A Word of Warning

For those amateur chemists out there who might be tempted to mix NH4Cr2O7 with HgSCN some time in the near future, just …don’t. Because WAIT FOR IT…

That’s about the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Or the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t quite decide which response is uppermost in my mind as I watch it.

Maybe both?

In an attempt to figure out what the heck is going on in that video (and, perhaps, to decide if I love or fear it), I came up with something that is a mildly more English description. Mildly.

Ammonium dichromate and Mercury thiocyanate.”

Which doesn’t really help much, I know. But it DOES lead one to “Pharaoh’s Serpent,” a fantastic/creepy phenomenon that occurs when you burn Mercury thiocyanate on its own.

Also not safe. In fact, this post says that “the material is labeled as highly toxic, and may be fatal if ingested. It is also highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and could potential cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.”

OK, fine. I’ve decided. It’s awesome. But just…don’t.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • MeanLizzie

    Didn’t you ever use “Chinese Snakes” on 4th of July? They were like little tablets, you’d set fire to them and get that!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat Joseph Susanka

      I grew up in SoCal, MeanLizzie. Pyrotechnic celebrations of the 4th are pretty much illegal there. I DID discover some “Chinese/Black Snake” references while hunting down the Pharaoh’s Serpent, though. Really cool.

      …And really weird.


  • kenofken

    Cool visual effect, but mercury salts are much better left in their original container! I wouldn’t want to be the schmo who has to clean up that fume hood. My chem professors and PIs (some of them), were pretty tolerant of a lot of shenanigans in the lab, but they might have lost their sense of humor with this one! Then again, my one creation which ate its way through two containment vessels and stained my drawer purple didn’t get me in serious trouble!…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat Joseph Susanka

      Kenofken: Your professors and PI’s would probably be too aware of why this, while undeniably awesome-looking, is “not a good activity.” …which probably goes a long ways towards explaining why I’m not a teacher. I’d have been all over this.

  • Gwen Filipski

    Those kids were totally saying “Kraken”…which makes them 100% awesome, just like their teacher. Also, Chinese Snakes are awesome.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat Joseph Susanka

      I have nothing to add to this, Gwen. Except “Word.”