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Burning Mercury Thiocyanide Will Amaze You
September 23, 2012 11:14 PM   Subscribe

Burning Mercury Thiocyanide Will Amaze You (SLYT)
posted by shivohum (66 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. That is some crazy stuff.

I like the top comments:

here’s sum fun info about (Hg(SCN)2) taken from merck:

life threatening by inhaling

life threatening by skin contact

life threatening by swallowing

can damage organs by prolonged or multiple exposure

highly toxic for water-organisms

upon contact with acid develops highly toxic fumes

Way to give a highly poisenous substance to kids. Do they have poisen dart frogs for pets too?

4774774774773 months ago 57

Looked like one continuous shit.

OlympusHeavyCavalry3 months ago 44


Ah, YouTube...
posted by Artw at 11:20 PM on September 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


The tendrils are apparently called Pharaoh's Serpent. I have to say, that was pretty neat. But the toxic gases ... well, let's just say I'm glad I enjoyed that through the 21st century safety goggles that are the interwebs.
posted by scblackman at 11:21 PM on September 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's no worse than huffing broken flourescent tubes.
posted by Artw at 11:22 PM on September 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


They sold these pellets in fireworks stands where I grew up. They were just called snakes.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 PM on September 23, 2012 [38 favorites]


That is pretty amazing, but it's no fulminated mercury. (Well, the fulminated mercury in that clip isn't fulminated mercury, either. Probably.)
posted by maudlin at 11:26 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure fireworks stand snakes WERE NOT mercury thiocyanate.

In fact: "A similar, though less extreme, effect to the Pharaoh’s Serpent can be achieved using a firework known as a black snake. These are generally benign products consisting usually of sodium bicarbonate or a mixture of linseed oil and napthalenes."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:28 PM on September 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ah, the burning disappointment that was black snakes. Takes me back
posted by univac at 11:33 PM on September 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Holy shit KILL IT WITH FIR— Oh, you already tried that? Swell. Nice job getting it angry.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:39 PM on September 23, 2012 [18 favorites]


That looks like something out of a low-budget horror film. (And yeah, I bet the fumes really reek.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:42 PM on September 23, 2012


POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP*



*Forgive me
the joke was so obvious
so lame
and so necessary

posted by chimaera at 11:53 PM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I did not realize "amaze" and "disgust" were synonyms. The more you know!
posted by maxwelton at 11:54 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is why people believed in alchemy.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:58 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am almost certain that wasn't from Mars. Can anybody explain why they said that? Is it just a 'this is a weird rock, so we'll say it's a Martian rock' thing? Honestly, that annoyed me much more than it should have.

'Oh neat, an artifact from Mars, how interestiNOOO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, WHY ARE YOU BURNING IT?'
posted by koeselitz at 12:04 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a timid person completely ignorant of Chemistry, so when a bunch of the guys showed up and said we were all going to burn some mercury thiocyanide I was the only one worrying about the deleterious effects of mercury and cynadide.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:04 AM on September 24, 2012


Cthulu poo.
posted by matt_od at 12:07 AM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everybody poops. And, everything.
posted by JHarris at 12:10 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's the scale?
posted by victory_laser at 12:19 AM on September 24, 2012


Kids used to light off Pharaoh's Serpent fireworks all the time. If Burhanistan is old enough he may very well have had the real thing. People used to do all kinds of shit that we'd freak out about today and, mostly, they were just fine. Occasionally sans some fingers or something. So there's that.

I understand the trade off but we've lost something as a society when you can't get chemistry sets any more and little Timmy has to practically wear a full suit of cuirbolli to ride his tricycle down the driveway.

I've seen real Pharaoh's Snake reactions in person and the shitty "black snake" replacements are like the new Sudafed vs the real stuff. It's a pale imitation.
posted by Justinian at 12:21 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Snakes.
posted by pracowity at 12:29 AM on September 24, 2012


I want to touch it. Is it moist? Is it flakey? Does it hold together if you pick it up? I need to touch that thing.
posted by Jimbob at 12:40 AM on September 24, 2012


I suggest not touching the thing.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on September 24, 2012 [19 favorites]


They sold these pellets in fireworks stands where I grew up.

Possibly. These days, those things aren't mercury thiocyanide, they're some other mixture, possibly involving sodium bicarb and/or vegetable oils.
posted by valkyryn at 12:57 AM on September 24, 2012


People used to do all kinds of shit that we'd freak out about today and, mostly, they were just fine.

This and the mercury theme reminds me of this comment in chemist Derek Lowe's "Things I Won't Work With" about dimethylmercury, a toxic chemical that goes right through latex gloves, and 10 drops on the skin is enough to cause a slow, permanent shutdown of the body:
"All sorts of efforts were being made, during the late 50's, to increase propellant densities, and I was responsible (not purposely, but from being taken seriously when I didn't expect to be) for one of the strangest. Phil Pomerantz, of BuWeps, wanted me to try dimethyl mercury, Hg(CH3)2, as a fuel. I suggested that it might be somewhat toxic and a bit dangerous to synthesize and handle, but he assured me that it was (a) very easy to put together, and (b) as harmless as mother's milk. I was dubious, but told him that I'd see what I could do. I looked the stuff up, and discovered that, indeed, the synthesis was easy, but that it was extremely toxic, and a long way from harmless.

