Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pharoah's Serpent -- Mercury Thiocyanate

DATE: on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:57 am
The Pharaoh's Serpent is a traditional pyrotechnic and chemical display in which mercury thiocyanate is set on fire, producing what looks like a very rapidly growing vine. It has since fallen out of favor due to the toxicity of mercury, but sodium bicarbonate produces a similar effect. The video above is a demonstration of this visually stunning chemical reaction.

  1. xadrian
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Man, that video could have been about 2 minutes shorter. Did we really need to see the person scoop all that out?

    That said, this reminds me of my childhood around the 4th of July. I'm guessing the toxicity of that is why I get so antsy about overlong videos.

  2. BatskyStarman
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 11:25 am


  3. Lady Helena Handbasket
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Sodium bicarbonate does basically the same thing? I've got to try that.

  4. Kalel
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Snakes... why did it have to be snakes...

  5. Wondering
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Do you suppose this could explain the "burning bush" that "burned without being consumed" that Moses confronted in the desert when the Jews escaped from Egypt?

  6. Lorenzo Lamas
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    It sounds like the smoke monster from Lost. Coincidence? I think not.

    Mar 11th, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Well, I see you got those snakes. But where's the good stuff man? No black cats, Roman candles or screaming meemies? You got no lady fingers, fuzz buttles, snicker bombs, church burners, finger blasters, gut busters, zippity do das, crap flappers? No whistling bungholes spleen splitters, whisker biscuits,
    honkey lighters, Hüsker Düs and don'ts. Cherry bombs, nipsy dazers, with or without the scooter stick? Or one single whistling kitty-chaser?

  8. fraoch
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 5:16 pm


    The resulting stuff would make a great sci-fi background for a stop-motion film or something.

  9. Lushis
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    That made me itch. It was still cool to watch, tho' i could have done with out the sound effects...creeeepyyyyyy.

  10. Krystina Sharkey
    Mar 11th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    No... because snakes and sparklers are the only ones I like.

  11. HarryP
    Mar 12th, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Here are instructions for making Sodium Bicarb snakes. Looks like they aren't quite as awesome as the old, toxic ones.


    We used to make a big pile of the old ones and light them all at once. With enough tablets, you could crack a sidewalk. God knows what the fumes were doing to us.


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