Danger! Water contains high levels of hydrogen.
March 2, 2008 3:10 PM   Subscribe

WTF is up with this sign?

Background: I live in Louisville, Kentucky. Today I was downtown at the big park on the riverfront shooting reference for a project, and I saw this sign beside of a fountain. Now, since there are two atoms of Hydrogen in each molecule of water already, what's up with this? Is the city parks department pranking us? Is there a legitimate situation in which flowing water at an outside fountain would somehow be infused with extra hydrogen? Discuss.
posted by Mcable to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Its gotta be a joke. Yep, it is.
posted by Mach5 at 3:12 PM on March 2, 2008

H30=deuterium oxide causes sterility and death in due time. I'd probably avoid it.
posted by JJ86 at 3:14 PM on March 2, 2008

Response by poster: Mach5: way to go, you nailed it in record time. I assumed it had to be a joke, but I'm deeply impressed someone at the Waterfront development corporation has that much of a sense of humor.

OK, we can all go home now.
posted by Mcable at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2008

Is there some possibility that current is being passed through the water supply line for some reason, e.g. electrolysis? That would cause it to be infused with hydrogen gas. On the other hand, the warning signs would be more serious and I'm sure there'd be "no smoking" placards. More confusing than funny, I guess.
posted by tinkertown at 3:37 PM on March 2, 2008

[i]H30=deuterium oxide causes sterility and death in due time. I'd probably avoid it.[/i]
Deuterium oxide still has the formula H2O. The hydrogen is just radioactive (has 1 extra neutron).
posted by rancidchickn at 3:44 PM on March 2, 2008

Deuterium is not radioactive. Tritium is, however.
posted by grouse at 3:52 PM on March 2, 2008

Any chance someone is venting hydrogen gas into the water?
posted by blue_beetle at 4:07 PM on March 2, 2008

I think this is the chemistry equivalent of the "Danger! 10,000 Ohms!" sign
posted by Class Goat at 4:38 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Deuterium oxide is toxic, though. It's not H3O - H3O+ is hydronium ion, which is formed in acid solution - it's usually written D2O.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:48 PM on March 2, 2008

Best answer: I don't think it's a very good joke. Reason: even though I know full well the chemical makeup of water, I also know quite a few situations (some of which mentioned above) that might cause said water to present a risk of hydrogen gas evolution. Which could be dangerous. Unless I knew otherwise, I might take that sign at face value or at least have to wonder if it was serious or not, and I resent the implication that that makes me dumb.

Rather, I think it points out that the smug "joker" doesn't really know very much chemistry, other than the chemical symbol for water. Wee ha. Golf clap.
posted by ctmf at 8:48 PM on March 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

rancidchicken: Deuterium is often represented with a D (e.g., D2O) though there's a perfectly good symbol for it already, 2H. (That's a superscript, in case mefi strips it the sup tag.)
posted by hattifattener at 8:51 PM on March 2, 2008

I'm trying to say, about as funny as posting the beach as a radiation area. Cosmic rays, you know. Ha ha. Only how am I supposed to know that there isn't also a real radiation hazard there for some (very far-fetched) reason?
posted by ctmf at 8:55 PM on March 2, 2008

what ctmf said. it says "high levels" of hydrogen - H2 is ordinary levels of hydrogen. The implication is that there is somehow extra hydrogen, which could be dangerous, as chemistry is very much about the ratios of things (O2 is good to breathe, O3 is not, e.g.). If he'd said "Warning: contains Hydrogen" he could have claimed his joke, but he'd have had to accept the fact that pretty freakin much everybody understands that water is H2O...
posted by mdn at 10:53 AM on March 3, 2008

The FOX News article said the guy who had the signs made wanted to scare people off from splashing around in the fountains? And he thought their ignorance of chemistry (like, third-grade chemistry) would scare them off?

How about a "NO SPLASHING - POTENTIALLY DEADLY BACTERIA" sign? That's about the same level of funny and probably a lot more effective. And, it might resolve liability issues for bonus points (I doubt Mr. Waterfront genuinely cares much about the well-being of the splashers if he's joking about tasing them).
posted by ostranenie at 5:01 PM on March 4, 2008

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