As I had suffered from mercury poisoning on two previous occasions and didn't care to take a chance on doing it again, I thought that it would be an excellent idea to have somebody else make the compound for me. So I phoned Rochester, and asked my contact man at Eastman-Kodak if they would make a hundred pounds of dimethyl mercury
and ship it to NARTS.

I heard a horrified gasp, and then a tightly controlled voice (I could hear the grinding of teeth beneath the words) informed me that if they were silly enough to synthesize that much dimethyl mercury, they would, in the process fog every square inch of photographic film in Rochester, and that, thank you just the same, Eastman was not interested. The receiver came down with a crash, and I sat back to consider the matter. An agonizing reappraisal seemed to be indicated."

Wow - a rocket fuel that would almost certainly kill everyone within 200 yards of a launch site. Great idea!
Amazon pulls up a ton of hits for "Ignition" (one takeaway is don't name your new book with a single word) but I am guessing the commenter is quoting Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants, John D. Clark (1972) .
posted by crapmatic at 1:09 AM on September 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


Cthulu poo.
posted by matt_od at 12:07 AM on September 24 [1 favorite +] [!]


Cthulu Poo II: The Repoopening
posted by chavenet at 2:06 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that would actually be called Electric Poogaloo.
posted by JHarris at 2:21 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like two of these and a side of lead paint chips to go, please. Thanks.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:44 AM on September 24, 2012


"Mercury Thiocyanide: for when mercury or cyanide just isn't enough!"
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:11 AM on September 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: I suggest not touching the thing.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:24 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


So this is where Cyriak gets his ideas.
posted by scruss at 4:38 AM on September 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mercury poisoning, you mean?
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:41 AM on September 24, 2012


Amazon pulls up a ton of hits for "Ignition" (one takeaway is don't name your new book with a single word) but I am guessing the commenter is quoting Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants, John D. Clark (1972) .

That is definitely the book he is talking about; I heard about it from this post. It is unfortunately out of print, but a PDF is here. It is a fascinating read if you are into that sort of thing. I was hooked from the photos at the very beginning.
posted by TedW at 5:23 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Forgot to add: The forward to Ignition! is by Isaac Asimov, for what it's worth.
posted by TedW at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2012


The link and the comments remind of A Tall Tale, by Charles Stross.
posted by notbuddha at 6:00 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another set of comments:


1: Demonstration was done outside on a windy day.

2: No one was touching it.

3: No one ate it.

4: A brief, possibly one time "exposure" at best.

5: Not taking place in water.

6: No acid was used


And :

ndeed. Nothing to be a matter of concern. I'm an MD and know with entire precision those kids didn't have any exposure that could be considered dangerous or a concern.

Keep in mind that it's trendy to think of children as if they were delicate flowers that should not be exposed to anything. Overprotective-smothering parenting is trendy in decaying countries and societies.



About 80% of the things we did as a kids would cause some people today to freak out about the danger.
posted by 2manyusernames at 6:13 AM on September 24, 2012


Sorry, you're going to have to try harder if you want to convince me of the safety of something named after not one, but two entirely toxic compounds.
posted by echo target at 6:22 AM on September 24, 2012


Not one but two methyls? Does Walter White know about this?
posted by pashdown at 6:24 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Halloween is coming up. Where can I buy some? I wonder what would happen if you threw a large chunk of this on a campfire?
posted by daHIFI at 6:29 AM on September 24, 2012


When I got back home they burned this message through the door
Before too long a pharoahschlangen's coiling 'cross the floor
Merc'ry thio cy'nate will amaze you
Burning merc'ry gives you so much more
 
posted by Herodios at 6:46 AM on September 24, 2012


Sorry, you're going to have to try harder if you want to convince me of the safety of something named after not one, but two entirely toxic compounds.

Wait till you hear about salt.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on September 24, 2012 [32 favorites]


You would think that with a name like "mercury thiocyanide", the right thing to do would be "avoid handling it and calmly evacuate the area", rather than "set it on fire for the lolz", but I guess I remember being 11 years old too.
posted by mhoye at 7:05 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, you're going to have to try harder if you want to convince me of the safety of something named after not one, but two entirely toxic compounds.

You think that's crazy, you're going to shit when you find out what people are doing with chlorine and sodium these days.
posted by mhoye at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gah, jinx or something.
posted by mhoye at 7:07 AM on September 24, 2012


I want to touch it. Is it moist? Is it flakey? Does it hold together if you pick it up? I need to touch that thing.
posted by Jimbob

I suggest not touching the thing.
posted by Justinian


These two posts sum up the dialog in every cheesy sf "alien artifact" movie ever.
posted by 445supermag at 7:14 AM on September 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


So nobody cares about the Mars thing? Seriously?
posted by koeselitz at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2012


Wait till you hear about salt.

Haha, yeah, but still: mercury thiocyanide, is, in fact, about as poisonous as it sounds.
posted by echo target at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


> So nobody cares about the Mars thing? Seriously?

I remember playing with these or similar "indoor fireworks" (aka Disappointment Tubes) as a kid, and I can imagine the "Rock From Mars" thing being the shtick on the side of the box. It's got that rust red colouration, and the suggestion of some kind of freaky Martian life hidden within the lump was probably an attempt to make them more exciting.
posted by lucidium at 7:33 AM on September 24, 2012


wasn't there a south park episode where they light up a giant snake and the thing burns for months?
posted by bitteroldman at 7:35 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I need to touch that thing.

Don't let those haters hold you back.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait till you hear about salt.

Maybe this sounds crazy, but if I had no idea what the properties of "sodium chloride" were, aside from sodium and chlorine being dangerous on their own, I imagine I would at least refrain from setting a pile of the unknown chemical on fire.
posted by mrgoat at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2012


Yeah, I'm all for the "let kids explore", but it's not like kids were running around synthesizing dangerous chemicals entirely on their own before the advent of modern civilization.

Climbing trees and falling and exploring your neighborhood? Sure! Lighting things on fire that will kill you painfully if you get a good whiff of it? Not so much.
posted by zug at 7:47 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm an MD and know with entire precision those kids didn't have any exposure that could be considered dangerous or a concern.

NFPA diamond says this stuff is anything but harmless, Doc. You do know how to read an NFPA diamond, right?

Note that the LD50 is for a dermal application - you can poison yourself handling it. Moreover, kids have died by poisoning playing with this stuff. Totally mollycoddling the brats by keeping them away from it, sure.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:09 AM on September 24, 2012


Yeah, I'm going to vote for "don't play with matches" being a pretty old and applicable piece of advice here.
posted by maryr at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2012


Looks like an Elder Thing trying to fit throught a 3cm dimensional portal.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:39 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to the Journal of Chemical Education, the sale of Mercury Thiocyanate "snakes" as fireworks was illegal prior to WWII and yet, somehow, these granny state reared wimps won Iwo Jima. Just sayin'.

Cyanate (-OCN-) is not very toxic - LD50 1500 mg/kg compared to Cyanide (-CN-) 1-3 mg/kg. In related news, extrapolating the health hazard of small molecules like CO from similar small molecules like CO2 is a really bad idea.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, I've got access to some RTECS data that says Mercury(II) thiocyanate's got a Rat Oral LD50 for is 46 mg/kg; for dermal it's 685 mg/kg. So could be pretty bad if you ingest it, and less bad if you rub it on yourself. I'd be more concerned about any of the combustion products. Mercury oxides anyone?
posted by Mister Cheese at 9:05 AM on September 24, 2012


You're right about the dermal - I followed the link to Mercury(II) Chloride's LD50 by mistake.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2012


I wonder what would happen if you threw a large chunk of this on a campfire?

I'm sure there's a Call of Cthulhu adventure or two that explores that possibility.
posted by JHarris at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


People used to do all kinds of shit that we'd freak out about today and, mostly, they were just fine.
Mostly.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2012


My husband ate a kefta kabob this weekend. He kept saying he got "Fatooshed" (the name of the place). I'm assuming this is what happened since I had the beef kabob and was fine and dandy.
posted by stormpooper at 10:33 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It kind of looks like the stuff that comes out of people's cleaved heads in Resident Evil.
posted by MHPlost at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2012


Yeah. Snakes, I use to buy em at the fireworks factory in South Carolina. Looks more disturbing starting from a raw piece than a flat round tablet .
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:00 AM on September 24, 2012


Metafilter: I want to touch it. Is it moist? Is it flakey? Does it hold together if you pick it up? I need to touch that thing.
posted by palbo at 11:39 AM on September 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


That gave me the heebie-jeebies something fierce. Couldn't even finish watching it. Nightmare fuel, for sure.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:22 PM on September 24, 2012


I want to touch it. Is it moist? Is it flakey? Does it hold together if you pick it up? I need to touch that thing.

Can I touch it with rubber gloves on? Can I stomp it with my boots? Can I poke it with a stick? What happens if you run over it with a tricycle?

Seriously, how do you dispose of that stuff after you're done playing?
posted by BlueHorse at 2:13 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Count me in with the 'to much mollycoddling'.
Science class was always the most fun when you had to do the demo outside because of the leaping flames or clouds of poisonous gases.
I'm not advocating selling mercury snakes at the candy store, but when the chemical cupboards in school labs have been stripped of elemental mercury, sodium, potassium and plenty of interesting organics for safety reasons we are cotton-wooling our kids away from STEM.
Thank god they'll never take the thermite.
posted by bystander at 5:00 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'll give you my thermite when you take it from my extremely hot, rapidly combusting hands!"
posted by JHarris at 4:34 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


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