto your face and force you to drive it to the ocean? There's only one way to find out!
Related: 5 Fish Clearly Designed by a Madman
The Cornstarch Speaker
Everyone has a box of cornstarch in their house, and arguably only 25% of us ever know why. Do you need to thicken a lot of stuff? Powder a lot of damp butts? Make regular corn into ultra-starched corn? Hard to say. But if you have it and have never known what to do with it, now's your time to shine. Cornstarch mixed with water creates something called a non-Newtonian fluid, which sounds so boring that I refuse to end this sentence on any word other than "fart." There's no way something like watery cornstarch should ever be interesting. And yet, like even the most uncoordinated amongst us, if you kick up the bass enough, shit gets real.
So why does cornstarch turn into the titular substance from the underrated 1985 horror movie The Stuff? Well, first you need to know what the hell a non-Newtonian fluid is. Your piss is Newtonian; it's all liquid all the time, and its viscosity won't change, even if you double-dog-dare it to. Cornstarch and water is non-Newtonian, and therefore exhibits qualities of a solid and a liquid, so its viscosity is like your drunken uncle trying to maneuver a bouncy house on your tenth birthday: highly unpredictable, and always looking like it's doing something wrong. Placed on a speaker and subjected to sound, the changes in frequency play havoc with its liquid and solid properties, making it dance around like a freaky sludge monster. Fun!
Unlike the other experiments here, you'd have to actively work to get this one to kill you. So don't get your speaker wires wet or, you know, bury your face in the non-Newtonian slime mold, and you should be aces.
The Lovecraftian Fire Monster
What happens when you mix mercury thiocyanate and ammonium chromate? If you actually have those things and don't know, please stop immediately. What the hell is mercury thiocyanate? Go ahead and read the Wikipedia page for it, and you'll still have no idea. The world has too many chemicals in it, and unless you're trying to cook up a fancy new kind of meth, you probably don't need to know about more than like ten of them. That said, if you mix these things together, this is the ghastly shit that transpires:
Is that an actual gateway to the underworld shitting out Cthulhu's younger brother, Lil'thulhu? It may as well be, and if it isn't, it needs a new agent who can make that happen. When mixed together and lit on fire, those two compounds, both of which are highly dangerous on their own, become extra insanely dangerous and make this devilish brew. Obviously it looks awesome and like maybe something you'd want to precede you into every meeting you have henceforth, but that's not practical, and probably bad for the lungs of everyone who witnesses your undoubtedly bitchin' entrance.
The ammonium chromate is what burns a hole in reality, while the mercury thiocyanate makes the panictopus crawl forth from the flaming chasm of despair. The fumes from this thing may kill you, because obviously they do, so it's not worth trying this at home, but it's good to know you could make a chemical monster if you wanted to.
Snake Venom Meets Blood
Word on the street is that getting bit by a snake sucks all balls, and you're better off getting punched in the beak by a kangaroo or spit on by a llama. Not only do you have to worry about finding someone to suck the poison out (never do that, by the way), but you also have to worry about what that poison is doing once it gets inside of you. It roots around in your veins and such, and really mucks shit up in ways you don't see coming. Look here!
That's what the venom of a Russell viper does to your precious fluids. If you've ever taken a biology course or cut yourself on a sharp piece of frozen licorice, you'll be aware that blood is not supposed to be in jelly form. In fact, it's almost exclusively a liquid in living things. However, the Russell viper venom coagulates the ever-loving shit out of your blood, and that's not good if it's still inside of you. There's a very scientific explanation of what happens here. Probably. We're not interested in that. The non-scientific explanation is "Aaaaahhh! Shit!"
As a fun aside, that whole snake venom thing is actually a very roughshod medical test. If the blood doesn't clot, it's a good indicator that you have lupus, since the blood of someone with lupus will have certain anticoagulants that delay the reaction. Lupus or not, you want to test such things with the snake venom outside of your body.
For more, check out 6 Easy Questions (That Science Has A Hard Time Answering):
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