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Posts tagged with "Chem/Bio Warfare"

  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    More Ricin

    I’ve had some interesting e-mail on the subject, which I thought I’d address here for the curious. One person mentioned the possibility of ricin dissolved in DMSO. I have to say that that’s a nasty thought, because DMSO certainly does increase skin permeability. But I don’t know how soluble a large peptide like this would… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare


    There’s a report today that British authorities have rounded up several terrorist suspects in London – and that they had small quantities of ricin. So, what is the stuff, how bad is it, where did they get it, and what did they plan to do with it? Ricin’s a protein from castor beans – yep… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    And While We’re On the Subject – Mercury?

    There’s another report this morning of an arrest of a suspected Chechen terrorist, who was carrying what’s described as 18 pounds of mercury in a champagne bottle. “”Such an amount of mercury would poison a very large number of people,” said a spokesman for the Moscow police. Would it? The amount is right – 18… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    A Mystery Gas?

    Since I did a multipart series on chemical warfare last month, I’ve had several e-mails asking for my take on the Russian gas used to break up the Chechen hostage situation. The information that I can get from wire-service reports doesn’t make for a very coherent picture, but I imagine it’s not very coherent in… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    Chemical Warfare, Part Five: The Real World

    The previous posts have been a quick tour around the chemical weapons landscape. I have to say, it’s a depressing place to visit, and I’ll be glad to leave it. But I can’t do that without some thoughts on what, in the end, the stuff is good for. Well, killing people, obviously. Or threatening to… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    Chemical Warfare, Part Four: More On Nerve Agents and Their Chemistry

    A good short history of Tabun and other nerve agents, largely based on this book, can be found here. To summarize, in 1937 a report on Tabun made its way to the chemical warfare branch of the German military, and its value was recognized quickly. Gerhard Schrader’s group was moved to new laboratory space and… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    Chemical Warfare, Part Three: How Nerve Agents Work

    Descending past mere irritants and past disfiguring killers, we arrive at the bottom of the pit. These are compounds that are to humans what a spray-can of insecticide is to flies. I mean that literally. Back in the 1930s, a group at IG Farben in Germany was searching for new classes of compounds to kill… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    Chemical Warfare, Part Two: Lethal Agents (Other Than Nerve Gas)

    We’ll cover three World War I compounds, saving the latter-day nerve agents for a separate posting. 1915 was a terrible year, one among many, because it saw the advent of militarized chlorine, followed shortly by phosgene. Those two (though technically obsolete) are still in play, because their manufacture is so low-tech. Mustard gas (bis(chl… Read More
  • Chem/Bio Warfare

    Chemical Warfare, Part One: Introduction

    I don’t often deal with politics and world events on this site (much less than I thought I might when I started it.) There are usually plenty of other worthy writers out there who are saying just what I would, so I’ve settled on science (and the business of science) as my ecological niche in… Read More