arsenic

Speakeasy Science

Tag archives for arsenic

An Arsenic Theory of Zombies

As a dedicated chemistry nut – I mean, of course, enthusiast – I’ve recently wondered if my favorite science could explain the existence of zombies. And after mulling it over – helped along by the suggestion of Scibling Scicurious that a Zombie Day would be a good idea and also by a number of cocktails…

Arsenic and an old horse story

The name Phar Lap comes from an Asian word for lightning; a sky flash. A passing dazzle of light, a spark in the night. And so he was, the big copper racehorse, born in New Zealand, trained in Australia, whose dazzling speed made him one of those unexpected beacons of hope during the Great Depression…

Our Dangerous Planet

During the 1970s, international aid agencies came up with a brilliant plan to stem a plague of water-borne illnesses in the Asian country of Bangladesh. They would underwrite the installation of wells in disease-troubled villages, tapping into the cleaner ground water below. They would use simple, relatively inexpensive tube wells, place thousands of these over-sized…

Once upon a time – by which I mean the 19th century – people spilled the poison arsenic into their lives with free and merry hands. Arsenic was mixed into medicines, into cosmetics, into weed killers, insecticies, rat poisons, fly papers. It was the primary ingredient in a number of well-known dyes used to color…

Poison, Politics and Paranoia

On July 4, 1850, U.S. President Zachary Taylor attended an Independence Day celebration where he ate well – snacking on fresh cherries and creamy milk, sampling a variety of treats pressed on him by enthusiastic well-wishers. Five days later, Taylor was dead of a severe attack of gastroenteritis. And for decades afterward, suspicions lingered that…

A lethal dose of water

One of the most repeated rules in toxicology is this: the dose makes the poison. In other words, a milligram of arsenic is unlikely to kill you. Make that 200 milligrams and a cemetery plot awaits. Seems obvious, right? But what if we’re talking about a benign substance – say a drink of cold water?…

The Water Cooler Dilemma

Late last summer, six researchers at Harvard University’s medical school fell into a poisoner’s trap. Each poured a cup of coffee from a communal coffee maker in the school’s pathology department. All of them ended up in the hospital; some had fainted, others were dizzy and nauseated, most couldn’t hear over the ringing in their…