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• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

August 15, 2006

This Website Should Be Your First Choice For Grim Historical Irony

What explosive were the latest London bombers supposedly going to use in their scheme to blow up the planes?

In a joint memorandum to American law enforcement agencies yesterday, the Homeland Security Department and FBI said that the alleged plotters in Britain had planned to use peroxide-based explosives to bring down up to 10 aeroplanes heading towards the US....The most common peroxide explosive is triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, which is made from two liquids: acetone, the primary ingredient of most nail polish removers, and hydrogen peroxide, commonly used as an antiseptic.

And who else uses TATP?

Hamas uses TATP to send suicide bombers undetected into Israel...[it's] their explosive of choice...

And what is the grim historical irony here?

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (November 27, 1874 – November 9, 1952) was a chemist, statesman, President of the World Zionist Organization, [and] first President of Israel (elected May 16, 1948, served 1949 - 1952)...

He became famous because he was the first to find out how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of the desired substances and is nowadays considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacteria Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort.

And who is going to jail for the Google searches used to confirm these half-remembered scraps of information?

I am.
Posted at August 15, 2006 06:22 AM | TrackBack


Since anything and everything can be used as an explosive device and everyone can now be considered a terrorist either by deed or by thought, I hope that the irate attendent who found it gross and disgusting when I lit a fart on her particular flight doesn't turn me in to the proper authorities for that blatant act of terrorism!

Hey, wait a minute! That doesn't matter now because you just suckered me into reading those terrorist links and now I'm guilty by association! Thanks a lot, Jonathan! See you in the Gulag on Diego Garcia. I hope we have adjoining cells overlooking the Indian Ocean. Look for me there because I'll be the old, fat, bald guy with the tortured look on his face!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 15, 2006 07:00 AM

I would defend you but I am retired.

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at August 15, 2006 07:27 AM

As I understand it, peroxide-based explosives are not volatile as a liquid, but must be chilled, filtered, and their precipitate dried before they would be effective. The process takes at least ten hours, more likely twelve.

Were the alleged terrorists counting on planeloads of blind people, staffed with blind people? Really slow planes, as well.

And acetone stinks. Were the people to be anosmic also?

Posted by: cavjam at August 15, 2006 08:04 AM

This Jeff Danziger cartoon is appropriate here:

Posted by: Bob at August 15, 2006 08:12 AM

1. Look up irony. (Current mis-use excluded.)
2. Jewish chemists are our misfortune?

Posted by: donescobar at August 15, 2006 08:43 AM

Well, that's how it's used today.Irony occurs when the true meaning of something is the opposite of what was outwardly expressed. It's a literary device. Not that your use is "wrong," but the box of meaning vs outcome is so inclusive that irony has gotten to cover almost all unintended opposites. Just an old grammar crank talking here.
Didn't Ashcroft do away with Zoroastrian chemists? Surely, in Missouri?

Posted by: donescobar at August 15, 2006 09:44 AM

Didn't Ashcroft do away with Zoroastrian chemists? Surely, in Missouri?

Oh No! I live in Missouri and I used to have a really cute zoroastrian friend that was studing chemistry. . . Dear God! I haven't heard from her in years! What did Ashcroft do to her!

Another true story: I spent a few days canvassing with the ACLU, trying to raise money by scaring people with all the evil things Ashcroft. Generally it seems people consider knocking on thier door a bigger intrusion in their privacy then tapping your phones and will slam the door in your face somewhere. But a coworker of mine had one rather pissed off woman tell her first "my name is Something-something Ashcroft; Ashcroft is my FATHER!" Slam!

Poor girl.

Posted by: Andrew B at August 15, 2006 10:52 AM

Acetone is good stuff, especially when you're washing labware that you previously wrote on with Sharpies. Now who discovered fire? I bet their descendants never>/i> get burned.

Posted by: Saheli at August 15, 2006 12:43 PM

Hydrogen peroxide was used by the Germans as a rocket fuel oxidizer in WWII. (T Stoff) 70% to 90% pure. It WILL oxigize anything organic at that strength.(ever you). non poluting as it breaks down into water and oxygen. Is extremely vigorous when in contact with nickle or stainless steel. Industrially made with water and much electricity. Will soon be back in use is space vehicles as hydrozine( now in use) is extremely corrosive to the upper atmosphere. Medical peroxide is 2%-3%

Posted by: at August 15, 2006 03:27 PM

+"Must be chilled ... the process takes at least ten hours, more likely twelve."

Actually, the chilling part is just to make the combo less volatile. Crystalization is much more rapid at higher temperatures and often just pouring the mixture through the coffee filter is enough to trigger an explosion.

It's certainly something that could probably be accompished during a transatlantic flight.

See you all in the pen with Jonathan...

Posted by: Maezeppa at August 15, 2006 04:13 PM

Maezeppa - thanks for the info. Is not the precipitate less powerful while wet?

I still think pouring a clear liquid through a filter might be noticed as being a tad suspicious.

Posted by: cavjam at August 16, 2006 02:49 AM

I wondered how I found this blog by Googleing NORDEN BOMB SITE.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 16, 2006 10:15 AM