Roc Doc: Fear and four lab explosions

By From page A4 | May 12, 2011

E. Kirsten Peters mug


On a couple of occasions in graduate school I stupidly miscalculated the effects of mixing strong acid and water  and then adding heat. Theres nothing like the resulting exploding acid droplets quite near your face to give you pause.
The second time I managed to make the same, simple error I walked home, a journey of about eight miles. As I strolled, I gave serious consideration to going into the law. But, after that long walk, I realized I didnt want to make a decision about the direction of my education based solely on fear. So I stuck with the sciences.
But my tale of lab explosions doesnt seem like much compared to two others I know, and they inspire greater fears in many members of the general public.
I work everyday with a chemist here at Washington State University who likes to say she is so radioactive she glows in the dark. That’s not true, of course, but she did get a goodly dose of the highly radioactive chemical element called americium, which is a byproduct of plutonium.

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E. Kirsten Peters

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