We love explosions, almost as much as we love Fridays. I get it. It's natural. So, I decided to combine the two in a Fireball Friday piece.There’s something beautifully carnal in the destructive power of energy charged blasts. The phoenix rising from the ashes, calling forth destruction and fire. Although I’m pretty sure nothing is rising from this 15 minute video compilation of pure unadulterated explosions - aside from the plumes of smoke and reverberating shock waves.The audible reactions from the observers experiencing the shock waves are priceless. I will "detail" the more scientific aspects of explosions later on in the piece, but that may not be your bag. For now, I want you to sit back, crack open your frosty libation, and enjoy!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGORJ7F1UXk
The Science Behind An Explosion
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Mmmmmm...science.[/caption]An explosion is a physical reaction that takes place when potential energy undergoes a sudden change. A rapid change in pressure takes place, thanks to the potential energy being put to use, and in turn causes combustion. This reaction creates the fireball and outward shock wave. According to Chemistry Explained, “Potential energy may exist in either of three forms before an explosion occurs: nuclear, chemical, or physical.” So let’s break down the three different forms of potential energy reactions.
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Perhaps it's time we leave...never mind, it's too late.[/caption]Nuclear reactions possess the most devastating potential in regards to explosions and are quite complicated. Just look at the fallout of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear reactions take place one of two ways: fission or fusion.Fusion requires two atoms and an extreme-heat catalyst to fuse them into one, with the leftover energy setting off a powerful chain reaction. A fission reaction takes place when one large atom is barraged by several smaller electrons. This forces the large atom to split into smaller atoms, and start a chain reaction of other single atoms splitting in suit. The end result is an output of explosive energy.The potential energy in both fusion and fission reactions (as per Lavoisier's Law of Conservation of mass, "matter can neither be created nor destroyed") is espoused and creates the intense heat/energy explosion we see and feel.Let me just say this. I am not a nuclear physicist capable of explaining the differences in chain reactions. I've only got a couple undergrad chemistry courses under my belt. So I will refer to Chemistry Explained once more, comparing the two, "The fusion reactions require a very high temperature to get started, so they are initiated by fission reactions. (When controlled at slower rates in nuclear reactors, fission reactions are used to produce power and additional nuclear fuel.)"
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I'd probably be tipping my hat too...[/caption]Chemical explosions require either the combination of chemicals or the degradation (through heat or vibration/friction) of a single chemical. Gunpowder is an example of a combination-type reaction, while dynamite is an example of a decomposition reaction. So don't go heartily shaking a stick of TNT!Both types of chemical reactions are “exothermic” and create a rise in temperature from the expanding energy. The thermal energy combusts outwards, creating the explosions we’ve come to adore and play on YouTube repeat.
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Nothing more satisfying than overinflating lawn flamingos...[/caption]Physical reactions don’t require chemical or nuclear components, but simply a container of some sort. They generally take place under pressure situations, such as over-inflating a balloon or a pressure cooker not releasing the built up gasses. While not as devastating as a chemical or nuclear explosion, from a weapons standpoint, physical explosions can send destructive objects flying.
If you’ve made it this far in the piece, and didn’t just nod off after being subjected to countless explosive eye orgasms, then congratulations! You’ve learned some of the basics regarding the three types of explosions. I’m betting that you’re probably just as smart as Bill Nye at this point.I want to give a huge shout out to the Chemistry Explained site, it’s truly an amazing resource for understanding the chemistry that takes place around you every day. Just be sure to use their site search function, or you can get lost in a g-hole of information. Till next time, stay fiery ‘Merica!