Mother of Satan
June 22, 2005 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), also known as acetone peroxide, is the explosive of choice for Palestinian suicide bombers since it's easily made using commonly available materials. It was also part of the mixture in Richard Reid's shoe bomb. It contains no nitrogen and is thus undetectable by commonly used methods such as NQR, though an effort to cheaply detect it shows promise. What I find most interesting is the way it detonates; unlike most high explosives, it doesn't combust, but instead decomposes rapidly to form acetone and ozone.
posted by vira (59 comments total)
On one level thats interesting, but that level is far below my concern for you spreading information on how to make an effective bomb.
posted by pwally at 4:40 PM on June 22, 2005


Sorry, but we don't need information posted on sacraments for Kali. This post is in extremely bad taste.

And BTW, vira, this is how all high explosives detonate. Only low explosives enter into a combustive reaction.
posted by warbaby at 4:41 PM on June 22, 2005

Geesh people, it's on Wikipedia.

news flash: killing people isn't that hard, especially if you're willing to die in the process.

Anyway, the wikipedia entry, unlike the bomb-making books of my misspent youth, at least warns of the instability of the stuff. And the post also answers a question I had about where SBs were getting their explosives. Ingenious, and sad on so many levels.

And no, I don't belong to the N.R.A., etc.
posted by craniac at 4:57 PM on June 22, 2005

This post is in fine taste. My neck really bristles when people say "Shhh, don't discuss science...that's DANGEROUS"

Also, I thought went under. Glad to hear they're still pumping out interesting content
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:07 PM on June 22, 2005

Censorship is never a good thing.

Here is some more fodder, The Anarchist Cookbook.

Oh and warbaby, "sacraments for Kali?" What?
posted by oddman at 5:34 PM on June 22, 2005

It's just information people.

You solipsistic self-censoring dolts. Information once posted on the ubiquitous inter-web will never be censored again. Regardless of your don't do that sentiments. Be it office prank lists, to the anarchist's cookbook, to mein kamph. It will forever lurk within the nooks and crannies of personal websites, txt files, newsgroups and e-mail accounts. So Deal.

What most ignorants don't seem to comprehend is that people with enough will to kill you, will eventually find a way to do it. Be it with an army, a bomb, a rifle, apointed stick or a fork. Suicide bombing being a classic example of those who fight a passionate fight - these zealots hate their enemy to the point of their own annihilation. A very terrible but very real situation.

Eliminating the motive has always been far more effective that eliminating the means.

Showing people how to fold pieces of paper 12 times? That's just goddamn irresponsible.

Sheesh, get a sense of perspective.
posted by JGreyNemo at 5:35 PM on June 22, 2005

Mefites: solipsistic self-censoring dolts.

this is, like, self-pleasuring, isn't it?
posted by HuronBob at 5:45 PM on June 22, 2005

How do you know it is the bomb making material of choice for suicide bombers? I couldn't find that information. All it said in one article was that it was "first employed" by Palestinian suicide bombers. It doesn't seem like (from what I read) it would be usable for the large bombs that suicide bombers were using recently.
posted by chaz at 5:50 PM on June 22, 2005

warbaby, here's an excerpt from the journal article I referenced:

[...] the explosion of this compound is not a thermochemically highly favored event. It rather involves entropy burst, which is the result of the formation of four gaseous compounds from one molecule of [TATP] in the solid
state. Thus, the three isopropylidene units and the six oxygen atoms in the molecule do not play the roles of fuel and oxidant, respectively. Contrary to what is expected, the isopropylidene units play merely the role of a molecular scaffold that holds the three peroxide units in close spatial proximity and appropriate orientation for a chain reaction.

This talk of expected roles of fuel and oxidant leads me to believe that there is indeed combustion (oxidation reactions) going on in a typical detonation. Moreover, I can't seem to find any references supporting your claim that only low order explosives combust. Perhaps you could supply one?

(If anyone wants a copy of the article, drop me an email)
posted by vira at 5:51 PM on June 22, 2005

Yeah, I don't see anything wrong with this either. Saying information is dangerous is dangerous. And Popular Ethics says it's fine and (s)he should know (heh).

