Test Case One - Boom Boom Baby
Test Case Two - Stupid is as stupid does
Test Case Three - Where there's smoke, there's us
Test Case Four - Going Postal
Test Case Five - Shiek the geek
Test Case Six - Solid Fuel Torches
Test Case Seven - Homemade Thunder
Test Case Eight - Fire in the hole

Boom Boom Baby: Test Case 1 - Landmover Class Explosive Device

Objective: test a simple explosive device and determine its viability as a core piece of destructive technology.
Device tested: Landmover
Culprits: Smoke & Ash
Location: Smoke's Place
Damage: Minor - restricted to general cleanup
Laws Broken: Possession and discharge of an unregistered explosive device. Mischief. Disturbing the peace.

For out first test (ever) we dug a smallish hole about two feet deep and about twelve feet from the back door to Smoke's house (Please feel free to review Rule Number One at this time). I'm not sure why, but we decided that we should put our landmover into a margarine container. It seemed perfectly logical at the time, but for the life of me I have no idea why. We placed the device at the bottom of our hole and covered it with dirt. When it was filled we stomped on it until it was basically a smallish bump with two wires sticking out of it which would soon be connected to our lantern battery. In retrospect our setup lacked finesse, but all in all for a first attempt, you couldn't ask for much.

We decided that fifteen feet was more than enough safe distance for something as small as a film container full of this stuff and we wanted to be close enough to actually see what went on. Right around this time my little voice, which had been extremely quiet, began to start up. It was almost nonsensical at the time, but I can relate the sounds pretty well. It sounded a lot like Beavis.

Over the years I've collected a lot of insignificant trivia and facts which, unless I ever be a contestant on Jeopardy™, will remain virtually unused. However this is one of those rare instances where that sort of trivia may come in handy. Black powder is interesting stuff. It is available in several grades all denoted with a series of "f"s defining its coarseness or granularity. fG black powder is very course, and because of this lacks the speed. It is still a great explosive, but based on its explosive velocity, would have worked poorly in our experiments. ffffG is high velocity shit. This stuff goes off with a lot of power. To put it into perspective how much power, a little more than one tablespoon is enough to radically alter (read: remove) a tree stump.

We had a bit more than that.

A tree stump is considerably bigger, heavier and harder to move than say... a small pile of dirt.

It is at this point that I would like to point out that neither of us died in this experiment. In as much as Mother Nature had more than enough opportunity to eliminate us both from the gene pool, we are both still very alive to tell the story.

I would also like to make an observation. I find it very interesting how the human brain works at moments of extreme stress, anxiety or discomfort. It allows our powers of observation to be enhanced exponentially, which unfortunately has the side effect of causing us to perceive time as moving much slower than it really is. Details are vivid and even the biggest dolt can remember the smallest minutia with near photographic clarity.

My final observation before I get on with the story is that Hollywood has desensitized most of the population to how physics really works. I mean some people really think that if you walked off a cliff, there's a delay before you fall like in Roadrunner cartoons. Blockbuster action movies have scenes of earth shattering explosions and debris flying 50-100 feet: the character survives with minimal or even no damage. In the real world explosions, especially subterranean detonations, are far quieter than one might expect. That's not to say I haven't witnessed (read:instigated) some damn fine earth shaking explosions, its just that unless they are truly colossal or designed to make lots of noise, the sound of big chunks of earth being accelerated skyward is not necessarily an ear splitting event.

As the wires made contact with the battery terminals, I distinctly remember the voice in my head making a really loud noise. It sounded something like


I'm pretty sure that even though my inner voice made a Klingon war cry type of sound, the sounds that subsequently left my mouth where far more girlish and unmanly. My girly noise was quickly followed by a soft thud as the ground directly over our landmover heaved violently and was quickly accelerated skyward at dangerous speeds to more than 30 feet over Smoke's house. Around the time that all that dirt was moving about, Smoke and I where busy shuffling the neurons in our brains. The patterns we made caused a serious feeling of extreme shock and alarm. At the exact same time, other neurons in both our brains where being shuffled into a pattern which sent the following unmistakable message with crystal clarity to our legs:

Get us the fuck out of here.

