Here we see a sped-up video of tin undergoing a normal reaction known as "tin pest." But in the 1800s, tin pest filled cathedrals with screeching cries as it made church organs rip themselves apart, right in front of the parishioners. No wonder they thought it was the work of the devil.


In the video, the tin is undergoing an allotropic transformation — allotropic meaning an alteration of the structure, rather than the material, of an object. So while the neat, shiny silver brick and the powdery gray scales are both tin, the connections between the tin atoms are different. All that's needed to flip the tin from one structure to another is time spent below the temperature of 13° celsius. When it gets too cold, the tin just crumbles away. The reaction we see on the video is much faster than reality — every second of video is an hour of real time — but the result can still be dramatic.

A great example of the drama had to have happened in cathedrals all over Europe and America in the 1800s. It was fashionable for cathedrals to contain church organs, and tin piping seemed ideal... at least when the organs were being built. Then came some very cold winters. Suddenly, cathedral organ pipes would start crumbling away. And when they were buckling, they would give off a distinctive screech that has come to be known as "tin cry." At the time, no one knew why their church organs were screaming and falling apart — but they knew Satan seemed a much more likely culprit than chemistry.


[Via Chemistry Explained]

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