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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 04:35 AM
Original message
Calling all chemweenies. Please check in.
Even if explosives analysis isn't your sub-field (all I've ever done was a single job looking for RDX and some of its friends in soil) tell us what you know. The following Wikipedia entry has a number of links to the various options for explosives.

The "Mark II" "microbombs" had Casio digital watches as the timers, stabilizers that looked like cotton wool balls, and an undetectable nitroglycerin as the explosive. Other ingredients included glycerin, nitrate, sulfuric acid, and minute concentrations of nitrobenzene, silver azide (silver trinitride), and liquid acetone. Two 9-volt batteries in each bomb were used as a power source. The batteries would be connected to light bulb filaments that would detonate the bomb. Murad and Yousef wired an SCR as the switch to trigger the filaments to detonate the bomb. There was an external socket hidden when the wires were pushed under the watch base as the bomber would wear it. The alteration was so small that the watch could still be worn in a normal manner. <1> <13> <17>

Yousef got batteries past airport security during his December 11 test bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434 by hiding them in hollowed-out heels of his shoes. Yousef smuggled the nitroglycerin on board by putting it inside a contact lens solution bottle.

They did actually test this and killed a Japanese businessman, but did not cause enough damage to the plane to down it. What I've gotten from the various links--

1. The homemade options are dangerous to make and pretty unstable. Not only that, they degrade easily, so getting them to work is a matter of dumb luck. Your explosive could go off if you dropped your bag accidentally in the terminal, or it may change enough from the time you cook it up that it won't work at all when you try to detonate it. There are no military uses for these because they are so unreliable.

2. The Wikipedia summary of the recent events does not list any actual binary explosives among the possible candidates.

3. The banning of all liquids on commercial flights is the most utterly stupid response possible.

4. "Unimaginable destruction" might have been possible, but not very likely, as too many things would have to work exactly right 12 times for that to happen. (Not that successfully pulling off one or two out of twelve would have been good, mind you. No one ever used such overblown terminology about Lockerbie, as bad as that was.)

Given the realities of the Bojinka plot, the similar British plot is certainly plausible, but the actual danger is being way overblown. If the supposed perps are anything like Yousef, good on the Brits for bagging them. Jury is still out on that, though.

Binary explosives are pretty interesting. Very safe and effective, but the commercially available ones are probably not suitable for terrorist use, having been explicitly designed to make that option very difficult.

1. Humanitarian Demining (HD) blow-in-place operations.
2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) blow-in-place operations.

Users: Governments, Demining Non-Governmental Organizations, Demining Corporations.

Description: FIXOR is a two-component explosive kit, based on a flammable liquid. It has been designed to replace the use of plastic explosives and block TNT as traditional demining and UXO explosive charges. Unlike ammonium nitrate based binary explosives and traditional explosives:

FIXOR can be transported around the world by any method, including commercial passenger aircraft. This makes FIXOR rapidly available to those Customers who require safe, secure, single-purpose, demolition explosives throughout the world.

FIXOR Explosive self-neutralizes after a period of time, becoming a non-explosive. This unique characteristic of FIXOR is very important to those Customers concerned with the proliferation of explosives-based terrorist devices.

FIXOR is in operational use in many landmine affected countries and has been proven effective at destroying a large variety of anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines as well as unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Complete information, including photographs of FIXOR against a variety of landmines and UXO, is available on the FIXOR web site.

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shain from kane Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 07:12 AM
Response to Original message
1. Once you are committed to die, why not pack your entire body
internally with gels and chemicals down the throat or up the poopshoot, light the fuse hidden in your mouth or rectum with matches from the two matchbooks that are permitted to be carried onto the airplane?
My son hatched this idea, so don't blame me.
He said drug mules swallow balloons full or cocaine and heroin to smuggle them through customs, so why not chemicals if you plan to die, anyway?
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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 08:18 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Because you'd die
They're poisonous. If you protected yourself from the poison with a condom, then you would have a hard time doing the detonation. Besides which, that would only work with the solid explosives.
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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 05:25 AM
Response to Original message
3. Also, about that plan to mix dye with the explosive
There are lots of red dye options, but many are not compatible with strong oxidizers. Oopsie!

Erythrosin B red #3
Incompatible with strong oxidizing agents

Allura Red red #40
Disodium salt of 2-hydroxy-1-(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfonatophenyl azo) naphthalene-6-sulfonate.
Chemical Incompatibility: Strong Reducing Agents, Decolourising Agents, Strong Acids & Alkalies

I strongly suspect this "plan" was a blue-sky conjecture on the part of amateur doofuses which they had never actually tested. Adding any unneccessary compound to an explosive mix is highly inadviseable.
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eridani Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 08:21 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. The latest in explosive-sensing technology

Getting robust Raman methods would be good, because it can deal with closed containers.
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