Its really quite hard to argue with logic like that.

As all that dirt, now poised about 30 feet above us, made a U-turn on account of gravity, we where busy getting the hell up and running for the other side of the yard. Once all that terra-not-so-firma came to rest we surveyed the damage.

One two-ish foot wide crater and a LOT of dirt everywhere, including the roof, and no broken windows ... SAFE.

An hour of sweeping and shoveling dirt off the house, patio and lawn got things into reasonable shape, at least enough to conceal the fact that we had just detonated a rather strong explosive device right beside the house, but this misadventure did each us one valuable lesson. If you need to ask, please feel free to review Rule Number One.

Stupid is as Stupid does: Test Case Number 2 - Third Party Devices

Device Tested: Flash's "Enhanced" Power Landmover
The Culprits: Ash and Smoke
Location: The local skating rink
Damage: None
Laws Broken: Discharge, possession, mayhem, disturbing the peace.

I leave it with you, the readers, to exercise judgment in what you do, especially if you ever decide to follow up on any of this stuff and try it yourselves. One occasional member until this little incident, we'll call him Flash, knew little about the delicate balance involved with making some thing nice go up in smoke and making something huge instantly vaporize and having a lot to explain to the official looking people in the uniforms.

As crazy as it sounds, we usually tried to show a bit of caution when testing things out. We appreciated the danger involved with our actions and it was generally accepted as par for the course. Flash was a zealous idiot bent on self destruction. I mean he was mesmerized by things blowing up, so much so that he was banned from participating in the group and here's why:

Flash approached us one day with a device he called an "enhanced" power landmover, apparently a modified design of our original landmover. Fair enough, we'd give him a chance to test it. Well at the last minute he jammed on us with an excuse like " death in the family" or something leaving it in our hands to detonate his contraption. We were ... a bit surprised when we saw it.
Flash handed us a heavy brick sized bundle of duct tape with a sparkler sticking out of one end and said "Here. Give it a try. Catch ya later." Ya right. We asked a few questions and found the device to be a shampoo bottle filled to the top with our special mix and bound at length with duct tape. We marveled at the design. We liked to pay attention to detail but this thing was awesome. It was wrapped with a lot of care and concern. It was loved and nurtured and perfected at length, and if there was a first prize for aesthetics, this guy was taking home the blue ribbon. The enhanced power landmover was truly a work of artistic genius.

Based on previous experience and a general sense of personal safety, one might expect that we would put off testing such a recklessly large design. Your expectations would be incorrect. No sooner had Flash left, we where headed for the local skating rink.

The rink was a great place to test for a few good reasons: it was almost entirely non-combustable concrete. It opened into a huge field opposite the local elementary school. It had thick brick walls which made it hard for people inside to hear what was going on outside. It also had a lot of good directions to run in and no fences or nearby obstructions. As most of you are aware, concrete and brick are extremely difficult to start on fire and that's always a bonus.

This particular afternoon, someone had moved a large dumpster to the rear of the building which made for some perfect cover during the actual test run. We placed the device itself near the building and ran about twenty meters away and hid behind the dumpster while the sparkler burned down slowly. Mmmmmmmmm fear.

The sparkler burned and burned eventually reaching the pile of duct tape encapsulating the device. Nothing happened. We waited and waited and waited, but nothing happened.

It is at this time that I would like to reiterate how important rule number two is. I don't think I can possibly overstate how important a little bit of patience can be in a situation just like this one. I mean we can all waste and hour in front of the television set watching a rerun sitcom we've laughed at before, but when it comes to a potentially life-threatening situation, no one has three minutes to sit and wait for the best.

