Eureka relived: Gunpowder blasts from the past

 作者:闻濠珐     |      日期:2019-03-15 09:15:01
Video: Demo: How to make gunpowder explode Gunpowder was a favourite toy of early scientific experimenters. So we were keen to see the enigmatic explosive in action in a replica 17th-century test rig Behind an anonymous door at the bottom of a multistorey car park in the north of England, I am politely asked to surrender my phone and submit my bag for searching. I am reminded that my video camera should be used to record only the agreed subject of my visit – and not doors or entranceways, under any circumstances. Once I am through an airport-style security arch and another set of secure doors, the reason for the wariness becomes clear. I am standing in a vast, windowless underground storeroom, its walls and shelves stacked with thousands upon thousands of guns. This is the UK’s National Firearms Centre. Imposing as its repositories are, they are not why I am here. Guns mean gunpowder, and I am due on the centre’s firing range to witness an attempt to reproduce experiments from over three centuries ago, aiming to find out exactly how gunpowder worked. The tests are the baby of Haileigh Robertson, a PhD student in the history of science at the University of York, UK. Unnervingly, she admits she is not entirely sure how they will pan out. What’s certain is that if there are to be any large bangs, this would be a very good place to keep them quiet. Gunpowder, a mixture of charcoal (carbon), sulphur and saltpetre (potassium nitrate), was discovered in 9th-century China,