Speed Reads


If you must blow up pianos in the name of science, don't forget to do this

The first rule of science is...

Back in the 1950s and '60s, there used to be a show on the BBC called the Billy Cotton Band Show. One time, during a pre-filming photo shoot, the photographers were using a small explosive flash in one of their pianos. A technician packed some flour around the explosive, thinking it would look like smoke for the shot. Flour can be highly flammable, however, and there was a large explosion that seriously injured several people.

The injuries led to a lawsuit, and Colonel B.D. Smith, then a chemist at the University of Nottingham, was brought in as an expert witness.

Dr. Martyn Poliakoff tells the story, showing footage made by Smith as he performed several experiments with flour and explosives. It turns out, with the right mix of a "flashpot" and flour, you can completely obliterate a piano:

The only problem? Smith didn't keep detailed records of his experiments, so we don't know what was done, and can't replicate the research! Always remember kids, when you blow up a piano for science, make sure to write down exactly how you blew it up so future generations will know how to properly blow up their own future pianos. It's called being scientifically responsible.