Oh and warbaby, "sacraments for Kali?" What?

I actually liked that; very poetic.

And cool post, vira.
posted by effwerd at 5:55 PM on June 22, 2005

chaz: You appear correct. I'd heard from one of my professors that it was their favorite, but it looks like they've moved on to more powerful stuff like C-4 and RDX.
posted by vira at 6:05 PM on June 22, 2005

vira: I think warbaby means that low explosives (gunpowder) deflagrate or just-plain-burn, even if they bring at least some of their own oxygen to the party. High explosives detonate, which is a more complex chain reaction that moves through the explosive material faster than the speed of sound through that material.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:07 PM on June 22, 2005

*plots against JGreyNemo for making me pick up the dictionary*
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:33 PM on June 22, 2005

What ROU_Xenophobe said.

High explosives are single compounds that very rapidly give up the energy in their molecular bonds at very high speeds. Low explosives are combinations of compounds that rapidly enter into a reduction-oxidation reaction and typically require a container that bursts from the resulting increase in gas pressure.

Kali is the Hindu goddess of destruction. She was worshipped by the cult of Thuggee, whose sacrament was murdering travelers, usually by strangulation with a silk scarf. The code phrase for the thugs to attack was often, "Pass the tobacco." They also used cermonial pickaxes to kill their victims, known as a "tooth of Kali." Flashman had a run-in with thugs in Flashman in the Great Game after scrozzling the Rani of Jhansi in a pleasure pavilion.

My objection to the post is that I've been to a lot of terrorism conferences where some nincompoop will be making a presentation and then will toss off the comment, "and this information is available on the internet." When challenged to show that the technical information is really on the internet in a useful form, they all to often point to something like this post and say, "There!" And then some creep fromt the FBI will stand up and say, "This is why we need better controls over the internets." When, in fact, the technical information is usually incomplete or flawed to the extent that it's only dangerous to some idiot who decides to fool around with this stuff. Real terrorists get their training and information in a much more effective manner.

I'm just saying this is our house and I don't like it. I'm not calling you out and I'm not shitting on the thread. But the main link is wikpedia, which isn't the best form. But maybe it can be salvaged in the thread.
*back to your regular programming*

on preview: Eliminating the motive has always been far more effective that eliminating the means. I like that.
posted by warbaby at 6:42 PM on June 22, 2005

Motives are never eliminated, only supplanted.
posted by effugas at 7:33 PM on June 22, 2005

warbaby, do you disagree with the first paragraph of the Detonation article on Wikipedia that I linked to?
posted by vira at 7:36 PM on June 22, 2005

vira, no. That's wikipedia. This is here. I don't want to be reading threads about silent killing methods or how to make meth or suchlike -- here, on metafilter. This isn't just an ideosyncratic thing I have. The information is already out there, so it isn't a censorship thing. It's more like this is a dinner party. I want to have nice things. (in parlance of the times.)
posted by warbaby at 8:15 PM on June 22, 2005

warbaby: My objection to the post is that I've been to a lot of terrorism conferences where some nincompoop will be making a presentation and then will toss off the comment, "and this information is available on the internet." When challenged to show that the technical information is really on the internet in a useful form, they all to often point to something like this post and say, "There!" And then some creep fromt the FBI will stand up and say, "This is why we need better controls over the internets." When, in fact, the technical information is usually incomplete or flawed to the extent that it's only dangerous to some idiot who decides to fool around with this stuff. Real terrorists get their training and information in a much more effective manner.
That sounds a lot like a classic case of self censorship to me...
posted by Chuckles at 8:37 PM on June 22, 2005

Oops. I just replied to your first wiki link. That's a totally different question.

Yes, I do disagree with the wiki first paragraph on detonation.

1) Combustion isn't the right word.

2) The dusts and gasses examples are incorrect. The combustion does not take place at supersonic speeds. What happens is the flame front expands at subsonic speed, but the exothermic expansion can get stalled behind the mass of surrounding atmosphere (or trapped in a container like a grain elevator) and that -- not the speed of the propagation of the reaction -- creates a trans-sonic shock wave. Contained deflagrations can also create a shock wave when no detonation is involved.

