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I've been banging away on my keyboard. Here's some new articles. In The Armed Citizen, we have: Soldier, Officer, CitizenAccoutrements for training, and What’s your Tueller Distance? In the book reviews there's Prepared: Surviving Worst Case Scenarios. Enjoy!

The Humorous Chemist

In my perusal of this vast and wonderful Internet, a couple of years ago, I discovered this site, Things I Won't Work With. This is written by a chemist who has a droll sense of humor, bordering on the "British Dry" side. He talks about compounds that he amazingly enough, won't work with because they are unstable and tend to create beautiful and cataclysmic explosions. I have just enough understanding of chemistry to have a glimpse of what he talks about. Here is an example:

You may not have felt the need for a better synthesis of metal azides. Personally, my metal azide requirements are minimal, and very easily satisfied. I can get all I need by looking at a structure drawn on a whiteboard from about twenty feet away, thanks, and have no desire to actually prepare any of these things. I do not see this as an irrational reluctance. For example, last year I wrote about mercury azides, a most alarming class of compounds whose synthesis would be much easier if the two solvent layers didn't keep getting disturbed by explosions. I've also covered selenium tetraazide, a cheerful lemon-yellow solid with the annoying habit of blowing up when it gets warmer than about -64C, which would explain why you don't run into it very often.

I could hear his eyes roll as he wrote this:

... It turns out that silver azide in liquid ammonia slowly does redox reactions with a variety of other elements, giving a wide variety of otherwise hard-to-obtain compounds. The careful reader will have noted a defect in this scheme: you first have to make a supply of silver azide, which is enough of a show-stopper for me. That Wikipedia article drolly notes that "In its most characteristic reaction, the solid decomposes explosively", and because it's a silver salt, that decomposition can be set off by foolhardy behavior like shining a strong light on it.   So there's your starting material - now let's use it to make something lively. Shown is a corundum crucible before and after heating up a sample of the manganese azide product (as an ammonia complex). Again, the careful reader will note a crucial detail about the post-analysis state of this labware: it has been blown to hell and gone. This will surely happen to everything in which you heat up samples of metal azides, and believe me, many of these items will be less sturdy than a corundum crucible. Before performing this operation, be sure to ask yourself: "Do I want this apparatus to be blown to pieces?"   And before making the metal azide in the first place, naturally, you need to ask "Do I want to blow myself to pieces?" That's because this isn't one of those set-it-and-forget-it Crock-Pot azide reactions. No, you're going to have to hand-craft these things...

I'm reasonably sure he could do stand-up comedy while performing these chemical experiments. He would probably get a standing ovation at the end... if there were any survivors in the audience.


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