Elemental Magnesium

I thought I’d better add some actual information or something, so here goes…

Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg. It’s atomic number is 12, which means that it’s the 12th element in the period table, so it’s a kinda small atom. Its common oxidation number is +2, which means its got two electrons that it really wants to get rid of – and fast!!!! So that means you don’t really ever find magnesium in nature, its always bonded to something else.

If you do get some magnesium, its fun to burn. Just put it in a hot flame and watch it go. Wowee! Make sure you don’t try and light it with matches, because it usually doesn’t work and then all your grade 10 science students think you are a bit of a fool (that’s assuming they were watching what was going on in class and not tagging their books).

BUT HERE’S THE INTERESTING BIT – magnesium is also quite light and strong, so some people decided to make a car out of magnesium. Twice. Read on, gentle reader…

1955 – Le Mans. It’s the 35th lap. Some guy brakes or something, and Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes Benz SLR 300 hits the back of the car in front (which happens to be shaped like a ramp) and soars into an embankment (which also happens to be shaped like a ramp) and then soars into the crowd. The fuel tank burst, and then ignites, and then… the car body ignites. It’s made out of mainly magnesium, so it burns like crazy, and then the safety people try and put it out with water, which makes it burn even more because there’s more hydrogen around. 80 people dead.

1968 – French Grand Prix. Jo Schlesser, driving the Honda RA302 instead of John Surtees – the regular driver who called the car a death trap – crashes on lap 3 and his car ignites instantly. Boom! Bang! Crash! 1 dead.

Honda RA302 crash

Honda RA302 crash

So that’s why they don’t make cars out of magnesium.

References:

Wikipedia

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