I've got it all figured out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ask the Magic Internet a Stupid Question No. 0010

I was watching 48 Hour Mysteries the other night. You know, that documentary style show with all the great computer generated fingerprint and siren graphics that takes a 10 minute true crime story and draws it out to an hour?

Yep, that’s the one. So I was watching this episode where this woman didn’t want to be with her husband anymore so she started poisoning him with arsenic.

That's arsenic? Huh, it looks like the stuff they used to cover the track with at my high school. No wonder I was never fast.

Now I know the first thing you’re probably wondering is, Where did she get the arsenic from? Well it turns out that they were both scientists, or they both went to science school together or something. I know at least he was a scientist. At one point there was a big hawk flying outside my window so I may have missed what she did but needless to say she had access to arsenic.

The hawk kind of looked like this but more bird like and less dead rapper like.

Anyway, all this talk of arsenic on the show got me thinking. Does arsenic have any practical purposes? It seems to me that it’s only used to bump people off. Are there any positive aspects of arsenic? Or did scientists just invent it so they could use it to kill people in Miss. Marple/Columbo like scenarios? Maybe scientists didn’t event it. Maybe it grows naturally and someone discovered it? I kind of wonder the same thing about strychnine as well but The Sonics have been drinking that stuff for years and they’re still around to sing about it so it can’t be all that bad.

So tell me oh wise and infinite waster of time. Tell me Magic Internet…

Question 10: What’s the deal with arsenic?

Vrrrrrrwhoooooo. Boo. Boo. Boo. Eaaaore. Eaaaaore. Ring A Ding Ding. Wrrrrrrrr. Ding!

Magic Internet Answer: Even though the matter in which you have phrased your question causes me to feel that you are getting stupider despite our weekly sessions I must admit that this may be your most straightforward and sanest question to date, a question that we can take an altogether scientific approach to. Not that I mind delving into the philosophical now and then but you would be surprised by the number of stoned individuals that interface with me on a daily basis and how quickly their pubescent bra strap fumbling attempts at philosophy can cause me to start pulling out my own circuits.

Why do they call it taking a shit when you leave it, man?

Anyhoo, let us discover exactly what the deal is with arsenic. Arsenic is a chemical compound that can be found in a wide variety of ores. Arsenic was most likely first discovered by early craftspeople but it is unlikely that they knew what it was. That said, arsenic compounds have been around since the days of Ancient Greece and Rome when arsenic sulfide was used by physicians and poisoners.

No, not that kind of Poisoner. Though what he produces could also be considered harmful.

Saint Albert Magnus is often credited with the discovery of arsenic as he was the first to record arsenic in its purest form after heating an arsenic compound together with soap. Over time arsenic has had many practical uses including insecticides, pesticides and wood strengthening. Most of these have been discontinued since the discovery of arsenic’s high toxicity. However arsenic is still used in the alloying of lead and copper and most commonly in batteries.

No, that’s not why your tongue hurt when you licked the battery out of your Alpha Probe.

As I stated before, arsenic in one form or another, has been used as an intentional poison for hundreds of years. It was highly favored for this purpose by the ruling classes of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, most notably the Borgias. The symptoms of arsenic poisoning were similar to cholera, which was a common cause of death at the time. In the 19th century arsenic was known as inheritance powder because it was often used to speed up the process of acquiring ones inheritance.

No dad, I don’t know why your birthday hooker tasted like bitter almonds.

In ancient Korea an arsenic compound was used in the making of sayak. A poison cocktail used in capital punishment. Hmm, perhaps this could prove as the solution to the lethal injection drug shortage in US prisons. What’s that Johnny? No I don’t think the prisons could just inject the inmates with a syringe full of bleach.

JC: I don’t see why not. It’s cheap and it’s under every sink in North America. See, there it is on the left.

It is amusing that you mention using arsenic in Ms. Marple and Columbo like murder scenarios. Amusing because arsenic was a common poison in murder mystery television shows yet they always failed to show its true effects.

I dare say Miss. Marple would be keeping her gardening gloves on to check for a pulse on that one.

It looks like arsenic to me Bertie. Now if you will beg my pardon I must retire to the powder room for I feel as if I may chug up.

Probably for the best Miss Marple, you do recall what happened earlier when you were walking your dog?

What with the modern doctor’s keen eye for symptoms and easier testing, one would have to be very foolish to use arsenic as a weapon of murder and think they could get away with it these days. Most arsenic poisoning today comes from contamination of earth and water supplies. Or from ingesting seafood with a high arsenic content.

This Saturday at the Arsenik Café: Oysterfest and convulsion dance off!

And that my good friend Johnny is the deal with arsenic.

Booyaka! Thanks Magic Internet.

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