After about two and a half minutes of waiting we both decided that it was safe to examine the failed device and see what might have caused the malfunction. We had begun to formulate possibilities when we stepped out from behind our protective dumpster. We where engrossed in discussion of fuse physics as we began walking towards the device. We where postulating some possible solutions when we where interrupted by the device violently shaking and tipping over... bottom towards us.

At this point I'd like to say that Flash is a shit for brains. I mean I never say bad things about anyone, but this guy was an intellectual zero. In the basic design of devices, the one thing I can safely say I took away with me is the nugget of physics I'll share with you now: A device is only as strong as its weakest link. Not a real hard concept to wrap your mind around is it? Well it had apparently eluded Flash. What Flash had neglected to do while wrapping his "Enhanced" landmover, was take into consideration the amount of power he was dealing with and how it would most likely be released. What he had done is wrap the entire bottle in parallel strips of overlapping tape. Cute, except he saved the stem for last and covered it with about 1/10th the amount of tape used to cover everything else, making it the weak point of the design by a factor of about 100. Actually 103.6 is what I think Fire eventually calculated out.

Realizing far too late our error in judgment we bolted for the protection of our garbage bin shield seeking refuge from the blast. I'm sure I screamed. I don't remember what, but I'm sure it was loud and I remember Smoke screaming loudly too, although I don't remember quite what. Then I remember a silver streak flying past between the two of us at extremely low altitude and subsonic speed, striking the dumpster and instantly compressing our once 9 inch long device into a 2 inch long smoldering crater.

A post-mortem revealed a few interesting and related facts:

1) Flash was a shit for brains.
2) The fuse had been damaged while being inserted into the stem of the shampoo bottle. It had cracked and splintered slightly slowing its burn time dramatically.
3) The rapid gaseous release caused the bottle to tip, coincidentally, base towards us, the worst possible way at the time.
4) Once completely ignited, the pressure of the contents increased exponentially well past the critical duct-tape pressure threshold point obliterating the weak-ass seal around the neck of the bottle. As a result Flash's extreme lapse in judgment turned a large, controlled, omni-directional explosive release of gas pressure into a large, unidirectional, subsonic rocket of death and dismemberment. But I'm not bitter.

As a result of our little experiment, Flash was blacklisted forever. To my knowledge he will never participate in another fire related event in the history of mankind. I don't even think he's allowed to smoke. Smoke and I gained a whole new respect for rule number two and the directional explosives which we tested later at length.

Test Number 3: Where there's smoke, there's us

Device Tested: Bigass Smoker
The Culprits: Ash and Smoke
Location: Golf course culvert
Damage: None
Laws Broken: Discharge, possession, mayhem, disturbing the peace.

One of the interesting places we used to go to get away from it all was a large drainage culvert outside city limits. It was located across a creek from a golf course, but other than that it was pretty secluded. The cool thing was that although the entrance to this culvert was relatively small, a hundred yards or so into it, the thing opened up to be ten feet in diameter which was more than enough to hang out in comfortably. The practical upside of hanging there was twofold: it was cool in summer and out of the way of almost everybody so it was hard to get into trouble (read: caught).

Science rocks. I don't know if any of you had fun in chemistry class, but our teacher thought "If it doesn't blow up, its not science!" Good for him. Better for us. There is always some way to twist science into a form of destruction.

In chemistry we got a hold of the chemical basis of our formula, which I won't share here, and optimized it a bit... about 5 to 6 times actually. We had two forms including one that made smoke and one that made gas. The difference is you can easily see smoke and gas can cause serious bodily harm. The idea of the gas design was to make things explode. Unfortunately to optimize for gas we had to add Sulfur. Sulfur has some interesting properties when combined with rapid oxidization, namely that it tends to produce sulfur-dioxide which is rather small doses is toxic to humans and other carbon based life-forms. It also is partly responsible for acid rain, but that's another story.

