Friday, July 22, 2005

How NOT to build a bomb. (Update 10-7-05)

Over at Big Cat Chronicles I commented that two things came to mind when I first heard about yesterday's bombing attempts in London. Either they didn't know how to build the bomb properly, or there was a more insidious plan to attempt to spread around a biological agent. Thankfully, it would appear that the former is the case.

The bombers tried to use a kind of explosive known as acetone peroxide, also known as TATP. This kind of explosive is fundamentally different from almost all other explosive substances in that no nitrates are in it. This means that neither bomb sniffing dogs nor the spectrographs used at airports can detect it. This is a relatively old compound, it was discovered in 1895 but to my knowledge has never been used commercially because it is highly unstable.

The Nut-Job Palestinians have taken to using it in thier bombs because it is so difficult to detect. In Palestine, you can always tell who the bomb makers are, they are the ones missing fingers and with scars all over them. That is a testament to how tricky this stuff is to use. The London Bombers have apparently been taking lessons from thier nut-job bretheren in Palestine, but fortunately for the residents of London, they must have been sleeping in class. This batch didn't blow. Either they flubbed making a second batch, or the remains of the two week old first batch had degraded, or they just didn't manage to set it off with sufficient energy. Apparently thier idea of a detonator was sticking two bare wires connected to a 9v battery and a timer into the explosive, no blasting cap, no shotgun shell or primer cord or anything. These guys have been watching too much James Bond methinks.

Update:
I just followed the WIKI link above and found a significantly different entry than I found when I posted this originally. The current WIKI post indicates that TATP DOES have a distinctive acrid odor. That said, I have read elsewhere (but no longer remember where) that TATP is difficult to detect using current bomb sniffing technology. I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has more information.

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