Detonation is a chemical reaction that moves faster than the speed of sound. The wiki article is wrong about the mechanism and confuses shock wave with detonation. Strictly speaking, the detonation preceeds the shock wave. They've got parts of it right, but overall is wrong.

This is a good example of why the web should be considered a source of research leads but not an authority.

I liked the question you didn't ask better. This one is kind of geeky.
posted by warbaby at 8:39 PM on June 22, 2005

Chuckles, think about what you just wrote and then consider why I would think you should just blow it out your ass.

on preview: and the horse you rode in on.
posted by warbaby at 8:42 PM on June 22, 2005

warbaby, lemmetellya, not only does the debate about what kind of explosion this stuff makes go over my head, but from the wikipedia article I can't begin to figure out how to make one of those bombs -- and I can read English okay usually and can sometimes even follow a step by step recipe like for soup or fish batter. So the usefulness of the information in this thread is compromised by its presentation: nobody who doesn't understand the chemistry is going to be able to use anything pointed at here to blow up any "enemies". (The big words and diagrams in the wikipedia article rule out most graduates of American public high schools unless they go on to college and pay attention there.) Contrast that with things like molotov cocktails and pipe bombs, which can be easily made by damn near anybody; should we also self-censor facts like "gasoline burns" and "gunpowder goes boom"?

Maybe you'd prefer the "anti-terrorism experts" and other "take a bite outta free speech" hounds give us a list of Approved Topics complete with guidelines for discussing them? ("Anything not explicitly Approved is Not Recommended" is one guideline that comes to mind.) Then they won't have to censor us, we can do it ourselves! Who needs those pesky rights and freedoms anyway?

As for what YOU don't want to read, that's just tough. Like I said to the Papist proselytizer, (as far as I know) this is (as your say) "OUR house", not YOUR Metafilter. And if Matt and/or Jessamyn (and/or whoever else has divine powers here) deletes that post I'm sure it or the information in it will show up someplace else very soon. And while we're discussing your wish that your personal likes and dislikes supersede everybody else's right to free speech around here, I distinctly recall a post last winter about a firm that sells rubber dildoes shaped like animal weenies; does that also affect your digestion, in the parlance of your parlor?

Yes, warbaby, you are shitting on the thread. Your point is clearly not just "I don't like it", you're saying "it should not be allowed". At least have the blessed gorm to admit that you want to control what gets posted here, and that you do in fact favor censoring the Internet. If you can't stand up for your right to "sieg heil" then maybe you don't really need to.

On preview, I have an idea: why don't you correct the Wikipedia article on detonation? Maybe you could even diagram how I could blow this out my ass.
posted by davy at 8:46 PM on June 22, 2005

davy, you're right; you don't get it.
posted by warbaby at 8:52 PM on June 22, 2005

There is a PBS Frontline documentary called 'Battle for the Holy Land' where they visit a Palestinian bombmaker to find out how he does his dirty little deed. The bombmaker had been one of the victims of the 'spontaneous combustion' problems with that kind of explosive and behind his mask and on his arms you could see blemishes where his skin had re-grown after being burned off from the explosion. There was no mention made of specific chemicals, but the bombmaker gave a good round about explanation of things that left no doubt that what is mentioned in this thread and what I saw on the PBS documentary are referring to the same types of explosives.
Just an aside on the 'don't post this kind of thing here' argument, there is no information given in this post about how to make these kinds of explosives or any kind of explosives, and by not providing this information it is a very responsible post. Anyone who goes out and tries to combine these materials themselves will probably end up worse than the 'professional' Palestinian bombmaker who had apparently been doing it for years.
posted by mk1gti at 9:00 PM on June 22, 2005

No warbaby, it's the chemistry I don't get. The issue of free speech, and of your distaste for it, is easy.
posted by davy at 9:03 PM on June 22, 2005

Apparently I don't get it either, warbaby. You have not articulated your position very clearly.
posted by Galvatron at 9:09 PM on June 22, 2005

warbaby: I wasn't intending to use the Wikipedia article as an authoritative source, but you didn't address my first comment and I couldn't tell whether you were still disagreeing with me. I'm interested in having as accurate a physics model in my head as possible, just to sate my admittedly geeky curiosity.