Aaaaaanyway, we created a cookie tin half full of this stuff. To put that into perspective, it was about 5 times the amount normally used in a landmover. We where out to generate a shit-lot of smoke. We sealed the seams with a single wrap of tape to make sure the thing would be water tight without exploding and killing us all and placed it in the culvert. Seemed like a good idea at the time really, although in retrospect it was a seriously flawed plan. Detonation method: sparkler. As I stated "seriously flawed."

Upon lighting the sparkler the fear hit.

We lived for the fear; The raw adrenaline of making something explode and not getting caught. It was the best rush ever. Your blood runs cold and you become aware of a lot of little things: like how you don't run quite as fast as you thought, and how you forgot to tie up those damned laces again, and how that stitch in your side is making it difficult to outrun the toxic cloud of fumes barreling down the culvert after you.

At about half way down the culvert we heard a sound that can only be described as a "WUMP." All the light coming from behind was instantly blocked out and we knew that we where in a lot of trouble. I had the foresight to grab my shirt and pull it up over my face after taking a deep breath and all I remember thinking was "head for the light at the end of the tunnel."

The last ten feet of that particular run was really not that good for me because I had long since needed to gasp for air and the smoke was completely suffocating. I mean I couldn't see a foot in front of me, and the gagging and coughing was slowing my down. The only thing I had going for me was the fact that I had pulled my shirt up over my mouth and that wasn't very much. We lurched out of the culvert onto the gravel in time to see an astonishing site. A site that even the golfers thought was pretty intense. A think cloud of smoke was rolling in like a coastal fog over the entire golf course. You have to imagine that on a hot mid summer afternoon during a pleasant golf game, the very last thing you'd expect to see is a large smoky fog-like cloud rolling across and engulfing the entire course. But there it was. I'm pretty sure that in my time on earth, I have never peddled a bike as hard as that day. We needed not to get caught. Surprisingly we never were.

Test Number 4: Going Postal - things not to do with your mailbox

Device Tested: High Power landmover designed to smoke
Culprits: Ash and Smoke
Location: Smoke's place
Damage: Severely damaged paint on the house, destroyed mailbox, general smoke damage.
Laws Broken: Possession, discharge, mischief, disturbing the peace.

I always smile when I tell this story because for this one we where so stupid even I have a hard time believing it. The problem with living in a small city like ours was that it sometimes got deadly boring. I mean why else would we do this sort of stuff in the first place? Such was the case this sunny afternoon while we where sitting on the front step thinking about what we could be doing that wasn't so boring. Eventually, as was usually the case we decided that pyro would be suitable end to the monotony and we went inside and started to make a quick couple of landmovers. Smoke, who was particularly fond of modification for the purpose of development informed me that he'd been working on a new formulation of mix that could in fact work out better than some of the original stuff we'd used, and that if I wanted we could try it. I agreed and we made a total of three landmovers.

The first two were lit on the street. Most of his neighbors hardly blinked when small stuff went off. It was all par for the course living next to this guy. But the third one needed to be special. We sat for a moment discussing how to set it off when Smoke lit the fuse, opened his mailbox and dropped it in, closing the lid behind it. I was mortified. This had suddenly become a suicide mission. And I wanted to be any where but there. I don't think Smoke had any idea what he was about to do. I don't even think I was prepared for what was about to happen. About 10 seconds later we where both in for a rude awakening.

With a violent hiss the smoke began to stream from the mailbox. Thick black jets of it shot from beneath the lid and through the hinges. It looked totally amazing. I mean I'd never seen anything like it. Smoke was even having a good time watching which was surprising considering it was his house. The thing we'd neglected to take into consideration is that smoke that close to its source is very very hot. So hot in fact that it has a tendency to warp metal and bubble paint. Its also very thick and black which happens to be the very best kind of smoke to do damage. But like I said, it looked very cool.

