Never eat chemicals! Uh, wait…

If you listen to the Food Babe Thermonuclear Idiot, that’s what you might come away believing.

But I exhort you to pay no attention to this unqualified attention harlot. Instead, feast your eyes on these chemical breakdowns of “natural” and “organic” foods.

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I have to stretch to pronounce some of the chemical compounds found in these wonderful foods, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad for you. Chemicals are everywhere, they are what everything organic around us is made of.

Yes, we obviously want to avoid things that are known toxins and carcinogens; having a shaker full of hexavalent chromium on your table is probably not the best idea, but you get the picture.

Educate yourselves. Make sure your children educate themselves. Science is doing its collective best to provide accurate information to allow people to build a better world. Please pay no attention to those on the lunatic fringe who base their proclamations on innuendo and fear-mongering for the sake of attention, eyeballs, clicks, and ad revenue.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Der German is Gebroken

I’ve written about making fun of the German language before, which included references to Fraulein Bo-peepen And More Tales Mein Grossfader Told, by Dave Morrah, and John Hulme’s Mörder Guss Reims – the Gustav Leberwurst Manuscript, but recently while scanning papers from my mother’s estate, and she has a lot of them, including things her own mother collected, I ran across a few previously unseen gems.

Before we go on, remember that a working knowledge of German was necessary for a serious study of organic chemistry in days gone by; Beilstein’s Handbuch der organischen Chemie was the seminal reference book, so famous that Isaac Asimov wrote a story using the book and the author’s name as its central conceit (“What’s in a Name”).

The following material was found in Newscripts, a column that ran in “Chemical and Engineering News”

Once upon a time, the requirements for a degree in chemistry included reasonable competence in a foreign language. A jocular essay in fractured German in those days could be counted on to convulse a chemical audience. Two such yarns that appeared during 1952 were” Der Franklin und sein Keit” (April 28) and “Der Volta und seine Peils” (June 2). Language skills were declining even then, however, and Newscripts noted only five years later that “To keep up with rapid advances in technology … scientists have had to develop new terms-and also ways of translating these terms into foreign languages. An up-to-date English-German glossary … includes:

Guidance system: Das Schteerenwerke.
“Preset guidance: Das senden offen mit ein pattenbacker und finger gekrossen Schteerenwerke.
“Warhead: Das Laudenboomer.
“Nuclear warhead: Das eargeschplitten Laudenboomer.
“Project engineer: Das Schwettenoudter.” (Sept. 9, 1957)

The following stories should be read aloud in a heavy Colonel Klink accent for best effect:

Der Franklin und sein Keit

(Originally printed, we are told, in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, some 30 years ago)

Der Franklin der war ein rechter Tschinius, immer bissig mit Inwentschiuns, wie zum Beispiel sein Stohf, den wir bis heute noch bei seinen Namen kennen. “Bei Galli”-so meinte er eines Tages-“es ist doch e’ Skandel und e’ Schem, dass so viele Häuser von Leitning gestreikt werden. Wenn ich das prewenten könnte, es wäre schur eine kühle Million wert. Aber was ist denn eigentlich der Leitning? Ennihau, ich habe e’ Honntsch!”

Also baute er ein Keit, mit einer langen String mit e’ Kieh am Ende, und geht in die Beckjahrt, ihn zu fleihen. Und wenn es zu regnen anfängt, und der Leitning flescht, so steckte er e’ Knockel an den Kieh; un achherrjesses! der Spark rippt ihm zwei Fingernehls und e’ Viertelskwerrfuss Skinn von der Hand ab; und der Franklin weiss nun, von dem Schock, dass Leitning und Electrozität alleik sind.

Sodann steigt er auf die Ruf mit e’ Bumberschuht mit e’ stiehl Händel, und wartet für mehr Leitning; aber die Deborah – das war sein Frau – die hollert, das Sopper sei rettig, und er soll Hörriopp machen und aufwaschen und ins Haus kommen. Also machte er den Bumberschuht an den Daunspaut fest – und das war der erste Leitningrad.

Der Franklin war lockig und so lebte er noch vierzig Jahre, und hatte alle gestumpft-besonders die Lehdis; aber ein russicher Physiker, der den Keitexperiment repieten wollte, wure vom Leitning gekillt;-was alles pruhft, der wahre Scientist hat nicht senns genug, vom Rehn auszukiepen.

– Sol Nemen

Der Volta und seine Peils

Die Studenten in der Universitaet zu Pavia waren Holitaerrers,—die Strietlemps haben sie am Halloween gebostet und die Garbetschkenns gedommpt—und sieben Mal in einer Nacht haben sie dem Prof. Alessandro Volta den Dorrnacker geklappert. Da hat der gute Doktor doch endlich ein Fiuss gebloht. “Nun ist doch mein Limit gerietscht” fuhmt er, “elende Lohfers, euch will ich fixen!”

