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2002 Personal Accounts
The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next Prev Random


Chemistry Lesson
2002 Personal Account

(2002, England) I am a high school science teacher in Birmingham. I usually teach physics, but due to teacher shortages, I ended up teaching chemistry a few years ago. As you all know, chemistry can be fun, especially when you get onto the subject of reactive metals.

I decided to liven up a particular chemistry lesson by demonstrating the awesome energy released when silver nitrate, magnesium, and a drop of water are mixed. This particular reaction is very violent, exploding in a brilliant white flash when the water is added. It usually ends up shattering the crucible. On this particular occasion I decided to put the chemicals in a sturdy mortar dish to save on crockery. This was my first mistake.

I carefully mixed the powders in the bone-dry mortar, stepped back, and at arms length added a drop of water with a pipette. A small fizz preceded a violent flash, and a collective "ahhhh" from the impressed pupils. As always on these occasions, the pupils shouted, "Do it again, sir!" And as always I said, "OK!" But this time I didn't require a new, bone-dry crucible because Mr. Clever had used a sturdy, reusable mortar dish. I proceeded to add the chemicals again to the mortar, and that was my second mistake.

I added the silver nitrate crystals and crushed them up a little. I then added a liberal spatula of magnesium powder and began to mix the two, my head bent over the dish to see that they were mixed properly. Unfortunately for me, the mortar was damp and warm from the previous reaction. Fortunately for me, as well as having inherited a stupidity gene, I inherited a gene for very fast reflex actions.

At the first hint of a fizz, I threw my head back whilst simultaneously shielding the mortar from my face and body with my hands as the violence of nature was unleashed from the chemicals in the dish. Within a hundredth of a second the reactants spewed forth their energy in a blinding flash of pure white light and heat. You can guess what happened to my hands.

My third mistake occurred later at home, after my trip to the hospital for emergency treatment. Both my hands were heavily bandaged and my head was pretty fuzzy on account of the prescription painkillers I had taken for the excruciating pain of the second-degree burns. I decided to have a cigarette, since it had been a pretty rough day. I don't know if you've ever tried to light a cigarette lighter with fully bandaged hands. Anyway, let me just say I found it rather ironic that burn dressings are flammable.

To finish off, I would like to apologize to my three children. I'm sorry if you've inherited that particular gene of mine that leads me to do stupid things. © 1994 - 2020
Submitted by: Jason Southall

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