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Guncotton

Though strictly forbidden by his wife from conducting experiments in their home, the German chemist Christian F. Schonbein sometimes disobeyed her when she wasn't around.

While experimenting in the kitchen one day in 1845, Schonbein accidentally spilled a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids. In a panic, he grabbed his wife's cotton apron and mopped up the mess. He then hung it over the stove to dry before its unsuspecting owner came home.

Schonbein's deception went unnoticed -- until the apron spontaneously ignited and burned so quickly that virtually disappeared in a flash. Fortunately, his wife wasn't wearing it at the time.

[Schonbein's discovery (of what we now call "nitrocellulose" or "guncotton") marked the beginning of the replacement of gunpower on the battlefield, where it had reigned supreme for some 500 years.]

[In March 2003, a Dutch man sat down in his den after cleaning his bathtub, shower and toilet. Shortly thereafter, his apartment was rocked by an explosion which blew out all of its windows and weakened its walls. The cause? A chemical reaction between the cocktail of cleaning products which he had used.]

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