As the huge cloud of smoke wafted away from the house we suddenly realized how bad things were about to get. A three foot radius of paint on the mailbox had been blistered from the heat. Scorch marks marred the badly warped mailbox and soot streaks decorated the once clean house front. I was pretty mortified. I mean it wasn't even my house but this was all bad. Smoke immediately got the hose to start cleaning up. We couldn't even inspect the mailbox itself inside for 10 minutes because it was so damn hot and pouring cold water on it warped it even more. It took a longtime to cleanup and Smoke ended up buying his parents a new mailbox. But damn it was funny.

Test Number 5: Shiek the Geek - Projectiles and the speed of sound

Device Tested: Shiek the Geek
Culprits: Ash, Smoke and Fire
Location: Just outside industrial park city limits
Damage: Four foot crater
Laws Broken: Possession, discharge, mischief, disturbing the peace.

While I was away at school, Fire and Smoke got busy. That is to say, the furthered their research and development in the area of projectiles in motion and the physics of getting them to move very fast.

The following is potentially life threatening and although I know that this warning will most likely promote the illegal use and potential abuse of this information it is still a warning. Now have fun out there!

The idea occurred to Smoke and Fire that a bullet is simply a small projectile moving through space at supersonic speeds. Hardly a new concept when you stop to think about it... and that an artillery shell is simply a big bullet moving at (generally) hypersonic speed out of a bigger gun. Just goes to figure right? So why not harness the new-found potential of directional thrust into a cap making it a projectile? The really big projectile turned out to be a 22.5 pound cindercrete block.

Concrete as a projectile is just a bad idea. Have you ever noticed that when a bunch of guys (or to be politically correct for a moment - girls) pour a concrete sidewalk or driveway, they have a lot of support structure? Like a ton of iron bars in a grid to hold the concrete together and keep it from cracking under normal use - and it STILL cracks? Well imagine making a concrete plug and exploding it out of a small canon. Could be potentially harmful. Didn't even cross our minds...

So an original design was constructed, and which I'm sorry to say I was not available to help with. It entailed a two and a half foot long metal pipe about three inches in diameter into which were drilled four holes at one end. The significance of this is that a concrete plug was poured into that end and bolts where inserted into the holes to support the plug. They effectively kept the the plug from blowing out the bottom and killing us all. Cute no?

Internally the design was simple - a small inverted cone opening away from our plug. This directed energy out the front and any energy from the explosion that happened to direct backwards was redirected to the sides of the pipe and away from the well seated plug. This kept the plug from spontaneously launching out and causing us some real serious bodily harm. After our explosive was set in the cone and the redundant detonators where set, regular slow drying cement was poured over the whole thing and left to dry. The practical upside of the cement was that almost anything could be placed into it including, but not limited to match heads, light payloads, nose cones, etc.

As a side note, the match heads where in the shape of a happy face on the front of this big heavy lump of cement. At least, it was when we started. By completion of this experiment, the match heads resembled something almost completely unlike anything resembling a face at all. Read it again, it does make sense. As for the nose cone idea, any device with the amount of technical imprecision we where dealing with here would hardly benefit from the addition of a dinky little plastic nose cone. But it looked damn cool.

We had to use a plastic grocery bag to keep the cement from dropping down into the explosive charge. The effect of this was to create a "turban-like" cover on the head of the rocket during production which eventually lead the the name Shiek. The geek part came later for some unexplained reason. I would like to point out that this project was in no way sponsored or endorsed by Shiek Condoms.

So eventually the concrete dried and we drove out to the test site which was located just out of town at a commonly used dirtbike track. The practical upside of this particular place is that there where some table-tops which are used to do jumps if you happen to ride dirtbikes. The largest one would serve as an excellent launch point for any device. We dug a small hole facing into the wind and set our "canon" up. We ran wiring over to an adjacent hillside where we could watch in relative safety. Our launch box was setup and with the wiring connected we were read to proceed.

As a side note, local law enforcement was getting rather interested in the goings on outside city limits with our pyrotechnic escapades, and so we regularly carried a police scanner in case things where about to get interesting. This was definitely one of those times.

