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Director Saschka Unseld discusses Pixar, photorealism, and the making of 'The Blue Umbrella'

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Pixar Animation Studios isn’t just known for its feature films. Shorts like Tin Toy, Geri’s Game, and For the Birds have become classics in their own right, praised both for their whimsical stories and their technological innovations. Paired with Monsters University is the studio’s latest: The Blue Umbrella, from director Saschka Unseld.

Unseld served as a layout artist on films like Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, but The Blue Umbrella takes a remarkably different aesthetic approach than those films. The story of two umbrellas that meet cute and fall in love on a crowded city street, it’s being billed as Pixar’s first photorealistic short, and it delivers on that promise. The effect is so striking, I spent the first three shots of...

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Runaround
3085 days ago
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Plano, TX
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Pressure Cooker

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Pressure Cooker

Am I right to be afraid of pressure cookers? What's the worst thing that can happen if you misuse a pressure cooker in an ordinary kitchen?

—Delphine Lourtau

The worstthing?

Pressure cookers are dangerous.

They can explode, in a sense, but not as violently as you might fear (or hope). The pressure inside a consumer cooker doesn’t go above about two atmospheres—about the pressure inside a can of soda. Those levels can be dangerous, but they’re generally not high enough to cause the metal to violently rupture.

So what makes a pressure cooker dangerous?

Imagine a world where Pepsi is scalding hot. Now imagine that someone shakes up a can of Pepsi and sets it in front of you.

That’s the real threat from a pressure cooker: If the seal fails (or the lid is opened too early), it can spray scalding stew in all directions.

But it’s not really an explosion.

The blast couldn’t even fling the lid very far. If you mounted a rifle-style barrel on a pressure cooker, even in ideal circumstances it wouldn’t be able to fire the lid much faster than you could throw it. Any potato cannon (especially this one) could do better.

Of course, the question wasn’t about whether a pressure cooker is likely to explode. It was about what the worst thing that could happen was.

If you disable the safety valve, there are plenty of ways to produce much more dangerous pressures. You could completely fill it with water and heat it, fill it with Drano Draino and aluminum foil, or just pump in air from a compressor.

The result would depend on your pressure cooker. Chances are it would start to leak. If it didn’t, and it somehow stayed together up a few hundred atmospheres (pressures typical of scuba tank), when it finally rupturedit could easily kill you.

Even so, that’s far from the worstthing you could do with a pressure cooker.

Frankly, there are so many options it would be impossible to survey them all. But for my money, one of the most horrifying things you could do is this:

(Note: Nevertry this, for reasons which will become obvious in a moment.)

Fill the cooker with oxygen up to 5 PSI, then pump in fluorine until it starts escaping through the safety valve. Put the vessel over an open flame until it reaches 700°C (That’s °C, not °F. Yes, this will probably set off the smoke alarm.) Now, pump the hot gas over a liquid-oxygen-cooled stainless steel surface.

The procedure here is a little tricky, but if you do things right, the gas will condense into dioxygen difluoride(O2F2).

And that stuff is awful.

Ray Bradbury taught usthat paper burns when exposed to oxygen at temperatures above 451°F. Dioxygen difluoride is so volatile that it makes almost any organic substance ignite and explode at any temperature hotter than 300°F below zero.It can literally make icecatch fire.

In an article about O2F2, Chemistry blogger Derek Lowe (of the excellent In The Pipeline) used phrases like “violently hideous”, “deeply alarming”, and “chemicals that I never hope to encounter”. Another articlerefers to fluorine as “the gas of Lucifer”, and lists chemists who were poisoned or blown up while attempting to work with it.

If your house is heated by natural gas, and it happens to contain hydrogen sulfide, you could pipe some of it into your container of O2F2. In addition to a massive explosion, this will alsoproduce a cloud of hydrogen fluoride gas. Hydrogen fluoride can dissolve human tissue on contact, starting with your lungs and corneas.

As Lowe points out, the chemistry of this kind of reaction (O2F2 and sulfides) is largely unexplored.

Which gives us an answer to our question. What’s the worst thing that can happen in a pressure cooker?

Science.

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Runaround
3141 days ago
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Plano, TX
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3159 days ago
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15 public comments
waxis
3148 days ago
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I only just caught this article today. Rather surprising coincidence for the choice of subjects.
Arizona
copyninja
3158 days ago
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Good one!
India
padington
3160 days ago
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Whats rhe worst that can happen? SCIENCE, Baby!
LeMadChef
3160 days ago
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XKCD's What If? Pressure Cooker
Denver, CO
MotherHydra
3160 days ago
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science indeed! This is so math
Space City, USA
andycwb
3160 days ago
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From the don't try this at home department....
windsandbreezes
3160 days ago
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I love what-if. Also, I am never buying a pressure cooker
Ireland
DrGaellon
3160 days ago
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Randall Munroe wins all the internets. All of them.
Yonkers, NY
shamgar_bn
3161 days ago
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"What's the worst thing that can happen in a pressure cooker?

Science."
Wake Forest, North Carolina
rclatterbuck
3161 days ago
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I love the shout-out.
ksteimle
3154 days ago
This was most interesting to be because I learned that he adds alt-text to the comics in these articles, too!!!
llucax
3161 days ago
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Epic ending.
Berlin
vmrampulla
3161 days ago
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Have you ever heard of the 'gas of lucifer'? Then read this from What if? #sciencewin
London

Time to Exorcise the Demons!

11 Comments and 31 Shares
Time to Exorcise the Demons!

Submitted by: Unknown

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Runaround
3141 days ago
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Plano, TX
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3159 days ago
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9 public comments
superiphi
3156 days ago
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just not sure why it is on fail blog, this is awesome parenting :)
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
TheRomit
3158 days ago
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LOL
santa clara, CA
agcornejo
3158 days ago
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Too funny!
Snellville, Georgia
gms8994
3159 days ago
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Excellent.
40291
pdp68
3159 days ago
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Awesome child. Just awesome!
Belgium
wmorrell
3160 days ago
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I think I would like this kid.
JMPieper
3160 days ago
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This made me lulz at my desk.
Richieg
3097 days ago
BAHAHAHAAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA