The Washington Post ran an article the other day on a home-grown ricin lab in Paris. It’s disturbing reading, and it just goes to show how easy the stuff is to make. (I discussed ricin most recently here.)
Mind you, we don’t know how good Menand Benchellali’s ricin was, or what his batch-to-batch quality control was like, and that’s because no one really knows how much of the damn stuff he made or where it all went. Here’s hoping his lab technique was terrible, because his subsequent survival would then mean that the stuff wasn’t very clean. Being careless around high-quality biotoxins does not make for a long-term career.
Some bloggers quote poems on Fridays. This brings a grim one to mind, unfortunately, which Kingsley Amis pointed out must be one of the only completely serious parodies in English. Starting off from Yeats’s “Song of Wandering Aengus”, which you should probably read first if you’re not familiar with it, a 1974 IRA bombing inspired Roger Woddis to compose:
I went out to the city streets
Because a fire was in my head
And saw the people passing by
And wished the smallest of them dead,
And twisted by a bitter past,
And poisoned by a cold despair,
I found at last a resting place
And left my hatred ticking there.
When I was fleeing from the night
And sweating in my room again,
I heard the old futilities
Exploding like a cry of pain;
But horror, should it touch the heart,
Would freeze my hand upon the fuse,
And I must shed no tears for those
Who merely have a life to lose.
Though I am sick with murdering
Though killing is my native land,
I will find out where death has gone,
And kiss his lips and take his hand;
And hide among the withered grass,
And pluck, till love and life are done,
The shrivelled apples of the moon,
The cankered apples of the sun.
I hate to leave everyone for the weekend with thoughts like this, but others are spending their waking hours having far worse ones. Reader, are you a scientist yourself? Do you spend your days going wherever your curiosity takes you, reading what you want to and thinking what you want to think? Not to be crude about it, but it’s people like Menand Benchellali, or it’s us.