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"Liquid Explosives"

OK, I've read some of the articles and such about liquid explosives from the BBC. They all allude to some vague, nebulous ingredients that might be able to be combined to make a liquid explosive, or combining a liquid and a solid.

They read like bullshit, as in, as credible as "red mercury" being a nuclear material.

Yes, there are liquids that can be combined to make explosives. In order to get explosives out of these, they have to be highly concentrated. Some are considered "volatile". This means they stink.

Take acetone, a well known ingredient in nail polish remover. The concentration is low, the smell is high. If someone decided to "do their nails" on an airplane flight, they'd get lynched - that shit is vicious in an enclosed environment.

Or various acidic drain cleaners: hard to handle and package without burning yourself, or sufficiently low strength to not do anything more than fizzle. These stink too.

Hydrogen peroxide: the stuff you can buy in the drugstore is low concentration. It would have to be concentrated (not a simple process), then repacked in the original bottle. It smells when you open it, too. Hair bleach developer has a slightly higher concentration, but again has the smell problem.

Gasoline/Fuel oil: first, it smells; second, its already prohibited in aircraft cabins.

So, basically, it would take a lot of effort, coordination, and ingenuity by the terrorists, plus gross apathy on the part of their fellow passengers. Ain't gonna happen. Not when passengers that look like they *might* be doing something funky get tackled promptly by fellow travellers.

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
koga
Aug. 10th, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
I am sure your degree in chemistry, organic or otherwise, serves you well in this reguard.

Every single one of your points about smell or notice, is voided by simply -sealing- the container before you bring it to the airport. NO smell from a sealed container. I only need 10 seconds to detonate just about anything, really.

At least get off the high horse of 'OMG SO INCONVENIANT!'. They were, according to the reports I read, just a few hours away from actually putting the plan in to action. OBVIOUSLY someone with a bit more education in chemical sciences than either of us thinks it was credible enough to put three nations on alert and utterly inconveniance thousands of travelers.

hollyking
Aug. 10th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
But you can still take it on your checked luggage. So how is it any safer to stop people from carrying on in a bag? This is another band-aid effort that doesn't really increase the "security" of flying.
(no subject) - koga - Aug. 11th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 12:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 12:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - koga - Aug. 11th, 2006 12:58 am (UTC) - Expand
ravan
Aug. 11th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
You can't combine the ingredients without opening the container. Two ingredients uncombined in sealed containers are harmless.

The chemical reactions needed to produce explosives are not instant.

OBVIOUSLY someone with a bit more education in chemical sciences than either of us thinks it was credible enough to put three nations on alert and utterly inconveniance thousands of travelers.

Actually, I doubt that anyone with any realistic knowledge in this area was involved in the alert.

The alert serves a political purpose, not for the alleged terrorists, but governments who want to "boil the frog" by slowly aclimatizing us to more and more invasive surveillance and restrictions.

Maybe it's credible, but I doubt it. These people's track record sucks - "red mercury" anyone?
(no subject) - mdlbear - Aug. 11th, 2006 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 05:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mdlbear - Aug. 11th, 2006 05:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - koga - Aug. 11th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - raindrops - Aug. 11th, 2006 04:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jilara - Aug. 11th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
fizzyland
Aug. 10th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)
The last flight I was on, a woman changed a diaper in the seat behind me and I thought I was going to throw up. Again, this is right up there with box cutter theories and the deadly menace of nail clippers: "Back or I'll round your toenails!"
mdlbear
Aug. 10th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
Easy enough to do the mixing inside a plastic bag.

Of course the next trick will be little sealed two-component bombs that do the mixing and detonation inside a checked suitcase.

Oh, and H2O2 is pretty easy to get or synthesize, though it's tricky to handle. Ask any rocket hobbyist.

And of course powdered aluminum and air will do just as well as acetone and H2O2.
ravan
Aug. 11th, 2006 12:29 am (UTC)
Easy enough to do the mixing inside a plastic bag.

Without fumbling or being noticed?

Of course the next trick will be little sealed two-component bombs that do the mixing and detonation inside a checked suitcase.

Or prescription meds capsules with anthrax in them instead.

Oh, and H2O2 is pretty easy to get or synthesize, though it's tricky to handle. Ask any rocket hobbyist.

The tricky to handle is its downfall.

And of course powdered aluminum and air will do just as well as acetone and H2O2.

Yeah, and the restriction on liquids won't effect that.

Hell, if you want to be an ass, take a small bag of flour, go into the bathroom, block the vents, then get the really well into the air, and then strike a spark. You might get a dust explosion, IIRC. If it fails, it's easy to clean up.
(no subject) - mdlbear - Aug. 11th, 2006 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
raindrops
Aug. 11th, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
What pisses me off the most is that all they have to do is announce that they've foiled a plot, and therefore we are all simultaneously saved and subject to further bullshit.

Show me, don't tell me.

They (all the coalition of the killing) have been "thwarting" plots ever since 9/11, yet we've seen no legitimate judicial action based upon these claims.

Why was the announcement not made after arrests, charges, evidence presented in a court of law, and a verdict?

If it was such a brilliant plan, why didn't these trrrrrrrrrrists infiltrate the employee rosters of airport vendors and suppliers, to coordinate shipment of the inert substances to different airport bars/restaurants, and then disperse them on D-Day to the psycho mofos who would then combine them in the damn loo onboard?

"I'd like the extra-special daily special."

How hard is that?
ravan
Aug. 11th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
Not very. Sleepers are a far more insidious threat. If you are patient, you can have several of your agents get jobs with concessions, and then years later use them to provide materials. They don't have to have flight line clearance - just concessions. But they can smuggle small amounts in over several weeks. If you have them all working for different vendors, there's less chance of them being found out. Have two or three for each component. Better yet, have the ones with component 1 at SFO, component 2 at ATL, and component 3 at JFK. Get on an international flight from there.

