January 4, 2014

"Only weeks before a chemistry experiment sent a plume of fire across a Manhattan high school science lab, engulfing two students and leaving one with life-threatening burns..."

"... a federal safety agency issued a video warning of the dangers of the very same experiment, a common one across the country."

23 comments:

betamax3000 said...

RE: "...leaving one with life-threatening burns..."

If the Fire Destroyed the Genitalia, and the Surgeons had to Choose How to Repair, Would it Be "Gender=Threatening Burns?"

Skyler said...

What kind of moron pours methane near open flames?

Oh, the caliber of people that become teachers, that's who.

stlcdr said...

When your job requires handling of chemicals, the prerequisite for performing that job is a full understanding and application of caution and the levels of safety analysis to perform the tasks while minimizing the potential for harm that could result from a true accident.

This cannot be understated, especially, when in addition to the task, you are involved with others who not only have no understanding of any hazards involved, but you are educating them of said hazards.

This goes beyond incompetence and dereliction of duty.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm with Skyler.

I don't think the experiment itself is anything dangerous, but the handling of alcohol in that volume with an open flame is incredibly F'ing Stupid. Would anybody conceive of taking a gas can and pouring it onto a fire?

Steve said...

I have driven 100 MPH, crawled into a burning building, ridden the subway after midnight and been chased by a wild hog, but the most dangerous situation I have ever been in was a college chemistry lab.

T J Sawyer said...

Sign me up with Skyler and The Drill SGT.

But, think of all the "silly stories" that are broadcast as "news" when this danger could have been covered instead.

And isn't this an illustration that putting warning tags on everything means no one reads any of them.

MaxedOutMama said...

How awful.

Crimso said...

I wonder whether the teacher has a degree in education or chemistry. Or both. I would recommend that chemistry teachers have degrees in chemistry (and I know some, if not many, do). Even better, that they have experience actually working in a lab. My wife worked in a lab for years before going into teaching science at the high school level. I'm pretty sure she knows better than to pour methanol onto an open flame. On her desk. Though one wonders whether you should actually need a degree in chemistry to have the common sense not to do it.

I and a colleague run a Chemistry merit badge session for Boy Scouts once a year. We demonstrate the concepts on display in this foolish experiment by spraying solutions containing the substance in question through a bunsen burner flame, thereby producing a brief change in the color of the flame. It is done by one of us, everyone is wearing goggles, and it is done in a hood. And the boys think it's cool.

Safety is a major concern at the university level (faculty have been prosecuted as a result of lab accidents). Apparently there is some sort of difficulty in getting the word out to high school chemistry teachers ("The agency, the United States Chemical Safety Board, distributed the video warning to its 60,000 subscribers, a spokeswoman, Hillary Cohen, said Friday, but it had no sure way to reach individual teachers at schools like Beacon High School on the Upper West Side."). If only we had a Dept. of Education at the Federal level. Such an entity could be instrumental in seeing to it that every single chemistry teacher in the country knows better than to mix methanol and flames to ooh and ahh the kids.

rhhardin said...

Phlogiston strikes back.

SteveR said...

Methanol? Sorry, not smart.

rhhardin said...

Phlogiston is one of the first elements created in stars.

rhhardin said...

Before fire, there was no smoking.

rhhardin said...

German Neanderthal: Haben sie Feuer?

ironrailsironweights said...

I've never studied chemistry except for a single college intro course, yet I would know better than to pour methanol from a large container into a open flame.

Peter

EDH said...

Listening to her recount the misplaced trust she placed in her teacher while the latter poured accelerant on an open flame from a gallon jug made me think of the crowds cheering Obama's promise to "fundamentally transform the United States of America".

jacksonjay said...


What kind of moron pours methane near open flames?

Oh, the caliber of people that become teachers, that's who.


"... prestigious boarding school."

Probably shouldn't teach chemistry in high school.

Skyler is being very thoughtful today!

Freeman Hunt said...

I did this experiment twenty years ago with a couple other people at a chemistry summer camp, but we didn't use methanol. As I recall, we used something like one part potassium to three parts sugar plus the trace minerals in layers in a tube. The tube was put in a box of sand with only the top sticking out, and we added a couple drops of sulphuric acid. The fire roared out like a jet engine, and it always broke and melted much of the tube.

I can't believe they let us do that.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

This was an EXPERIMENT (the word used in the headline)? They were trying to prove or refute some hypothesis?

'Demonstration' - as used in last sentence of second paragraph - seems more appropriate.

Just sayin', be nice if the NYT was more careful with their choice of words.

Robohobo said...

I work in a chemical plant and this is beyond stupid into criminal.

El Pollo Raylan said...

"What kind of moron pours methane near open flames?"

"I did this experiment twenty years ago with a couple other people..."

"German Neanderthal: Haben [S}ie Feuer?"

Where to start.

Skyler said...

Yeah, I meant methanol.

CatherineM said...

Is this the experiment Walter White does in ep 1 of Breaking Bad?

CatherineM said...

Is this the experiment Walter White does in ep 1 of Breaking Bad?