Graham's Containment Story
Your sodium experiments brought back some wonderful, but as I get older increasingly scary, memories from the late
60's when I found I could buy this element from my local lab supplier. Fortunately I never progressed beyond 1 or 2 g
lumps, though there was a tantalizingly large lake a few miles away from my home in London.
With such small lumps, I was able to experiment quite a lot, and refined the protocol to a point where a ten to
fifteen foot shower of sparks and smoke could be repeated fairly consistently. The distinctive cracking splutter
in your videos was just as I remember, as opposed the whoomph of an uncontained hydrogen explosion. The detailed
description by the unfortunate chap who was blinded sounded very familiar. I remember the secret of making a
small amount explode was to restrict it's movement and the quantity of water. This I believe allowed the heat
to build up, melting the metal and boiling the water. There would sometimes be a moment when everything went
quiet, as the ball of molten metal went black before exploding, reminding me of a droplet of water on a
hotplate, which sometimes makes a skating ball 'protected' by a layer of steam before vaporizing.
I doubt if this will help much in explaining the phenomena, but if it stimulates further research without
injury, I would be pleased to know that this amateur tradition is still alive. I just think I am very
lucky not to have been injured.
My other experiments into chemical elements included similar sized pieces of yellow phosphorus from the
same supplier. This may be a clue to my slight but definite and progressive tinitus.