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And Some Other Stuff

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"This ingredient is made of Blur.
And this has some Blur in it, too.
Blur is very dangerous;
you don't wanna mix Blur with Blur."

Victor: 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.

Not all writers think Viewers Are Morons. Still, they don't want to teach their audience how to make bombs and then bask in how cool Stuff Blowing Up is. Something about "not wanting to be responsible for hundreds of kids trying to emulate their favorite tv show." Wimps...

So, to avoid liability issues and potential criminal charges, some critical ingredient for the explosive is left out, replaced with something less volatile or outright inert, or referred to vaguely (as "stuff", "my secret ingredient", or similar). This can be convenient in many respects, as skipping steps prevents the dangerous aspects from being replicated by impressionable individuals despite how many times you say Don't Try This at Home while also cluing in that what they are doing is entirely plausible while dancing around Artistic License tropes because the details are too vague.

Speculative Fiction 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).

This wasn't always the case. One educational TV show for kids that was about rock quarries and marble, mentioned that to break the rock apart they used an explosive made of diesel fuel and fertilizer, now commonly known as ANFO. Other things such as Nitroglycerin and Thermite are relatively easy to come across the materials, but the exact mixture and equipment to do so are harder to come by.

Compare Insubstantial Ingredients, for when the "other stuff" is specified, but doesn't actually constitute something physical in the real world; and 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. Also see It Runs on Nonsensoleum.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Defied in Dr. STONE: When Senku makes gunpowder, he says the exact ratio of ingredients needed and explains how to mix the ingredients together. The out-of-canon character Mecha Senku appears to warn the audience that this will actually make gunpowder, so don't try it.
  • In-Universe in Fullmetal Alchemist. In episode 2 of Brotherhood, Ed exactingly lists the chemical composition of a human body (down to "silicon, 3 grams") just before his and Al's disastrous attempt at human transmutation. In the next episode, Ed rattles off the same list to Rose, but with everything less than 100 grams elided under "various other things".
  • 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."
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica goes a step further — a brief scene shows Homura making a bomb in her apartment using instructions she apparently found on the internet, but none of the ingredients have visible labels, and all we see of her computer screen is the words "How To Make A Bomb" reflected in her glasses.
    • Earlier, a group of semi-possessed citizens are setting up an impromptu death cult/mass suicide by mixing chemicals in a bucket. When Madoka sees them doing this, she's reminded of a lecture from her mother about NOT mixing them. The bottles' label text is never shown. (Earlier versions of the scene had distinctive shapes for the bottles implying them to be bleach and ammonia, which can produce a number of toxic chlorine-based gases if mixed, but were converted to generic bottles in the updated DVD version in line with this trope.)
  • In SPY×FAMILY, one surviving member of the Red Circus plans to build a bomb and kill Yor with it, thinking about how the ingredients can be found in the chic restaurant's storage. The actual ingredients are redacted with black (and bleeped out in the anime), to avoid the audience even attempting to replicate it, though the color found on the containers are overall left alone.

    Comic Books 
  • The magic potion in the Asterix comics is made from lobster, mistletoe, fish, petroleum, and an unspecified number of other ingredients Getafix refuses to name because the complete recipe is a druidic secret. The only reason he revealed the latter two ingredients was because he ran out and needed to send Asterix out to get more. The ingredients of the Hideous Hangover Cure potion Asterix invents by accident in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath is listed in full, however. Hopefully nobody ever tried to cure their hangover by drinking a soup made from (among other things) an unplucked chicken and soap.
  • 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.
  • A variation in Usagi Yojimbo: The Neko ninja clan is trying to recover a parchment from a rival clan. It turns out it's instructions for gunpowder, which would give them a huge advantage. Fortunately, it turns out the instructions had a few details added, like setting fire to the mixture...

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Aggression Scale very carefully doesn't show exactly what Owen mixes to create the gas trap he places in the freezer. He grabs two large bottles from the cleaning supplies, so it seems likely that bleach and ammonia (which will create chloramine gases) are among the primary ingredients, but anything else is a mystery.
  • The drugs that Zeke makes in The Faculty are made from "caffeine pills and some other household shit." Given that the drugs dehydrate the aliens to the point of killing them, the Other Stuff in this case is likely NaCl and dehydrated Placebo, unless it's a case of Bizarre Alien Biology.
  • In Fight Club, Tyler Durden asserts that napalm will be created by mixing equal parts gasoline and concentrated orange juice. The book's versions are also intentionally untrue.
  • In Ghost Town (1988), Kate uses the leftover black powder to create a bomb. When she throws it and it detonates in the midst of the undead outlaws, it explodes with a much greater ferocity and effectiveness than Langley was expecting; devastating much of the gang.
    Langley: What was in that thing?
    Kate: (defensively) ...Leftovers.
  • Hollow Man has the Invisible Man creating nitroglycerin in the matter of five minutes or so (when it's such a volatile liquid you have to measure both temperature and quantities so the nitro doesn't explode while you're mixing it). And the movie doesn't show nitric acid among the substances he gets for the nitro (the bold there was an indicative to how crucial it is).
  • In the Terminator's 'verse, apparently you can make plastic explosive from moth balls, corn syrup and ammonia.
  • In the film Tremors, regarding the pipe bombs made by the Crazy Survivalist:
    Valentine McKee: What the hell's in those things, Burt?
    Burt Gummer: A few household chemicals in the proper proportions.note 
  • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Charlie's teacher mixes nitric acid, glycerin, and a "special mixture of my own" to make the "finest wart remover in the world."

