I was impressed by the extensive damage done to an Indiana home and surrounding structures a few days ago. It really did look like a bomb blast. The obvious explanation is that a gas leak was the cause, but could it have been an explosive device? One way to sort this out is to compare the energy content of natural gas with other types of explosions. Intuitively, one might expect that a 100 kg (220 pound) bomb would do this kind of damage. The energy content of 100 kg of TNT is 400 million joules, so how much gas would contain a similar amount of energy? The surprising answer is that it doesn’t take much, just 10 cubic meters. A typical room in a house has a volume of 30 cubic meters, of which 6 cubic meters is the oxygen that is also required to power a gas explosion.


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