With that in mind, could you address the expectation that in a typical explosion, different parts of the compound would play the roles of fuel and oxidant? Why is combustion not the right word for such a reaction?
posted by vira at 9:23 PM on June 22, 2005

Fair enough. What part don't you get?
posted by warbaby at 9:24 PM on June 22, 2005

hi vira. We crossed in the mail. That last comment was for Galvatron. Gimme a minute...
posted by warbaby at 9:27 PM on June 22, 2005

OK. Here we go.

The expectation would be that the peroxide and the acetone serve as oxidant and reducing agent, respectively. But this isn't what takes place. The "molecular scaffold" means the energy in the compound is tied up in the bonds and the energy is released when they are broken.

This is different from a redox reaction where the energy comes from new bonds forming.

This feature of energy release from breaking bonds is typical of high explosives. Energy release from forming bonds is typical of low explosives.

And, just as an aside, I fully support and approve of the process of bombmakers scoring "own goals" (as they say of the IRA.)
posted by warbaby at 9:35 PM on June 22, 2005

Interesting. I would have thought that they'd want to use something a little more stable. AP is really sensitive to friction, shock, and heat; I'd think that with AP there'd be a not insignificant risk of it going off before the bomber reached their target. Then again, I suppose safety is more of a concern for the person making the explosive than for the suicide bombers. Interesting on the peroxide explosive tester; speaking of things I would have thought, I'm surprised to learn that there wasn't a test that dealt with explosives that don't involve nitrogen or chlorine.

And warbaby - hey, some people here are interested in learning more about terrorism [from either a military or sociological standpoint], or for that matter chemistry. Or perhaps I'm the only one that's ever talked about pyrotechnic chemistry over dinner? Beyond that, though, I don't really think that the post is in bad taste, or that avoiding posts because some FBI agent might say "oh noes!11!! this 'metafilter' place is a den of anarchists! we must shut them down!" is a great idea. Information about explosives isn't hard to find. Basic chemistry texts often use explosives as examples, because they figure students will find more interesting. In a thermo class I took, our problems sets included problems about TNT, RDX, and some other explosive. As long as the knowledge is presented in a reasonable manner [as I think the wikipedia article presents it, focusing on the chemical properties of AP and emphasizing that it's a pretty sensitive and dangerous explosive], it's a perfectly reasonable thing to have available on the internet. Attempting to stifle the information won't prevent the knowledge from being shared [after all, the first place I came across the method of making AP was not online], but it seems to me that the act of attempting to stifle/ignore/hide certain categories of information could easily harm society, not to mention doing the work of those paranoid FBI agents for them.

< derail>By the way, davy, I'm far from a "Papist proselytizer." Agnostic pedant, perhaps. I'm a little sick of the way religion threads bring out the same tedious knee-jerk reactions from several people, generally shifting discussion away from the FPP and back to the same old argument about whether or not faith is reasonable. I don't think I've ever advocated the deletion of a post, though, or even flagged a comment, as far as I recall. Expressing a wish for a little more civil and intelligent discussion's a long way, in my book, from saying "this information should not be posted or promulgated," which I'm very much against. < / derail>
posted by ubersturm at 9:42 PM on June 22, 2005

Ok, you're trolling. Hope you've enjoyed the benefit of my doubt :)
posted by vira at 9:43 PM on June 22, 2005

warbaby, what I do get is that (1) you think that it's pretty weak to make a Wikipedia-based post and (2) you don't want to see MeFi posts about methods for killing people. What is unclear is your rationalization for (2). Your terrorism conference anecdote, as written, doesn't really seem to support your objection--in different context, it could almost support an opposing view. I assumed that
davy's response
was addressing your objections (whether you agree or disagree with him is irrelevant), but then you said he doesn't get it. So now I'm not sure where you stand.