That's why I don't believe this crap about liquid explosives and sports drink containers. It's too contrived.

Hell, liquid plus powder is more believable.
(no subject) - raindrops - Aug. 11th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
jemyl
Aug. 11th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC)
I can think of two that I know of which could do major damage quite easily. One is a length of sodium based phone cable --- just put it into water in an enclosed space and wait for it to blow and it will blow, big time. The other is to simply have some pool chamical and pour DOT #3 brakd fluid on it --- Boom and fire! either of these could be done under that blanket or in a bag and only one of them is really liquid in each pair. There are others and the problem is detecting which liquid would be used for the catalyst and with which solid. I guess someone figures that eliminating the liquids and gels will eliminate at least half of the possible equation. Actually I think this ban makes a whole lot more sense than the nail clippers and crochet hooks! But then, we crazy VFD folk tend to be more aware of what will smoke, boom and burn more that what will poke, prod and cut.

I think the guy that called you a fundy christian was hilarious, so little does he know of you. Can I tell him that you have been a practicing pagan for some thirty years or more? May I, huh? LOL He also doesn't know, obviously, that you worked for many years in a chem. lab. Just shows to go ya, how quickly people are to assume when they disagree with one assertion that someone must be of a certain philosophical bent to have an opinion different from theirs. Peace, hugs and chocolate to you and to Datapard too. Tandala
ravan
Aug. 11th, 2006 05:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, but sealed bottles of water purchased inside the sterile zone??

One is a length of sodium based phone cable...

Oh, cripes! I thought they phased that crap out years ago and disposed of it properly. That's just an fire waiting to happen.

... have some pool chemical and pour DOT #3 brake fluid on it --- Boom and fire!

Both of those stink (depending on what the pool chemical you're thinking of is), and are nasty to handle.

Let's just say my parents never realized how cautious I was when playing chemistry in junior high and high school, and I still ended up with some very exciting and stinky reactions... I stayed away from trying to make explosives in the house because I didn't want to scare the dog.
mdlbear
Aug. 11th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
Sodium isn't reactive enough -- it'll burn, but not explode. Put a gram or two of rubidium (list price about $30/g) in a soluble capsule. Order a glass of water from the stewardess. Drop it in and put the glass down by the window. Boom.
(no subject) - jemyl - Aug. 11th, 2006 11:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mdlbear - Aug. 11th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
countgeiger
Aug. 11th, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
I'm not chemist, but I know a fair bit about this subect.

1) Not all chemicals that combine to make a high explosive. I can think of three right off the top of my head, that I personally know how to make or have made. Two of them use essentially odorless, colorless components. One of them is inert when wet, unless exposed to a mild explosion of some sort (say a shotgun shell primer, some phosphorus, etc. But again. easy.

2) I don't make a habit of going through this stuff, but I can think of at least three or four totally innocent looking delivery systems that would get you on an airplane.

The point here is that yes, most of the obvious choices would not be practical. But never underestimate the patience and ingenuity of a couple reasonably bright people to find an angle.
ravan
Aug. 11th, 2006 06:13 am (UTC)
The point here is that yes, most of the obvious choices would not be practical. But never underestimate the patience and ingenuity of a couple reasonably bright people to find an angle.

Yes, most obvious items would not be practical, yet the new regulations seem geared toward them.

Also, the patience and ingenuity angle would argue for the next logical extension of the total safety policy:
1) No carry-on possessions except travel papers as issued at the airport secure zone.
2) No clothing allowed aboard. Paper jumpsuits issued by the airport.
3) No leaving your seat. Adult sanitary underwear will be issued, and seatbelts will be locked by the staff upon boarding, and until it is time to deplane.
4) All luggage, paperwork, and clothing will be inspected and sealed aboard a different cargo flight.
5) A body cavity search and x-ray will be performed when you check into the sterile zone - no fuses sticking out of people's asses. This also helps fight the War on Drugs(tm).
6) Any required medication requires a doctor's written prescription, and will be filled at the airport and administered by the airline staff.

This is about the only level of security that I can think of that will eliminate all of the ways I can think of to try to smuggle explosives or chemical weapons aboard.

However, even with this, wait a few years and they will have sleeper agents infiltrated into the ground crews and airplane staff (assuming anyone still flies). Either that or they'll start blowing up ports with the under-regulated cargo containers.
siliconshaman
Aug. 11th, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
Sugar, sodium nitrate [looks and tastes like salt] olive oil.
Mix these three ingrediants in the right ratio and you have an explosive.

Add a 9v battery, two lengths of wire and penlight bulb with the glass carefully broken, and you have the ignition system.

take yourself, and the little packets with you to the toilet once you're airborne. Mix, shake in a plastic baggie, add detonator circuit. Instant bomb.

Not much boom to it, but slap it against a window and it'll do the job.

Or if you want to use a liquid, vodka and sodium nitrate will do it. You don't even have to carry the alcohol with you, just buy it off the drinks trolly. And hey, it comes with a handy bomb casing, ie the bottle.
ravan
Aug. 11th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
In the last screnario, all you need is a little flashight, and a little baggie of sodium nitrate. But it wouldn't make much boom, and would not breach even a window at the join.

The question then comes, since minor amounts of explosives are do-able with common household chemicals, why would the plotters do the elaborate sports' drink can bit? That's what smells the most false to me.

(no subject) - siliconshaman - Aug. 11th, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravan - Aug. 11th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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