Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"...also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers..."

This is apropos of nothing at all - I just saw it at TJIC and it was such a delightfully ironic bit of prose that it momentarily made me forget my frozen fingers. I love good writing, like I love good lasagna.
“[Chlorine trifluoride used as rocket fuel] is, of course, extremely toxic, but that’s the least of the problem. It is hypergolic [ignites on contact - J] with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water - with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals - steel, copper, aluminium, etc. - because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminium keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.”
In one of my books I speculated on the probable result to an ancient alchemist who accidentally catalyzed sodium, without quite realizing what he'd done. It wasn't a pretty story.

No comments: