Friday, August 15, 2008

Do not drink liquid nitrogen

Because of safety reasons all my bottles of reagents on my shelf are labeled "do not drink" (except my ddH2O, that one is labeled "only drink if very thirsty"). I always thought it was a ridiculous precaution because who in their right mind would drink from a bottle in a lab. I mean if you're going write that, might as well add "do not use for enema". Well I guess I'm just not gifted:

August 15, 2008 -- A gifted 15-year-old student from India had to be rushed to the hospital after drinking liquid nitrogen during a science class at Princeton University.

The class was part of a program run by the Connecticut-based Summer Institute for the Gifted.


Anonymous said...

this post made me laugh. esp. the enema part. what exactly happens when one ingests (or receives rectally) liquid nitrogen? considering it's used to burn off skin, I can't imagine it's pretty in either orifice.- Laura

ECO said...

Darwin is trying his best to get these people...

Sarah said...

apparently the "do not drink" labels went on absolutely everything to stop non-science people who were hoping to get a buzz off of chemicals or alcohol in some solutions :O

Jim said...

It's not just non-science people, Sarah. ;)

Back in the late 90s, when I was a TA in the physics department at a major research university, I and one other TA had a weekly lab for Physics 103 in the early evenings on Wednesday, as I recall(7:00 - 9:00 p.m.)

Anyway, one week, the labs being done involved calorimetry and the use of liquid nitrogen was involved(it's involves knowing the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, then using it's specific heat to determine the approximate mass of the sample, IIRC.)

So, when the labs were done for the evening, a few students were hanging around in my lab. I had to go to the other lab, where my fellow TA was, to get something, and he was just finishing up. A few of his students were asking about liquid nitrogen and how dangerous it was.

Now, this guy was a guy who was more than a little arrogant(he went to Northwestern, don't you know) and so I thought he would know better(since he apparently knew everything else). So, in an apparent attempt to show the students that it was safe to ingest liquid nitrogen, he took a 50 oz. dewar and filled it with liquid nitrogen and DRANK IT!!
I was thinking:

"Oh, great...I'm going have to call 911 and give this guy CPR, or drag his sorry a$$ to the hospital myself, since no one else is around."

But you know what? Nothing happened, and I'm pretty sure he suffered no long-term consequences--although I heard that the next day he was sick to his stomach, but he didn't require an ER visit and stomach surgery like the guy in the Darwin Awards story linked above.

Of course, in my eyes, it cements my view of people in physics having little to no common sense, which he didn't. ;)

Anonymous Coward said...

It's actually possible to gargle liquid N2 or pour some over your hand because it creates a gaz pocket between you and the liquid because of rapid evaporation. However it will shatter your teeth if it touches them, and if you swallow it it will cause 3rd degree burns to your throat. said...

This is all erroneous what you're writing.