Experiments You Can Do at Home - But Probably Shouldn't

Chapter 1
Experimental Cuisine » Making Salt the Hard Way

Swap an electron between two of the most unstable elements-sodium and chlorine-and the result is common table salt. Sodium is a soft, silvery metal that explodes violently on contact with water and burns skin by reacting with even the slightest moisture.

Chlorine is a choking yellow gas, used with mixed success in the trenches of World War I (it was known to have killed about equal numbers on both sides of the trench). When these chemicals meet, they react in a fierce ball of spitting fire and clouds of white smoke.

The smoke is sodium chloride (NaCl), or table salt, which I used to season a basket of popcorn I hung over the reaction. In the periodic table, as in politics, the unstable elements tend to hang out at the far left and the far right.

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