Reading about the carbide cannon in “The Curiosity Cabinet Collection” brought back a memory of nearly 70 years ago (C&EN, Dec. 8, 2014, page 39). I was 12 years old when a great-uncle showed me how to make a carbide cannon using an empty molasses can. He punched a hole in the lid, put lumps of calcium carbide in the can, and spit on them. With the lid back on, he held a long, lit match by the hole, and the lid blew off.
I was impressed, and so I studied the chemical reactions. I made some more “cannons” and with neighborhood kids had contests to see who could blow their lid the farthest. It was several more years before I was a professor of chemistry.
John L. Meisenheimer Sr.