As a side note, I found "sacraments for Kali" to be a somewhat bizarre turn of phrase. That didn't really help me in trying to catch your meaning.
posted by Galvatron at 9:51 PM on June 22, 2005

Aw, crap. This is vira's first post. I had a bad initial reaction. I'm NOT advocating censorship -- as this thread should demonstrate to anybody with half a brain.

Nobody asked me about what I was writing, they posted a bunch of "self-sensorship" derails. I think I've demonstrated I'm perfectly capable of a civil answer, eh vira? And instead it turns into a train wreck.

I thought I'd try and clarify things rather than call vira out in MeTa on his first post. But now he says he thinks I'm trolling. WTF?

The post is still here, so it's obviously okey-dokey.

"Sacraments for Kali" was me trying to be nice. Oh, well.

The conference anecdote dates from back in 1999. The proceedings are not on line, but are in a book, Hype or Reality: The 'New Terrorism' and Mass Casualty Attacks I was totally annoyed at the repeated litany of "it can be found on the internet." Maybe you had to be there.

I just thought the post should be framed differently. The primary link is to an article that spells out how to do it for anybody who understands equilibrium reactions. As a result, the post read to me like an advertisement for DIY explosives. Why was that the primary link? Your mileage may vary.

I'd be perfectly happy to discuss terrorism. As a matter of fact I even posted on it earlier today.

As far as davy's slime and flame goes, the less said the better.

Take it away, mefites.
posted by warbaby at 10:18 PM on June 22, 2005

"Sacraments for Kali" is good, but why be obscure? Call it 'Bacon for Beelzebub', or 'Shoutouts to Ol' Scratch' or something.

Good Lord, does anyone think that terrorists might be waiting for someone to post a how-to on Metafilter?
posted by GriffX at 10:48 PM on June 22, 2005

Actually, yes, there are people that think that. Not here, but such people do exist.

And for what it's worth, immediately after the Richard Reed shoe-bombing, there was a flurry of interest in the blogosphere about TATP. And a funny thing happened.

One blogger posted a lengthy article he had researched about it. And got a lot of traffic because he was one of the few sites that explained what it was and how it was made. And then, he noticed that his blog article -- which had been at the top of Google when you searched for TATP -- disappeared from Google. And he raised a big fuss about it. And sure enough, Google would no longer find that article.

Just for laughs, try searching Google for the synthesis of TATP. There are quite detailed sites out there that describe it. But they don't show up on Google.

But you probably already knew that.
posted by warbaby at 11:09 PM on June 22, 2005

Chemistry is cool.

/my two cents
posted by mikeweeney at 11:38 PM on June 22, 2005

I understand what you're saying, warbaby--if I wanted to know about drugs, I'd start here, if I wanted to know what was on TV, I'd go here, if I wanted to see pictures of dead people, then here. Thing is, not everyone knows this, and MeFi is a great place to point people in the right direction.

I've been interested in explosives since I made my first batch of ammonium tri-iodide when I was ten. As it's something I find interesting, I appreciate the links. Any time I hear someone say, "Well, considering everything that's going on, we shouldn't be talking about x" I cringe; it's a haphazard, subjective application of ethics to a discussion.

Current events should not dictate conversational etiquette.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:41 PM on June 22, 2005

So ubersturm, it'd be okay with you if I used quotes from the Quran (one or more of the translations available on the Web, I admit I don't read Arabic) to show that Islam really is bent on world conquest and that "9/11" fit in well with such Islamic acts of piety as the Seljuk's ghazis massacres of thousands of Anatolians? And should I then tell anybody who disagrees to "Shut up, this thread is about the viciousness of Islam, you've had your chance to parrot 'Islam is a religion of peace!' in other threads!"? If you need to discuss this go ahead and call me on Metatalk; there's little point as we've just established we're both hardheaded -- and I long ago established that I'm not very good at shutting up when I'm told to. Anyway....

Hey warbaby, at least you quit denying you favor censoring the Internet.

By the way, warbaby wrote: "Just for laughs, try searching Google for the synthesis of TATP. There are quite detailed sites out there that describe it. But they don't show up on Google."

Just for laughs, I just found out you're wrong. Try the search yourself.

