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University Professor’s Experiment with Liquid Nitrogen Explodes onto the Web

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The coolest science class that I can remember from my high school days involved chemical reactions and explosions. In fact, it was fascinating whenever we could take what we had learned from our textbooks and apply it to real materials. That's what Roy Lowry, a professor at Plymouth University, did to get his students more involved in his chemistry class.

In a video demonstrating the dangers of storing liquid nitrogen in a sealed container, Professor Lowry certainly captures his students' attention. Students are gathered in a room as Lowry conducts an experiment using a plastic trash bin filled with a bucket of warm water, a 1-liter plastic bottle filled with liquid nitrogen, and 1,500 pingpong balls. Before beginning the experiment, the professor tells the students to cover their ears because the explosion could produce a loud bang. Several students giggle, and some take out their cameras to film the experiment.

Lowry explains that it's perfectly safe to fill the bottle with liquid nitrogen -- as long as the bottle is uncovered. Once the bottle is capped, the liquid nitrogen will turn into a gas and become highly combustible. He quickly places the bottle into the water-filled bin, and he and an assistant empty bags of pingpong balls into the bin. Then, they both turn and run away. As predicted, the liquid nitrogen becomes a gas and causes the pingpong balls to explode out of the bin and up toward the ceiling, showering back down onto the scene.

This is not the first time Lowry has filmed one of his science experiments. In a video from 2008, he burned a Jelly Baby, a popular candy in the U.K., to demonstrate its caloric value. That video remains one of the most popular clips about science experiments on the Web.

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