Exploding Billiard Balls

In the 1860’s a man by the name of John Wesley Hyatt began experimenting with a chemical compound known as cellulose nitrate.  His goal was to come up with a substitute for the ivory that was used in billiard balls.  Not only would this save quite a few elephants, but there was a $10,000 prize on the table as well.  Hyatt succeeded (although he never did receive the prize money) and began producing a substance known as celluloid.

You’ve probably heard of celluloid before if you are a movie buff.  For many years film stock was made of celluloid.  It’s a fabulous material that can be used in a variety of applications except for the fact that it is highly flammable.  There were many instances of celluloid film catching fire as it passed through in front of the hot bulb of a movie projector.  In fact, kids weren’t allowed into cinemas in Quebec by law until 1967 due to a major celluloid fire that killed 77 children.

The photo above is of a celluloid billiard ball from the 1880’s.  There are stories (most likely urban legends) of billiard balls exploding upon contact.  This was supposedly a major concern in the trigger-happy Old West.

The past few weeks at church I’ve been discussing with the young men the importance of chastity.  It’s a difficult and sometimes awkward topic to talk about with youth, but it’s vital.  The power of procreation is not evil or unclean, but is sacred and must be employed only within the bonds of marriage.  Through procreation we become co-creators with God.

It’s a bit like celluloid – when used properly the powers of procreation are amazing and wonderful and bring men and women closer to God, but used improperly the consequences are explosively dangerous.

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