Apparently this is a thing — different groups have been going back and forth over the last few years, topping each other in setting the world’s record for largest “elephant toothpaste” reaction. What is elephant toothpaste, you may ask? As Scientific American explains, hydrogen peroxide, when combined with a catalyst (such as sodium iodide or yeast) and some soap, rapidly breaks down into oxygen and water, which means a lot of bubbles which get trapped by the surface tension of the soap. As they put it, “This foam looks like a giant squeeze of toothpaste — almost big enough for an elephant!”

You can see the 2018 world record reaction here:

This was surpassed in 2019, as you can see below:

This was fairly rapidly replaced with a new record later that same year:

And then in 2020, as far as I can tell, the latest world’s record was set  in the video below, with a new combination of materials creating an even more volatile reaction, dubbed “Devil’s Toothpaste”.

I’m not sure this means all that much, other than that chemistry is fun, that it’s nice that people have hobbies, and that I’m really glad I didn’t have to clean any of it up. The rainbow effect of the final record also gives us a prompt to wish all our readers a Happy Pride Month.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.

Discussion

1 Thought on "Elephant Toothpaste and Beyond"

Leave a Comment