Shiek was now tilting about sixty degrees upward facing northwest into about a ten mph wind and ready for ignition. The objective here was pure unadulterated speed in order to break the sound barrier. The blasting box was lit up like a Christmas tree. That thing looked so fucking cool. So we sat and waited for a countdown.

3 ... 2 ... 1

I'd like to point something else out here. When you fire a gun there is a series of events which are put into motion. They happen very quickly. The trigger is pulled. The firing mechanism converts potential energy into kinetic energy and the firing pin moves forward. As the firing pin strikes the shell, the impact changes potential energy stored chemically in the cap into a small explosive detonation. That small detonation chain reacts with the powder to create an exponentially bigger explosion which accelerates the shell and propels it down the barrel very quickly eventually reaching its destination and abruptly stopping. Bullets are, generally, quite small. There is a reason for this: Work = Mass x Distance. Work in our case was the amount of energy released at the time of explosion. Distance was directly based on that energy acting upon a given weight. As the mass increases so must the energy required to move it. Unfortunately this is not an linear equation. Its very exponential. A linear increase in weight produces an exponential requirement for more energy to move it. In order to move our twenty two and a half pound projectile at the same speed as a bullet which weighs in at a whopping two ounces, we'd have needed something in the order of about one hundred film contains of powder and a much stronger pipe. Live and learn.

The next five seconds felt like about a year. Absolutely nothing happened. No puff of smoke. No deafening explosion. No sound of hundred thousand people saying "whoop". Nothing. And just when we were all starting to think nothing was going to happen at all, it did.

Our canon lurched back into the hillside and our concrete plug shot out at tremendous speed rocketing skyward. However it was not supersonic. Fourteen seconds later our projectile struck the earth at approximately the same velocity at which it began its trip, leaving a four foot crater. Surprisingly the plug never cracked or broke apart. It did however travel a fair distance, and it looked really damn cool.

Test Number 6: Solid fuel torches

Device Tested: solid fuel torch
Culprits: Ash and Smoke
Location: The local skating rink
Damage: light smoke damage
Laws Broken: Possession, discharge, mischief, disturbing the peace.

Every single time I think about it, I'm amazed neither of us were killed. I mean here we are working in less than ideal conditions with products that are rather dangerous and we're both still alive. This time was probably one of the closest to serious bodily injury for Smoke.

In the early evening we decided to try what some people would call a modified pipe bomb. Now don't go thinking unibomber here, that wasn't the plan at all. We had a length of PVC pipe which we got down to about two and a half feet and filled with some hot burning mix. We left one end uncapped so that a flame would shoot out of the end with a lot of smoke and it would be a great show. Good for us. So we went about filling this pipe and we walked over to the rink with it.

Sometimes its the smallest details that can get ya. Our mixture had some interesting chemical properties, one of which was a solid byproduct. We called it wax but it was a white hard plastic-like substance that started as a liquid and hardened very quickly if it had a chance to cool. Also there was a bit of ash that was usually mixed with it giving it a "salt and pepper" look. We never really paid much attention to it.

So we whipped out a match and lit her up, resting on the side of the concrete building. Well it started with a whoosh and a long clean flame shot out of the end. The smoke was awesome too, lots and lots of it everywhere. So things are going for about thirty seconds and the flame flickers a bit and goes out. We both look at each other because realistically that's way too short for something like this. Two and half feet worth of stuff in a pipe would take more like a minute and a half. But thinking we perhaps undercalculated we waited so that if there was a problem it would show its head.

Three minutes later still nothing happens. Not a puff of smoke. Not a flash of light. Not a sausage. Nothing. So we start walking. There where no hints about what was about to happen. No tiny clues. It was out of the blue like nature decided to teach us a lesson.

