Peurile? Moi?

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You’ll have to forgive my recent lack of Tweets. I’m in China and Tweeting doesn’t work here. According to the log-in page of my hotel wifi, some websites are inaccessible due to legal restrictions. They mention YouTube in particular (probably accounting for the shortage of Beijing-based Harlem Shake vids) as well as Facebook (which causes me so much emotional pain I can’t stop smiling about it). It appears that Twitter is also bunched. And Evernote, oddly.

[STOP PRESS: And of course I now realise that WordPress (upload) is also blocked in China. Hence my posting this two days late (from Dubai). Just pretend I’m still there.]

So let’s talk semen. I found out today that in China — or at least in Chinese airports — it is classified as a potential ‘Hidden Dangerous Good’. That’s vaguely scientific, so I am posting it. My blog, my rules.  

See below for the money shot. And apologies for the fuzziness. I had to take this photograph a bit discreetly, as I was standing at the check-in desk holding up the queue behind me at the time and trying to explain to the person behind the counter where I was going. This sign was sellotaped to the desk for passengers to read at the last moment before trying to commute by air within China. I guess they just want to take this final opportunity to embarrass potential semen-smugglers into handing over their junk lest it cause some mid-air catastrophe. Sorry also for not using a flash. Believe me, I didn’t want to have to explain to the Chinese police what I was doing should I be asked why I was taking photographs while checking in.
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Anyway, you can’t carry hidden semen on an aeroplane in China. At least not in liquid form. Congealed (in carbon dioxide) seems to be okay.  

So why can’t you carry semen on aeroplanes? Well, there are certainly lots of laws about importing and exporting sperm, and limitations on bringing the stuff through customs. But that has more to do with medical duty-of-care and (to some extent) with paternity-law matters than it has with posing ‘Hidden Dangers’ to aircraft. I’m assuming the issue here is with liquids. Basically, you can’t carry liquids onto a plane.

Liquid explosives (like nitroglycerin or triacetone triperoxide) are comprised of unstable molecules that break down into regular stable molecules when triggered to do so (for many, being beaten hard or even jerked suddenly would be sufficient). The breaking of atomic bonds releases enormous amounts of energy, which is what constitutes the explosion. Liquids are by their nature very volatile, which is why terrorists like them (by that I mean that they find them easy to detonate, NOT that they find them metaphorically pleasing). Also, liquid explosives are in other senses just like regular liquids: you can put them into any shaped bottle and dye them to look like something else. Most airports I travel through will go nuts over shampoo or hair gel or soft drinks. But semen counts too. Semen is a liquid. Liquid semen.  

I’ve just realised I’ve spent the last half hour Googling “semen” and “liquid explosives”. In China.

It’s a good job I’m going home tomorrow.



Categories: Cosmetics, Genetics, Health, Physics, Pregnancy, Sex

1 reply

  1. While reading some chemistry/physics in the recent past, I came across a fact about chemical bonding and energy release that I thought was interesting. Strictly speaking, energy isn’t actually released by the breaking of atomic bonds. Energy is released through the formation of the bonds of the products of the reaction. That difference seems subtle at first, and it might seem pedantic to point it out, but I think that it makes all the difference to how somebody will think about thermodynamics.

    I did some googling to find a well-written explanation of this and some examples and I found these posts:

    http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/gen99/gen99928.htm

    http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/thermo/faq/enthalpy-from-bond-energies.shtml

    http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/courses/teachers_corner/49039.html

    They all feature the same explanation, with more detail. I think that seeing restatements and different examples helps build an intuitive sense of how the laws of thermodynamics ‘work’.

    Pedantry aside, great post Brian! You seem to have seen so much of the world in the past year! I look forward to reading more travelling tales… :)

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