Could it Happen to You?

Despite repeated boyhood attempts to produce a Simpson-scale explosion by shaking a can of pop until my arm was numb, shaking a can full of carbonated anything does not actually cause an increase in pressure inside the can. What it does is simply create lots and lots of teeny tiny bubbles which, should the container be opened just then, rapidly inflate with escaping CO2. The result is, well…a mess. But without all those bubbles you get no ka-boom, so even the most violently shaken can of soda pop will calm down again after about twenty minutes (with no ill effects to the beverage whatsoever).

6 thoughts on “Could it Happen to You?”

  1. HAHA…I learned that years ago when I’d drop a can and think “great–toss that one…unless you want a shower when opening it” but learned that it settled down after a while and was safe. Good one.

  2. BUT … if you are fermenting your own beer or soda, it is possible to let the CO2 build up to the point that the container will explode if shaken. That’s why I use 2-liter plastic soda bottles to make my own soda, not glass.

    Soda can also fountain explosively out of a container if you let it ferment too long and then open it up. My attempt at carr0t-ginger soda left shreds of carrot all over the kitchen.

    1. Hey Karen!

      Yes that’s true, a bottle of fermenting liquid, where CO2 is continuing to be produced, does have the potential to explode violently. Reminds me of an old musician friend in Chicago who left a half-empty three-gallon glass jug of cider under his kitchen table and forgot about it. Until one day he came home to find it had exploded. Glass fragments were embedded in his door several feet away. Good thing the dude wasn’t home at the time.

      Musicians, I tell you…

      – Joe

  3. So why does agitation make the gas come out of solution? And why does it go back into solution when left to “calm down”?

    1. Hi Dan!

      I believe it’s because the shaking causes a.) lots of small bubbles to be created and b.) the CO2 that manufacturers pump into the head space of the can to be temporarily absorbed into the liquid. Should you open the can just then then bubbles will rapidly inflate with the excess gas causing well, you know. I don’t know precisely how they physics work, maybe a reader who really understands the phenomenon can weigh in here. Anyone?

      – Joe

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