Und so denkt er nun, wenn andere mit blos zwei Metallstuecke Froschschenkel twitschen machen konnten, was wuerde er nicht selbst mit e’ Koppel hundert Metallpaare akkomplischen! Also nimmt er e’ silber Bock, un e’ Zinkwascher, und e’ Stueck Blattingpapier das er erst in Salzwasser gedunkt hat, un noch e’ Bock, und wieder e’ Zink, und so an, bis er ein Peil von eibettju ennihau 300 Volts hat. Dann hitscht er ein Ende des Peils mit e’ Weier an den Dorrnacker, un graundet das andere Ende, und ohboi! der naechste Bursche, der den Nacker retteln will, wird selbst fuer e’ Lup genackt.

Der Volta reported sein Socksess an dei Royal Society in London, und bald haben die Scientists in allen Laendern auch Peils, – noch viel groesser wie Voltas – und fangen an, Leute zu schocken, und zu elektroleisen, un sogar zu plehten, wie niemand sein Bissness. In Poland gab es zwei Professore, die hatten e’ Brehnsturm und haben die Weiers von der Batterie getehstet! Der erste insistet, es schmeckte sauer, der zweite meint nein, mehr wie Seife; der erste sagt, “Mein Meind is aufgemacht, es ist doch so”; der andere sagt “Balloni!”; und so kommt es, dass noch heute an jeder Batterie e’ positiver Pol und e’ negativer Pol ist.

Volta wurde fuer seine Arbeit von Napoleon geonnert, und seine Stadt hat ihn Praeseident fuer Lief von der Pavianerhalloweenneusundhellrehsungsverhinderungsgesellschafft gemacht. Zwar haben die Buben nie wieder mit seinem Dorrknacker gemonnkieht, doch schon am naechsten Halloween haben sie sien Beckhaus getippt und einen sehr toten Skonk durch sein Fenster gehieft. Und so haben ihm seine Peils am Ende doch viel Trubel gemacht.

I’ve mentioned playing around with French and Latin previously; stay tuned for a little fun with italian, soon to come.

Der Old Wolf hat gespoken.

Gallium-induced structural failure of an aluminum can

Gallium – the dream of every high-school chemistry prankster. Of course, 45 years after my last high-school chem class, someone has monetized that space:

As a kid, I often coated silver coins with mercury (if you have any questions about why my brain works the way it does, you can point the finger of blame right there.) They became shiny like proof coins, and felt slick to the touch. Unfortunately, the shininess didn’t last, and as the coins oxidized, they took on a dull matte finish. Even more interesting, however, is some real chemistry with gallium, and watching it infiltrate the crystal structure of an aluminum can is intriguing.

To paraphrase Will Hunting, a lot of people are dropping a hundred grand on an education you can get for the price of a decent internet connection.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

 

Chemical Warfare

I am deeply indebted to the twisted mind of Dru White, a former colleague of mine, for this bit of whimsy. If you enjoy it as much as I did, you have only yourself to blame.


Chemical Warfare

By Dru White

Of course you passed high school chemistry. Maybe you even made a through a college course or two. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing–especially when it comes to chemical  equations. See if you can keep yourself and others alive for the next ten days. All it takes is a little knowledge of chemistry. Mark your choices, then check the answers to see if you know enough to survive.

DAY ONE:

You are at home cooking and suddenly a fire starts on the top of your stove. You are frightened and look for a quick way to douse the flames. There are three jars containing different chemical compounds on your cupboard. Which do you. toss onto the fire?

❑ A) NaHCO3                      ❑ B) CS2                             ❑ C) C7H3.

DAY TWO:

Some of your food keeps getting a bit of mold on it. You search for a compound that will help prevent the mold, but won’t hurt you when you eat the food. What is best to put on the food?

❑ A) As2O3                           ❑ B) C17H23NO3                 ❑ C) C3HsO2Na.

DAY THREE:

You have developed a bit of an infection. You really should take something for it before it gets any worse. What would you like to have?

❑ A) C9H11N2O4SR              ❑ B) C6H6Cl6                      ❑ C) C17H21NO4

DAY FOUR:

Your allergies have been acting up again, and you have a bad insect bite on your arm. You need some medication with a good compound to help that allergy, and an ointment with something to make that insect bite feel better. You want plenty of which compound in your medication?

❑ A) H2SO4                          ❑ B) C18H21ClN2                 ❑ C) C20H12

DAY FIVE:

When you ride the ferry across the bay you sometimes experience a little nausea. A drug with something to help you feel better would be nice. After all, nobody likes to feed the fish. Which will you take?

❑ A) CH2FCOONa              ❑ B) C17H19N2SCl               ❑ C) C19H26ON2

DAY SIX:

After examining one of your more careless patients, you conclude that this person has a case of gonorrhea. You go to your locked cupboard and find three possible forms of medication. Which do you choose to administer to the anxious sufferer?

❑ A) C6H8N2O2S                  ❑ B) C21H22N2O2                ❑ C) C10H14N2

DAY SEVEN:

You stop by the local fast food restaurant and pick up some french fries. They seem somewhat bland today, so you grab something from your laboratory shelf to sprinkle on them. Which did you grab?

❑ A) NaCN                          ❑ B) KCN                           ❑ C) NaCl

DAY EIGHT:

So you’re going to the beach for a little sun. To which kind of compound do you choose to expose your sensitive body so that you won’t get sunburned?