[Hey people, please don't use any bomb recipes you find on the Internet to blow anybody up. Considering it like raping your grandmother: you know how to do it -- but still you won't.]
posted by davy at 11:53 PM on June 22, 2005

Oh any by the way, I hadn't thought of searching for that till warbaby challenged us to. Just sayin'.
posted by davy at 11:55 PM on June 22, 2005

Here's another sacrament for Kali.

Fortunately, right-thinking people are letting this irresponsible young man know what they think about his posting this sort of sensitive information on the internet.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:10 AM on June 23, 2005

Interesting. I would have thought that they'd want to use something a little more stable.

They would, but, until recently, they didn't have it. Hydrogen Peroxide, Acetone and Hydrocholric or Sulfuric Acid are all incredibly common compounds that have lots of not-go-boom uses.

Of course, now that they have a large source of C4 and/or RDX, they use that -- they're far better explosives on all levels.

Or, to be only partially snarky -- you go to war with the explosives you have, not the explosives you want.
posted by eriko at 4:26 AM on June 23, 2005

By the way, kids, TATP (and its nasty big brother, DPPP) fall firmly into the clade of explosive we call "Fuck That!"

Figuring out how to make them isn't hard. Don't. Not that I'm against such knowledge, its just that life is so much easier when you are alive.

The key trick to a good explosive is it only explodes when you want it to. This is why Alfred Nobel worked hard on Dynamite -- nitroglycerin is such a happy explosive, it likes to blow up all the time.

Also: The 2-liter/dry ice bomb is stupid for the same reasons. You don't know when it will go off. That leads to embarrassing explanations, like "Honest, officer, he stuck all those bits of metal into himself intentionally."

Remember: The core difference between smart people and stupid people is smart people get to do stupid things more than once.
posted by eriko at 4:32 AM on June 23, 2005

Just for laughs, try searching Google for the synthesis of TATP. There are quite detailed sites out there that describe it. But they don't show up on Google.

I found three step-by-step instruction links. On the first page of results. The trick is to use another name for the stuff, not "TATP". I'm just saying.

Also: ditto eriko re good explosives. That makes me think of that scene in Bridge on the River Kwai where the British commando leader is showing William Holden the new invention they've been testing out and Holden freaks out when the guy throws this tube of plastic explosive around his shoulders. Great terrorist training manual flick.
posted by skoosh at 5:13 AM on June 23, 2005

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Same goes for information.

Most people would agree it would be bad practice to tuck loaded pistols under the pillows of suicidally depressed people. Similarly, it would be bad practice to post the informational equivalent of a loaded pistol in places where folks likely to act on such information are likely to see it.

Question is - how many experimentally minded teenage boys will read this thread, get curious, make some TATP in their father's garage and blow themselves up? (And how many of them will also take out the three nuns and six orphans who happen to be walking past just as the experiment goes wrong)?
posted by gregor-e at 5:43 AM on June 23, 2005

JGreyNemo - "Information once posted on the ubiquitous inter-web will never be censored again."

It's like 1991 all over again. I wish I could still believe this, but despite how impossible it seemed back then, time (and our ever accelerating slide to the right) is proving me wrong. In technical terms censoring the net is rather difficult, so we all thought it could never be tamed, but in practical terms it's pretty simple - you just make a law against it and start arresting people.

It seems quaint now that no one even considered that possible.
posted by silence at 6:47 AM on June 23, 2005

The key trick to a good explosive is it only explodes when you want it to. This is why Alfred Nobel worked hard on Dynamite -- nitroglycerin is such a happy explosive, it likes to blow up all the time.

Excellent point. In case any of our readers don't know, Alfred Nobel's younger brother was killed in a Nitroglycerin explosion at his factory.

