Explosives are tricky.
Most of us have some experience with primary explosives, such as bottle rockets and firecrackers. We even have an intimate, albeit different, relationship with secondary explosives, such as fuel or fertilizer. The most powerful energetic materials, tertiary explosives, are largely unknown as these are usually identified by their chemical makeup.
Despite our comfort with many common ingredients used in improvised explosive devices, it is still a difficult process to use a primary explosive to set off a secondary explosive (and so on to a potential tertiary explosive) in what experts call a train.
The recently averted explosion in Times Square was such a device. As evidenced by the lack of a big fireball, the complications involved in creating a successful train resulted in a very fortunate outcome for our fellow Americans last week. The potential size of the blast, known as the brissance, would have been extremely large. Clearly, many people could have died.
Regardless of our recent good fortune, other misguided and violent individuals will continue to plan similar violence using explosives. Ironically, some may take advantage of the freedoms they do not enjoy in their native land in order to move about the U.S. For our part, we need to recognize that time is not on our side as we daily strive to secure our airports, landmarks and cities.
Explosives are tricky, but they are not idiot proof.