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The Ballistic Bomb

The advertising was hard to resist. "Feel Good in the Southern Hemisphere! Try a Ballistic Bomb." They weren't talking about hitching a ride aboard a missile to Australia. They were talking about the Southern Hemisphere of the body. The part that is immersed in the water in a bath.

The Ballistic Bomb is a hardened cake of chemicals that is designed to be dropped into the bath water. It produces vigorous fizzing, supposedly the cause of pleasure in the "Southern Hemisphere," while releasing a plethora of scents which claim to relax the bather and put a smile on his or her face. Different bombs have different scents. They range from "aphrodisiac jasmine" and "soothing rose" to "Sicilian orange" and "neroli" which costs "an absolute fortune" but is guaranteed to put anyone in a good mood.

One thing is for sure. The product does deliver the fizz. And the chemistry is not hard to figure out. The bubbles are carbon dioxide, generated by the reaction of baking soda with citric acid.

Essentially, this is a giant Alka-Seltzer tablet, without the medication. Baking soda is cheap, and citric acid is also an economical solid acid with "natural" overtones. In fact, the advertising for the Ballistic Bomb plays up the fact that citric acid is natural. This of course is irrelevant. Citric acid, or sour salt, is produced by the mycological fermentation of crude sugar solutions such as molasses with strains of Aspergillus niger. If it were chemically synthesized, it would still do the same thing. Citric acid is citric acid, no matter how it is made. What is clear is that when it is combined with sodium bicarbonate and dropped into the bath, a massive amount of carbon dioxide is released. A pretty interesting sensation but unfortunately the fizzing doesn't last very long and the effect on the "southern hemisphere" is pretty limited. I think if I want fizz I'll stick to the whirlpool. Although I must admit that scent of "neroli", which is derived from the essential oils of the flowers of the orange tree and named after the Italian princess who discovered it, is more appealing than the aroma of chlorine emanating from the jacuzzi.


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