For those interested in other fun experiments in chemistry, here's a few good examples (complete with detonation videos):posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:19 AM on June 23, 2005

I would avoid the Anarchist's Cookbook and the Poor Man's James Bond because of the dangerously inaccurate information in them. The Anarchist's Cookbook, if you look on Amazon, has been disowned by the author. Personally, I don't find explosives that much fun any more, and they're too much work to make.
posted by mecran01 at 7:27 AM on June 23, 2005

How about a link to much bigger bomb.
posted by gsb at 7:33 AM on June 23, 2005

a much bigger bomb -effing preview and post button spasm
posted by gsb at 7:34 AM on June 23, 2005

Ah, davy. I confess. The first part of that comment (about the disappearing blog) was true. And there was a real mystery three and a half years ago about why Google was behaving erratically. I'm sad to say the last sentence was a fib. Did it take you long? Do you still want me to go and edit wikis? Do you think this was predictable or just lucky?
posted by warbaby at 9:12 AM on June 23, 2005

It took exactly TWO posts before this entire thread got derailed. Way to go, warbaby! If only you'd gotten the first post. Also, I think a dozen comments is a little over the top.
posted by absalom at 9:40 AM on June 23, 2005

So, absalom, you are proposing self-censorship? Or avoiding pileons through conformity? Being an individual just like everybody else?
posted by warbaby at 10:51 AM on June 23, 2005

I'd think the FBI would want information being spread on explosives that self-detonate at less than 10 degrees Celsius. The more the better to mask information on more stable explosives.

Apparently it has less brisance and explosive power than TNT, but is actually valued by suicide bombers for instability. When the police shoot the suicide bombers the bullets alone can set off the explosive according to these Usenet guys.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2005

warbaby writes "It's more like this is a dinner party. "

Ya got to come to one of my dinner parties :).
posted by Mitheral at 1:29 PM on June 23, 2005

but is actually valued by suicide bombers for instability

When my father was a teen, a friend of his made the mistake of letting a large batch of some chemically unstable explosives dry out on the bus ride back home. It cost him his arm and part of the seat in front of him.

You'd think that a suicide bomber wouldn't want to be riding around on such a bumpy and unstable platform, unless he was particularly trying to cripple the transit system.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:44 PM on June 23, 2005

the reason the final link is interesting is because of the word entropic. read the abstract - they carefully point out that the explosion of TATP is not a thermochemically highly favored event. that is why this is interesting. traditional explosives rely on an release of energy. this, instead, relies on an increase in complexity.

it's a complexity bomb. which is, imho, amazingly cool.

yes, high explosives involve a shock wave and the decomposition of the material. but this is driven predominantly by a change in energy, not entropy. at least, that is the thrust of every article i've googled on high explosives in the last 30 mins or so.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:20 PM on June 23, 2005

An on-topic and well written explanantion of detonation vs deflagration contained in the discussion thread on this post on the halfbakery about using explosives to cut down trees.

The explanantion is near the bottom of the thread and is written by someone with technical knowledge and professional experience with explosives.
posted by bz at 9:48 AM on June 24, 2005

Many thanks, bz! That explanation is very helpful.

warbaby, I apologize for accusing you of trolling; your explanation didn't make any sense to me, yet you spoke seemingly authoritatively, so I assumed you were just making stuff up.

I think I understand it a little better now.
To quote from bz's link:

In the high-order detonation, the energy propagates as a wave through the material, essentially fracturing chemical bonds, making the constituents available for immediate reaction. This propagation wave travels faster than the purely chemical reaction can.

It always takes energy to break bonds, and energy is always released by bond formation. In deflagration and detonation, the energy release comes solely from the formation of combustion products (CO2 and H2O). In deflagration, this energy release is what breaks the bonds of neighboring molecules. However, in detonation, the pressure from the increased number of molecules formed during decomposition and combustion is enough to break apart its neighbors faster than the energy release from the combustion alone would.

TATP doesn't do this; rather, the increased pressure alone propagates the shock wave. It's able to do this because the carbons serve as a "molecular scaffold" which holds the compound in a spatial orientation that facilitates a chain reaction.

In effect, I don't disagree at all with Wikipedia's Detonation article, though it isn't quite as clearly worded as the comment in bz's link.

Refutations of this are welcomed :)
posted by vira at 12:26 PM on June 24, 2005

You're welcome. I was lucky to have remembered the discussion there but the deflagration vs. detonation thing summoned it up out of the deepest cobwebs of my cluttered head.
posted by bz at 12:57 PM on June 24, 2005

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