❑ A) HCl                              ❑ B) CH3COSH                  ❑ C) C6H4NH2COOC2H5

DAY NINE:

You are very concerned. The vet told you over the phone that it sounds as if Fido has parasites. There must be something fast and effective to make him more comfortable. What will it be?

❑ A) HCN                            ❑ B) C10H8O                       ❑ C) CCl3NO2

DAY TEN:

Well, doctor. Here it is your last day. A patient has a bleeding problem during an operation. What kind of compound do you wish to administer to make the blood coagulate better?

❑ A) Cl5H16N3SClAnCl2      ❑ B) C15H15N2CON(C2H5)2                    ❑ C) C6H5COONa

 END OF TEST


CHEMICAL WARFARE ANSWERS

Give yourself a point for each correct answer.

 DAY ONE:

(A)     Good choice. You got the fire out by smothering the flames with ordinary baking soda. It looks like you will make it to day two.

(B)     Sorry, but carbon disulfide is a highly flammable, poisonous solvent. I’m afraid you haven’t made it through the first day.

(C)     Whoops. Toluene is a flammable, poisonous hydrocarbon, originally from the balsam of Tolu. It is used as a solvent, and to make dyes and–ah, yes–even explosives.

 DAY TWO:

(A)     Arsenic trioxide will simply not fill the bill. However, this arsenic compound is great for exterminating insects and rodents.

(B)     Oh, my. If you picked this one you are in big trouble at mealtime. Hyoscyamine is a very poisonous alkaloid. No time to call the doctor.

(C)     Correct. Sodium propionate is one of your standard mold preventives.

 DAY THREE:

(A)     Congratulations. Penicillin has been the choice of many doctors for years now.

(B)     I don’t think you will see much improvement. This powerful and poisonous insecticide, benzene hexachloride, just doesn’t seem to do the trick.

(C)     Why not? Who knows, maybe a little cocaine will help your infection. (But I have my doubts.)

 DAY FOUR:

(A)     Ouch! And double ouch! I don’t think sulfuric acid will have the desired effect. Though it is good for making dyes, paint, and explosives, I’m afraid its corrorsive nature may not promote healing.

(B)     Good choice. Chlorcyclizine is an antihistamine for allergies and is also used in medication to sooth insect bites.

(C)     Benzopyrene, which comes from coal tar and cigarette smoke, has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. You struck out on this one.

 DAY FIVE:

(A)     Sorry, you’ll never squeak again. Sodium fluoroacetate is a powder used as a highly effective rodent poison.

(B)     Chlorpromazine is the correct choice. In addition to its use to control nausea, this compound is also used in medication to help treat certain mental disorders.

(C)     Wrong. Curarine is a toxic alkaloid made from a South American plant. Natives use the poison on the tips of their arrows.

 DAY SIX:

(A)     Good choice, doctor. Sulfanilamide is used to treat streptococcal infections.

(B)     Sorry, it looks like malpractice time. The strychnine you administered. seems to have cured your patient’s problem permanently.

(C)     Nice try, but nicotine is not commonly used to treat this type of disorder. In fact in this pure form it’s rather fatal.

 DAY SEVEN:

(A)     Negative. Though sodium cyanide is also a salt, it is highly poisonous one. I hope you have a valid will.

(B)     You couldn’t have done much worse. Potassium cyanide is an extremely poisonous compound. It is used for extracting gold, electroplating, and as an insecticide. But it just doesn’t go well with fries.

(C)     That’s correct. Common table salt is the best and safest choice.

 DAY EIGHT:

(A)     This will be the worst sunburn you’ve ever had. Hydrochloric acid can even be worse than the sun’s harmful rays.

(B)     Sorry. If you try putting this allover you, you won’t feel so comfortable, but you will probably have plenty of elbowroom on the sand. After all, tear gas (thioacetic acid) usually keeps crowds back quite well.

(C)     That’s right. Benzocaine is also used as a local anesthetic.

 DAY NINE:

(A)     Well, Fido is gone to that big pound in the sky. Hydrocyanide acid is used as a fumigant. This poisonous gas just doesn’t go well with pets.

(B)     Good choice. Betanaphthol is used in medicines as a parasiticide. Fido will thank you.

(C)     Goofed again. Call the pet cemetery. Chloropicrin is a poisonous gas used in chemical warfare. (And we though Fido was your best friend!)

 DAY TEN:

(A)     That’s right. Toluidine blue is used as a coagulant in medicine. Maybe you’ll even be able to collect your bill this time.

(B)     I don’t think lysergic acid diethylamide will stop the bleeding. All LSD does is cause psychedelic hallucinations.

(C)     Nope. Sodium benzoate is great for preserving food, but not so good for preserving patients.

 YOUR RATING:

8-10 Correct:   Excellent. You are a true expert in this field.

6-7 Correct:     Very good. You either know a lot or are very lucky.

4-5 Correct:     Good. You must be a high school chemistry teacher.

2-3 Correct:     Fair. The law of averages was on your side.

0-1 Correct:     Need help. Eat only all-natural foods.
The Old Wolf has spoken (and needs help).