Richard Hammond Explodes (Alkali Metals)

British TV presenter Richard Hammond gained notoriety recently for smashing himself up at almost 300 mph in a dragster for the show Top Gear, but in a parallel life he was presenter of the science experiments show Brainiacs.

This is the classic alkali metals experiment we used to get to watch in chemistry class, but with a difference! These guys take it to the extreme to demonstrate not the fizzing and popping of lithium and sodium, not even just the smashed glass for potassium but the enormous almost Korean-scale explosion possible when caesium is added to water (DO NOT TRY THIS ONE AT HOME!!!).

Sadly it emerged recently that they probably didn’t use caesium in the final experiment at all, but an explosive charge that could nevertheless simulate the devastation a chunk of wet caesium might cause.

For more on the alkali metals and every other element come to that check out the animated periodic table.

3 thoughts on “Richard Hammond Explodes (Alkali Metals)”

  1. Richard Hammond’s infamous jet car crash, was aired on Top Gear last night, it’s not on Youtube yet, but you can grab it from the BBC news site

  2. Point taken…I think they were simply trying to show the generic increase though, weren’t they? And your point certainly ties in with the allegations that they used an explosive charge rather than a chunk of caesium

  3. But that’s not true. The whole point of showing an equivalent mass of Cesium would be to demonstrate that a smaller bang would occur. You would have less then 1/4 of the number of atoms with Cesium than with Potassium, so you would have a quarter less Hydrogen gas released and thus a smaller bang in general. That would better highlight the actual Chemistry of the reaction which is the combustion of H2, and not the generic increase in reactivity with heavier Group 1 metals.


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