What's that, brake fluid? Diethylene glycol isn't gonna burn fast enough to do anything! Michael: (taping bottles together and tossing them out a car window)
It will, if it's mixed with chlorine dioxide, and some other stuff.
As long as there are books, movies, television, and video games, people will always try to recreate everything in their favorite work
Unfortunately, many works contain explosives, including homemade varieties. Even if the viewer could be trusted to recreate those without blowing themselves up, society is highly against people using
homemade explosives. (We've had some bad experiences.) High-profile media, after a certain date, must respect this or gain the wrath of Moral Guardians
So, to avoid liability issues and criminal charges, some critical ingredient for the explosive is removed, replaced (with something less volatile) or referred to vaguely
(as "stuff", "my secret ingredient", or similar) to prevent disasters like Your Head A Splode
or Apocalypse How
Occasionally happens with other types of weapons of mass destruction.
will usually make the "other stuff" Unobtanium
or some real life substance that the average person is highly
unlikely to ever come across (e.g. Uranium, Antimatter
). See also Don't Try This at Home
Compare Secret Ingredient
, which is about being tasty rather than explosive. Contrast Noodle Implements
, where you know exactly what's going to be used, and absolutely nothing about how.
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Anime and Manga
- An episode of Pani Poni Dash! include a bomb, which two of the schoolgirls set to disarming. They list up the components as they do, except they're all censored by a Sound Effect Bleep. The translation notes snarkily mention that while they could list the components, "no way are we going to teach a bunch of Otaku to make bombs. You'll have to look this stuff up on the internet like everybody else."
- Parodied in strip during the Last Laugh Crisis Crossover in The DCU. The strip had The Joker explaining how to make his lethal Joker venom but censored out the names of various ingredients but left in comments like "You'll need to go to the hardware store for that". The joke, of course, being that you couldn't make the entirely fictitious Joker venom even if you did know what it contained.
- In an issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Lightfoot explains how how he is MacGyvering a fuel-air explosive out of supplies found in an enemy bunker. However, the panels have censor boxes placed over them so the reader cannot see what he is actually doing.
- In-universe example: Victor Frankenstein refuses to explain how he brought the monster to life to the Arctic sailors, for fear that somebody would imitate him.
- In Peter Pan, the explanation that the children need to be sprinkled with "fairy dust" in order to fly was added by Barrie so that children would not jump out of windows thinking that they could fly if they believe they could.
- Averted (especially if things go wrong!) in Anarchist Cookbook.
- If you believe the Conspiracy Theory that says it's a plot to get anarchists to kill themselves, it's actually an inversion.
- There are multiple versions of the Cookbook floating around, particularly on the internet - some authentic, some this. One excerpt from the latter involved telling people that in order to create a homemade rocket launcher,y ou just need to stuff explosives into a shotgun with a stick then fire. Not particularly subtle.
- One of Chris Ryan's books contains an aversion - he tells the reader exactly how to make and arm deadly petrol bombs, using nothing but soapsuds, petrol, orange juice and fuse.
- In the afterword to Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears (book, not movie), Clancy admits to fudging some details of the workings and construction of nuclear weapons, in an effort to not help anyone with unkind intentions involving nukes (though he also acknowledges, if somewhat cynically, it probably won't actually stop anything).
- The author of The Salvation War intentionally fudged the workings of nuclear weapons, and when one of his readers pointed out the error, he said it was standard procedure.
- It's not explosive, but it is dangerous: "moon tea" in A Song of Ice and Fire is based on natural abortifacients such as tansy and pennyroyal, which were historically used, but produced nasty side effects at best and would straight-up kill a woman if the mixture was even slightly off. George R R Martin "added a few fantasy touches" because he didn't want anybody trying this at home. In-universe, using moon tea is a last resort, and Hoster Tully's use of it to end Lysa's premarital pregnancy is subtly implied to be responsible for her lifelong fertility problems.
- The Inn At the Crossroads ASOIAF cooking site made a recipe for tansy tea, noting that: "Nobody should drink this tea for its Westerosi purpose. In fact, nobody should drink this tea at all..."
- Similarly, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is factually based but vague about abortifacents and penicillin, lest those playing along at home want to try, while perfectly candid about other medical subjects.
- Some have argued that the infamous The Poor Mans James Bond by Kurt Saxon falls under this category, as it consists of badly photocopied and inaccurate pages about how to make your own explosives and other home-made devices of mayhem.
- Michael Crichton's book A Case of Need had a note indicating that the relatively simple synthesis of LSD from lysergic acid had been removed due to legal concerns.
- Discworld: "It's made of apples. Well, mainly apples." The substance in question? Scumble.
- Poked fun at in L. Frank Baum's The Magic of Oz, in which one of the characters figures out how to pronounce the mysterious magical word, "pyrzqxgl". The narrator observes that he wouldn't dare write down the proper way to pronounce this word, lest it fall into the wrong hands, and advices the reader not to try to pronounce "pyrzqxgl" the right way, for fear of accidents.
- The Stephen King short story Dolan's Cadillac includes instructions on how to hot wire a car, but as King mentions in his notes, he left out some steps.
- Another In-Universe example is the formula for rocket fuel in Gravity's Rainbow - much to the protagonist's confusion, since he can't understand why anyone would make corporate secrets of national security issues in a time of war.
- The hacking in The Casual Vacancy is simply described as "SQL injection", which is a real hacking method, but the details of how one actually does SQL injection are not explained. (However, anyone who reads xkcd already knows how to do that.)
- In Armadale by Wilkie Collins, the chemicals used to create a poisonous gas (probably carbon monoxide) are described only as 'Our Stout Friend' and 'a certain mineral Substance'.
