Townsville Twist

Friday, 24 March 2006

Chemistry Tutes = JCU History

My Tuesdays are made up of eight delicious contact hours that run until 9pm. Wednesdays are worse, beginning with an 8am start and running til 5pm. It's a struggle getting up for those 8am Chem tutes, but it means that you can get a nice fresh hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, baked beans and HASH BROWNS! In the class, the Chemistry lecturer/tutor goes through a bit of the actual work, but spends most of his time telling us little stories about the uni's colourful chemical history. Two are of particular note, so I thought I'd share the joy.

JCU's NMR Machine
For those of you who don't know what NMR stands for, it's shorthand for enema.

For those of you who DO know what NMR stands for, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, this story will make more sense. Several years ago James Cook Uni bought a brand new shiny NMR Machine thing (you can tell I wasn't listening in the lecture) that makes molecules vibrate and it's used to determine what molecules are in a sample. Or something. They use this same technology in medicine with MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines.
Anywho, they imported the machine in from overseas and it arrived in the country on time, but for some reason it took six months to get it to the actual uni. Upon further investigation it was discovered that since the stamp on the box mentioned the word "Nuclear" nobody was game to go anywhere near it for fear of their balls dropping off for those six months. Customs had had a real good long poke around at it (with a ten foot pole, no doubt) before it got the okay. Apparently this is why MRI machines are called that instead of NMRI - people freak out when they see "nuclear" on anything.

Any chance to use a Bazooka
I wish I could remember what chemical it was, some sort of liquid chlorine compound I think, that they used in great quantities to keep the tanks nice and clean over in the aquaculture buildings back in the day. Since the uni used it in bulk they bought it in bulk and stored it in big metal drums. The problem with this chemical was that over time it would release gas, and since it was in a sealed drum, the drum would get bloated and people started to get a little bit worried that they'd go boom any moment. The uni had over-ordered the stuff and they had about half a dozen of these big bloated drums lying around waiting to blow up. So what would you do to dispose of them? You could ask a chemist OR you could get the bomb squad in. Guess what the blokes in charge chose. So the army turns up in their big manly trucks with their big manly guns and decides that the best thing to do would be to stick the drums in a field and shoot them with a bazooka! And they did. The explosion was pretty big - like REALLY big. It knocked some of the humvees over, two soldiers had ruptured ear drums and it blew out all the windows in the buildings and cars within a 200 metre radius.
Turns out that if they'd asked the chemists, they would have been told to stick a hose in the drums and fill them with water. Chemicals disposed of. End of story. I think I still would have preferred the bazooka though.

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  • omg was it some sort of perchlorate like ammonium perchlorate thats rocket fuel there was a big explosion back in the 80s from incorrectly stored ammonium perchlorate

    By Blogger Jam-Head, at 4:48 pm  

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