Charles Darwin with a purple swarm around his head, contemplating the twist of fate that natural selection sidestepped these still-living honorable mentions.

2009 Honorable Mention

Next Prev Random Honorable Mentions have misadventures that stop short of the ultimate sacrifice. Nevertheless we salute the spirit of their colossal blunders with an Honorable Mention. Better luck next time!

Nitrating The Unknown
2009 Honorable Mention
Unconfirmed by Darwin

(Personal Account) This isn't a Darwin, but easily could have been. 30+ years ago, my college installed new granite tables in the chem lab, and somehow a bet got started on who could scratch the tabletop first. The bet went uncollected for a couple of years: those granite surfaces were pretty sturdy. Then along came my friend, "Mass Destruction."

Armed with an explosive blasting cap and a ball peen hammer, he was determined to win that bet. Placing the cap on a table, he swung the hammer and hit it squarely. The hammer exited the lab at a high rate of speed over his shoulder. By some fluke, nobody was injured. Mass Destruction did win the bet--the granite was cracked through.

Here is the explanation of how his nickname came about. Earlier that year he had been doing an organic analysis when the Prof came by and casually asked where he was in the procedure.

"I'm nitrating the unknown."

"You didn't get a reaction at the last step?"


It turned out that the prof had added too much denaturing agent to the unknown (glycerin) so it was not identified at the proper stage. Mass Destruction was now casually stirring 250 ml of nitroglycerin on an ice bath! The Prof encouraged him to keep stirring--gently--while he evacuated the other students and called the bomb squad.

After the bomb squad had made all the needed arrangements to dispose of the nitroglycerin, they generously allowed Mass Destruction to push the button on the detonator.

Reference: Personal Account

Previous Directions Next