Once again I'd like to reiterate the importance of rule number two. So many times the heat of the moment gets us into a serious pile of shit and it could all have been avoided by following rule number two. The interesting stuff about pvc is that it has a tendency to melt under extreme heat, like say, the heat of a chemical torch. In mixing with the already melted "wax" and the ash produced by our little experiment and cooling as it reached to the top of the pipe (cool is a relative term here) it hardened slowly forming a neck on the pipe. And with the addition of a lump of ash or some debris it sealed itself forming a cap on our violent chemical reaction. The reaction continued internally, since our mixture required little or no air to work properly, but all the trapped gases and pressure had nowhere to go so they just kept building under the cap. I suppose we can be thankful for the relative strength of PVC piping because if things happened differently neither Smoke or I would be around.

Smoke was braver and walking just ahead of me, but I saw clearly what happened. He was about two feet away from the device when under unimaginable internal stress the cap unseated and blew out the top of the pipe, toppling the device on the cement. Smoke was surprised enough to jump backwards running into me. I actually felt the release of heat and Smoke's eyebrows were singed from the "flash" of the release. The pipe continued to burn for a minute or so and we collected ourselves and cleaned up. Had the pip ruptured instead of the plug giving way or the bottom blown out instead of the top the story might have made the news. As it was it was a helluvan eye opener for the two of us. We asterisked rule number two after that.

Test Number 7: Homemade Thunder

Device Tested: Thundercan original
Culprits: Ash and Smoke - there where lots of bystanders for this one
Location: An alley behind a friends house, near the local creek
Damage: none
Laws Broken: Possession, discharge, mischief, disturbing the peace, noise violations.

Noises were fairly rare for our explosions, at least on the scale of this noise. We designed most of our devices to release with a soft hiss or a whoosh sound. Some popped. Other snapped. But without a doubt, I can safely say these ones kaboomed. Sometimes the simplest ideas make for the best final product you know? We often overlook simplicity for finesse when the best designs are easiest to come up with. Ever noticed the perfect symmetry of a soup can? how about those big V8 cans of clamato or tomato juice like one liter sized? We did. They are awesome. And they make absolutely great fire-crackers if setup right.

This can cause a bit of debris if it is not handled properly. Reader discretion is advised.

We emptied a V8 can by NOT opening the lid entirely. We used one of those pouring can openers to drain the contents, washed it and let it dry overnight. The result was a clean can with two small triangular holes in the top. We then poured (actually it was more like rubbed) our gaseous mixture into the holes until we had about an inch worth on the bottom - which seems like its not enough, but its far more than is really needed. With sparkler in hand we headed over to our friends place for a demonstration.

Young and dumb I was going to set this one off. I had a great plan, drop a lit sparkler into the open hole at the op with the device tilted and let it burn down. Lots of time to get out of the way and watch the show. That was the plan... With no place to go, high pressures gases can get dangerous, as shown by Test Case Number Six but since the scale was much different, I felt comfortable doing this. However, without due care and attention I missed part of the show running for cover.

I lit up the sparkler with all the onlookers watching and tipped the can sliding the sparkler in and resting it on the side of the can and gently set it back up. I turned to walk away and get a good spot when I heard the second most horrific sound I'd ever witnessed. WHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! High pressure gasses started shooting out of the small holes can into a ten foot high cloud. Apparently the sparkler idea had failed. I, unfortunately, was well within the minimum safe distance for such a test and bolted for the creek bank. Before I actually jumped off the bank, I heard the most horrific sound I'd ever witnessed - sounded like a tiny metal drum. DING .... DING-DING-DING-DING-DING .... It was the sound of the metal crimping unbuckling under the serious increase in pressure and the top seal of the entire can coming undone right behind me.

I jumped for the creek bank and as I cleared the edge I heard an incredible explosion behind me. The can-top ripped away cleanly and a huge smoke cloud billowed into the air. The crowd liked it - it was a great show. With only minor grass stains on my clothes I checked the damage. One smoldering V8 can in the middle of the alley and that's it. Pretty good for a kickass explosion like that. Some friends of mine who were not at the demonstration actually said they heard it over a mile away! As a side note the lid of the can landed about one hundred feet further down the alley about twenty seconds later.

Test Number 8: Fire in the hole

Device Tested: subterranean testing, no container
Culprits: Ash and Smoke
Location: Smoke's place
Damage: Cracked patio cement, general debris and general cleanup
Laws Broken: Possession, discharge, mischief, disturbing the peace.

In about the same place as where we'd detonated our first landmover, we decided to do an open air test. We dug out a hole and placed a broomstick into it. We refilled the dirt around the broomstick creating a cylindrical channel for our mixture, and we packed the dirt around it. We filled the bottom with the hottest burning stuff we could make and packed it in. Then we packed some more in on top and covered the whole thing with easy to light smoking mix on top. Its a pretty basic idea, sort of like Test Number Six but smaller and basically safer, so we thought. I was in charge of the shovel, which was to be set over top of this whole thing if it got out of control to stop flames from shooting out of control and causing damage.

If you or someone you care about ever gets put in charge of the shovel for this type of experiment, just leave. I mean just get up and go home. Get the hell out of Dodge. Its a bad place to be when all this fire and stuff is going to be shooting out of the ground. Take it from someone who's been there, its not a cool job. There's not even any danger pay.

So Smoke fires it up and there's a big cloud of smoke and stuff shooting up from all the primer smoky mix on top and then one of the coolest things ever starts to happen. With a shrill whooshing sound the thing turns into a jet engine. I mean it literally sounds like a jet engine, and the flame tightens up into a perfectly symmetrical cone and the flame gets damn-near white hot and there's almost no smoke. Its a damn rocket upside down planted into Smoke's backyard. We where stunned, I mean, have you ever made a serious jet engine? Probably not. This thing was fucking cool.

Of course this thing was burning pretty hot to get white flames, and there had to be some serious pressure in there to get a flame like that. So we watched and eventually I was elected to put the shovel on it just to see what would happen. So I did and the flames actually made the shovel red hot in about ten seconds. I removed the shovel and something odd happened. The flames started shooting about in all directions and the whooshing got louder and Smoke yelled for me to cover the thing with my shovel again. I did and STEPPED onto the shaft of the shovel to stabilize it. There was a helluva lot of force off this thing - like enough to pseudo-lift the end of the shovel even with a lot of weight on it.

If you've been reading all of these tests you may remember me talking about the little details that screw you up during Test Case Number Six. Well its always that way. We did not actually understand the byproducts of our reactions. They just worked. Hell I couldn't tell you even today what actually was produced during the actual oxidization of our mixes, short of some water vapor, carbon dioxide and some other simple compounds. However there is one thing I know with absolute certainty and that is that one of our main oxidants contained a significant amount of potassium.

Potassium is a great supplement for plants and humans alike, however it has a quirk which is generally bad in uncontrolled circumstances. It reacts with water. Not in a fun happy way, it just plain explodes. The only thing either of us can assume happened during this test is that it got so hot that it actually began to decompose some of the other compounds in the mix, such as the potassium. Since we happened to be right next to a concrete patio, there was probably quite a bit of moisture trapped below the concrete. Exposure of the potassium to that water caused an explosion. That's just the line of thinking, if any of you have another idea on how it might have happened that's your opinion.

Boom! The shovel took off and I fell on my ass. The concrete patio broke at the corner and a heavy chunk of cement heaved about two feet into the air falling onto the lawn. Smoke jumped back to avoid being hit as debris flew all over. It was a major trip to see that happen after having an experiment go so well for so long. Talk about a challenger incident. We really can't prove the theory about the potassium, and it could have been caused my any number of other oversights, but that one seems most plausible for now. By the way, we found the shovel thrown into a bush and it was fucked. Like royally fucked. The heat basically destroyed the strength of it and it warped under the extreme pressure.

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