  • 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.)
  • 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'.
  • 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.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, the book the film was based on, Frank Abagnale talks a lot about this and that detail he imitated to make his fake checks. However, he never specifically says how he put all the elements together to make such excellent fake checks, beyond "printing them himself" and "hiring a small-time printer in Europe to print them". The Art Of The Steal 2002 specifies he has no interest in sharing the exact details, either now or back when he was in prison.
  • Discworld: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook contains a number of recipes which Nanny notes have had "some of what you might call the more active ingredients" taken out. (Anyone who's read Maskerade will understand why.)
    People say the real thing was a rampant aphrodisiac, but I say there's not enough love in the world.
  • The novelization of the Doctor Who episode "Remembrance of the Daleks" actually goes into some detail of how Ace made her first nitro explosive, but naturally some ingredients are left out.
  • 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.
  • A variation is seen in Frederick Douglass' autobiography, in which, after describing the events leading up to his escape in great detail, he very deliberately skips over explaining how he actually did it. In his case, however, he wasn't trying to conceal the details from others who might seek to follow him, but rather from the pro-slavery factions who would take action to prevent others from doing the same. Douglass did eventually reveal the details after the end of the Civil War.
  • In-universe in Frankenstein. The titular doctor is deliberately vague about how he created the monster and "infused it with the spark of life". The sailor he's telling his story to tries to inquire further, but Frankenstein refuses because he doesn't want anyone else to replicate his experiment. All of the details popularity-associated with Frankenstein's Monster (being sew together from corpses or any kind of human flesh, use of electricity) originated in Frankenstein (1931).
  • Averted in George's Marvellous Medicine, in which every ingredient is named as it is added. They still add a warning at the beginning though.
  • 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 advises the reader not to try to pronounce "pyrzqxgl" the right way, for fear of accidents.
  • In Maximum Ride, the titular character narratively states that hotwiring a car doesn't take two wires being forced together, rather a few operations and other things. This is deliberate, as she doesn't want dedicated readers to become carjackers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Lanyon recognizes a few of the ingredients used to make the potion (salt, phosphorous, blood-red liquor, ether), but the rest are unidentified. Even Jekyll himself doesn't know all the ingredients in the potion. He's almost certain that the original potion only worked because of some unknown impurity in one of the mineral salts, but he never figured out what that impurity was.
  • 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.
    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..."
  • 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).
  • Averted by The Turner Diaries. The segments where the main characters make their bombs are basically glorified instruction manuals on how to do it for real, one of the many reasons why the book is so controversial and frequently banned. This was deliberate on the part of the book's author William Luther Pierce, who held a doctorate in physics and previously worked as a researcher for the defense contractor Pratt & Whitney, and intended for the novel to serve as not only white supremacist propaganda but also a guidebook for would-be terrorists.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • The creators 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 pseudoephedrine, 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)note  will be facing down the police in fairly short order.
  • In Burn Notice, 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 '80s, MacGyver (1985) himself was omitting steps for his explosive solutions. In fact, this was a staple of the series, with Mac doing a realistic bit of home chemistry or engineering and strategically leaving out significant ingredients and steps so people couldn't replicate it at home.
  • MythBusters omits bits of information concerning the exact chemical explosives they're using for various experiments. Given the show's tone, this was often lampshaded.
    • There was an episode involving thermite, testing a theory of what might have happened to the Hindenburg. They do mention the two major reactants (aluminum powder and iron oxide) but censor some additional materials needed to make them react when exposed to flame. Lampshaded when Adam held up a pair of chemical bottles with the names blurred out.
      Adam: This ingredient is made of blur. Ha! And this has blur in it too. Blur is very dangerous; you don't want to mix blur with blur.
    • Another episode censored ingredients with animal sounds, leading to a remark from the narrator about the reaction you get when you "add donkey to rooster."
    • They also did this for a non-explosive myth, where they managed to create facsimiles of fingerprints which would pass biometric scanners based on a copy of an actual print lifted off a 2D surface.
      Narrator: We maaaay have left a step out, so, sorry.
    • When they tested Kirk's improvised cannon, an important step was left out when they made their black powder. Of course, that same step was left out of the original Star Trek episode, so one could argue they were just being authentic.
    • The Mythbusters took a hack at some of the chemistry on Breaking Bad, proving in short order that hydrofluoric acid wasn't quite nasty enough to actually eat through a bathtub. What was? Sulfuric acid and "special sauce", which Adam and Jamie refused to elaborate on. Those who know a bit of chemistry trivia might suspect that the "special sauce" was actually reagent-grade hydrogen peroxide, which when combined with H2SO4 produces a spectacularly violent glassware cleaning product called "piranha solution".
    • They also omit critical steps when demonstrating activities such as lockpicking and other theft-oriented skills.
    • In an "Evening with Adam and Jamie" in NC, they revealed that one of two episodes they outright refused to do involved a myth of an explosive mix of such common, easy-to-access materials with such destructive results, that they locked up all of the footage and swore never to go into much detail again. Even getting the above little info took many people's continued nagging.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

