burning sensation

during the night of december 2–3, 1984, large amounts of water entered tank 610, containing 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate. the resulting exothermic reaction increased the temperature inside the tank to over 200 °C (392 °F), raising the pressure to a level the tank was not designed to withstand. this forced the emergency venting of pressure from the m.i.c. holding tank, releasing a large volume of toxic gases (phosgene) into the atmosphere. the reaction sped up because of the presence of iron in corroding non-stainless steel pipelines. a mixture of poisonous gases flooded the city of bhopal, causing great panic as people woke up with a burning sensation in their lungs. thousands died immediately from the effects of the gas and many were trampled in the panic.

– at 00:30hrs the large siren (at the factory) sounds and is turned off

– at 2:00hrs the first people reach the local hospital. symptoms include visual impairment and blindness, respiratory difficulties, frothing at the mouth, and vomiting

– at 6:00hrs, a police loudspeaker broadcasts: ‘everything is normal’

-excerpted on december 2, 2009 from the wikipedia entry on the bhopal disaster

and below, an excerpt from alchemist john davy’s account of his discovery of phosgene:

oxygene combines with twice its volume of hydrogene and twice its volume of carbonic oxide to form water and carbonic acid, and with half its volume of chlorine to form euchlorine; and chlorine reciprocally requires its own volume of hydrogene and its own volume of carbonic oxide to form muriatic acid and the new gas.

this relation of proportions is one of the most beautiful parts of chemical philosophy, and that which promises fairest, when prosecuted, of raising chemistry to the state and certainty of a mathematical science.

(obviously from back when chemistry did not yet have the certainty and precision of a mathematical science. nowadays the social and political philosophies seem to suffer precisely from the same lack of precision, predictability and certainty -despite the university of michican and the american political science quarterly’s best efforts to infuse all discussions of the collective human behavior with graphs and indecipherable summation, sigma and other greek symbols and more graphs so that all articles are rendered unreadable to the uninitiated or the old-fashioned who still like their political philosophy bordering on the literary. might there be a day when such precision is made possible? alas!)

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~ by safrang on January 30, 2010.

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