(Will appear in the March 2008 issue of Community News)
An object implodes when it collapses inwards. For example, to prevent damage to surrounding structures, buildings are sometimes demolished by timed explosions that destroy their internal supports, resulting in those spectacular implosions we all love to watch on television. Physics teachers sometimes demonstrate the force of air pressure by drawing the air out of a container (evacuating it) so that the container collapses in upon itself - it implodes. This is obviously the opposite of explode, in which something breaks apart and the parts fly outwards. Unfortunately, implode is now often used for any kind of collapse. People say that the Soviet Union imploded, when in fact it fragmented - broke apart into a number of separate countries, a common process when an empire dies. In this election season, when a politician withdraws from the presidential race, you'll hear that his campaign imploded, but of course it really just fizzled out, a very different kind of catastrophe.
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