Block of the Week: TNT

Go ahead, hit it! What's the worst that could happen?

In 1863, a German chemist named Julius Wilbrand was playing around with some chemicals (side note: don't play with chemicals) when he created a new, previously-undiscovered compound. He called it "trinitrotoluene", and its bright yellow colour led him to suggest that it could be used as a dye. It took 28 years until another chemist, Carl Häussermann, discovered that it was also an impressive explosive. Did he discover this after dyeing all his clothes with it, then giving someone the deadliest hug of all time? Hopefully not!

Today, we know trinitrotoluene by its shortened form - TNT – a far catchier name for our Block of the Week! Tom always thought 'TNT' stood for 'Tom's Nap Time' which is just one of the many reasons why we don't let Tom write Block of the Week anymore.

TNT is probably the most dangerous block in Minecraft. It was added on 24 October 2009 alongside mossy cobblestone, obsidian and bookshelves, and initially you could hit it once to begin detonation and hit it again to cancel. In 2010 it became craftable, but since then it hasn't changed too much - mostly fixing bugs in the explosion physics.

Oh yeah – explosions! The reason TNT exists. When you give a TNT block a redstone signal, touch it with lava, or put it in the blast radius of another explosion, then it'll start flashing white. That's your cue to hightail it out of there. After 4 ticks, it'll explode with an enormous BOOM, shattering blocks nearby with a force slightly greater than that of a creeper explosion.

All well and good. But there are some subtleties to TNT that make all kinds of fun things possible. If you prime a TNT block with nothing beneath it then it'll start falling, so you can drop it on the heads of zombies massing below the battlements of your castle (but watch you don't blow a hole in the wall). Drop it through an End portal, and it'll explode the next time that a player passes through that portal, making a fun surprise for your friends! Well, soon to be ex-friends, probably.

Another nifty little trick with TNT is that when primed it ceases to become a block and turns into an "entity" - like a mob or an item. These have their own physics and can be pushed around - with water, for example, or even by other explosions. There are a whole bunch of imaginative design guides for cannons that fire TNT across the landscape that'll you'll find on the Minecraft wiki.

Finally, you can use TNT in all kinds of different traps. You can start with a block of TNT connected to a pressure plate, and get more complicated from there. For inspiration, check out a desert temple or woodland mansion, where you'll find a few blocks of TNT carefully squirrelled away. But tread carefully... those traps are armed!