  • In Fangirls, Salty gives out a very vague recipe for making chloroform.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Frog Detective The Haunted Island goes the silly route, with Larry claiming he needs toothpaste, wool, a chunk of pure gold, and pasta to make an explosive. The detective replies, "Ah, so the standard explosive ingredients, then." It straddles the line between this trope and Noodle Implements, but it's made clear Larry is creating a bomb, so ingredients are basically just Noodle versions of And Some Other Stuff.
  • 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 into ellipses.
  • In Life Is Strange, Max has to make an improvised pipe bomb, which is accomplished using a mixture of sodium chlorate (weed killer), sugar, and a soda can as the canister. The first two do produce a violent chemical reaction with an ignition source, though it's doubtful a mere soda can and duct tape would serve as an effective container to make a bomb with. The resulting blast is used to force open a locked door.
  • Several levels in PAYDAY 2 feature cooking meth as one of the objectives. In game the mixture produces blue crystals as a Shout-Out to Breaking Bad. Potential drug kingpins mixing the same ingredients in real life will be disappointed to find that all they've managed to create is salt water.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • The Animated Adaptation of Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book uses typical Seussian gibberish to describe the creation of a Fantastic Nuke.
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Fat Man and Little Boy", Homer looks up directions online for how to build a home nuclear reactor. The descriptions of the "other stuff" are obviously based on Rule of Funny, while the single named ingredient is both the most dangerous and nigh-impossible to get hold of anyway.
      [The text on Homer's computer screen is too small for the viewer to read.]
      Homer: Let's see... [pointing to different parts of the text] I can make can get that by smashing open a golf ball...that you can find in any player piano...all I need is some plutonium!
    • In "Steal This Episode", Bart showing Homer how to pirate movies is censored by Fox because Digital Piracy Is Evil; the network airs a NASCAR race instead. The gag is repeated again for an unreveal at the end of the episode.
  • 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).

    Real Life 
  • 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."
  • An infamous 1979 case, US v. Progressive, Inc., concerned the publication by The Progressive magazine of the basic working principles of a thermonuclear bomb, a curious trick of physics involving using the radiation generated by the trigger blast to compress the fusion material. The magazine won the lawsuit despite the fear that it would lead to the proliferation of fusion bombs around the world, but in fact the description was missing several components, including one material known as FOGBANK that appears to have been an aerogel of sorts (actual function unknown outside US nuclear weapons research) in warheads. note  It was discovered in the 2000s that the recipe that the US government had used to make the stuff in the 1970s and 80s was faulty, and had relied on a contaminated ingredient to work; the result was that work on updating the US nuclear arsenal stalled while they figured out what the Some Other Stuff in question actually was. It ended up taking the engineers at Los Alamos about 11 years and more than $100 million to figure out how to recreate the stuff.
    • This is evocative of both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the movie Medicine Man, where the secret ingredient was an unknown contaminant.
  • There are various editions of The Anarchist's Cookbook floating around the web that have had the recipes edited so that they're more likely to blow the aspiring terrorist's hands off than actually function as intended.


Video Example(s):


Michael and Victor v. MIB

"Lesser Evil". Carla has realized Michael and Victor are working together against her and sends her Men in Black after them. Escaping the abandoned concrete plant where he stashed Victor in Michael's '74 Dodge Charger, they're pursued by the agents, and Michael starts firing behind them, resorting to ricocheting bullets off the pavement through the floor of the car when shots through the windshield don't work. The first agent crashes, and Michael deals with the second by throwing a homemade incendiary grenade at him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / CarChaseShootOut

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