- In American Gods Mr Wednesday manages to scam money out of a cashier by constantly switching between credit cards and cash. In his notes Neil Gaiman says what Wednesday did is do-able, but he deliberately fuzzed the edges so that readers wouldn't be able to figure out exactly how he did it and thus pull their own scams. (Although that didn't stop someone from using another scam featured in the book to actually rob a bank.)
- Amusingly lampshaded in The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Throughout the book, there are obviously sarcastic suggestions for "activities," such as hanging someone upside down by the ankle or tarring and feathering someone. Then, in the World War One section, they have what they claim is a recipe for mustard gas. At the end of the recipe, the author admits it's a recipe for fudge, since, in spite of all the other "activities" in the book, this is the one the publisher made them take out, since someone might actually make mustard gas. "We assume you all are smarter than that, but the publisher said we could get sued. So make some fudge! Everyone loves fudge."
Live Action TV
- Burn Notice has main character Michael blur out unpleasant precision with the Trope Namer.
- Interestingly, the show averts or ignores this trope for the most part. In fact, the commentary for the episode "Lesser Evil", containing the trope naming line, says the line was only added because the explosion was too big for the stated ingredient to produce, and not to prevent others from duplicating the explosive.
- For a straight example, there was the time in "Family Business" when Fiona made homemade explosives that looked and acted like C-4 using "spackle, petroleum jelly, and a bunch of other things I don't even wanna know about."
- Back in The Eighties, MacGyver himself was omitting steps for his explosive solutions.
- The Blue Heelers episode "Kicking Over the Traces" refers to an online guide to, essentially, being a terrorist, from guides to bombs and how to make weapons to how to be the giggest anarchist you possibly can. PJ doesn't call it by its real name, instead he calls it the Anarchist's Handbook. Several times (such as when Tahni and Ryan torch Tom's car) it's described how it was done...with omissions.
- MythBusters omits bits of information concerning the exact chemical explosives they're using for various experiments.
- The creators of Breaking Bad had a real live DEA agent come in to teach the writers how to actually cook meth, so that they could then carefully (and invisibly) subvert the processes shown on screen, retaining verisimilitude while actually offering directions on how to produce an over-the-counter nasal decongestant. Also, the difficulty of procuring the raw materials (which include some of the most highly DEA-controlled chemicals there are) means that anyone who tries to copy the TV show (presumably because they have a stuffy nose) will be facing down the police in fairly short order.
- In an example that doesn't involve anything dangerous, How Its Made often runs into secret ingredients or other trade secrets when filming food products; these have to be carefully omitted from the footage and narration scripts.
- This music video by Wintergreen, directed by Keith Schofield. No, it won't work, and may get you killed. Not that regular meth use won't...
- Parodied as a Shout-Out in Lady Gaga's video for "Telephone", where a poison recipe requires the use of Tiberium, Meta-cyanide, and Fex-M3.
- Leslie Fish's Black Powder and Alcohol is a survivalist song about how to make, well, what it says. The details are probably too vague to be helpful, but she is honestly trying.
- In Driver: San Francisco, ammonia is correctly identified as an ingredient in the production of hydrogen cyanide, using platinum as a catalyst. However, the proper procedure is never identified beyond "if you knew what you were doing". They needn't have bothered, as the method for creating hydrogen cyanide is beyond the capabilities of most people.
- The Last of Us has survivalist training manuals (or rather, scattered torn-out pages of them), which, when collected, provide Joel with handy-dandy information on how to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The pages about treating injuries more effectively have some actually pretty useful information on splints, tourniquets and the like. The pages about making smoke bombs, tying knots on weapons, sharpening shivs, and improving the construction of molotov cocktails all noticeably trail off with "..."s.
- The Doctor from Scream of the Shalka makes a bomb out of a trash-can filled with fertilizer, newspaper and..."a little something" white and powdery from a bag in his pocket. The most likely candidate is probably aluminum powder, but it's hard to say.
- This Civil Protection video parodies, then subverts, this trope. One of the characters is very careful not to say anything about how to build bombs, and the other says Don't Try This at Home whilst explaining exactly what not to do. When asked why he's explaining how to make napalm, he says that he doesn't want people to do it by accident.
- In Sit Down, Shut Up, when the school's meth lab got its own semi-out-of-universe cooking show, the dub translator for the wacky foreign janitor refused to translate the instructions.
- South Park did an episode about drugs where, instead of using real drugs, the drug-of-choice was having a cat pee in your face. One wonders if anyone in the real world attempted to use this technique, with hilarious failure (Though it should be noted there are other episodes where they just use real drugs). Trey and Matt were making fun of the panic over kids trying to get high on things that wouldn't be considered obviously dangerous (like cough syrup, prescription medication, or aerosol spray).
- In one episode of King of the Hill, Bobby gets a Love Interest (voiced by Lucy Liu) who tricks him into building a meth lab for his science fair project. All of the ingredients are explicitly shown, but the procedure is different than real meth preparation.
- In Louisville, Kentucky, they put up huge billboards indicating ingredients used to make methamphetamine. One of which was lithium rechargeable batteries. The billboards say something along the lines of "They use this to make meth. Report suspicious activity to the LMPD (Louisville Metro Police Department) immediately."
- Somewhat averted for the most part in Real Life. Many people that have bomb making experience don't mind telling you the ingredients. What they generally won't explain is how to do it safely, or how to build a detonator.
- Also averted thanks to the Freedom of Information Act; while things like the aforementioned Anarchist's Cookbook are more or less illegal, quite a bit of the same information can be obtained through official Army Field/Technical Manuals, ranging from disassembling rifles to creating improvised explosive devices.