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Watch What Happens When You Brush Nitrogen Triiodide With A Feather

Here's a science boffin making things explode with a feather...

So, you’ve just finished watching the Harry Potter series in one marathon spell, and rather than take a shower or consume something other than pizza and beer, you’ve decided that the next best course of action is to try and become a witch/wizard [delete as appropriate].

The thing is, spoiler alert, the Harry Potter series is actually fictional. We found this out the hard way – by refusing to get out of bed for a week because a swish and a flick of the wand should’ve been enough to get us all the food and drink we required to survive (it didn’t work, we almost starved to death).

…because nitrogen triiodide is so fragile and reactive, when it comes into contact with any form of pressure whatsoever, it breaks apart…

While actual magic may not be real though, what is real is science. And when you know the right stuff about science, you pretty much are a witch or a wizard anyway [again, delete as appropriate].

Take nitrogen triiodide for example. If you’ve got nitrogen triiodide, there’s a good chance you can convince anyone under the age of 14 that you’re a legitimate magic person. Take a look at what happens when you brush the stuff with a feather and you’ll get an idea of exactly what we’re talking about…


Didn’t see that coming did you? Neither did we. So, why does it happen? Well, nitrogen triiodide is made from one nitrogen atom and three iodine atoms, and due to the way they form together, the compound is very unstable.

The iodine atoms are much larger than the nitrogen atoms, and due to their close proximity, bond strains are formed, creating potential energy and making the molecule incredibly reactive. Still with us? Good work. Take a break for a second. Think of an elephant balancing on a football or something… And we’re back.

Now, because nitrogen triiodide is so fragile and reactive, when it comes into contact with any form of pressure whatsoever, it completely breaks apart, and in turn releases a seeming explosion of purple iodine gas into the air. Bam. Just like magic.

The video below will tell you everything else you need to know…


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