OPEN THREAD 20191229

Basically, all legal free speech is allowed. We will assist the authorities in dealing with illegal speech. You are each other’s moderators. Have fun. And don’t forget to MAGA at nuclear levels.

Citizen U

Day 53 – IODINE.

9 thoughts on “OPEN THREAD 20191229

  1. Iodine is, of course, the heaviest and least reactive of the non-radioactive halogens. For those of us who are old enough, we’ve seen it around in medicine cabinets — although, as it turns out, that’s “tincture of iodine”* — iodine, itself, is a solid. And we all know and love halogens for being so focused on bonding. So, I’m going to try to do a bit of a change-up and focus on trivialities.

    OK, that’s my usual schtick…..

    *Tincture of iodine, iodine tincture, or weak iodine solution is an antiseptic. It is usually 2–7% elemental iodine, along with potassium iodide or sodium iodide, dissolved in a mixture of ethanol and water. Tincture solutions are characterized by the presence of alcohol. [wikipedia]


  2. We’ve been going through a lot of books we’ve collected over the years and have been donating a bunch of them to our local VA hospital. Sadly, one common characteristic of time in a hospital is being bored to tears, and we’ve been hoping that reading material can help pass the time. A large number of easy-to-donate books have been mysteries — if you pick one up and go, “yeah, that’s the one where he soaks the blotting paper in a catalyst that turns the ink toxic”, there’s generally little need to re-read the book. So the local VA has been getting dozens of donated books about exotic and undetectable ways to kill people……

    I finally got around to asking whether patients are generally on good terms with everyone……

    Anyway, one mystery I remember from about 30 years back involved a darts tournament. In between rounds, the darts were held by the people running the tournament to ensure they continued to meet regulations and were not altered. There was a well-documented chain of custody and everything was very well-documented and out in the open.

    Two bitter rivals were playing against each other, and at the end of one round one put his hand up on the dartboard and bet the other that he couldn’t put four darts between his fingers. Three were successful, but the fourth put a tiny nick in the web between the fingers. There was the usual swearing, applying pressure, the thrower conceded the bet, and they rescheduled the next round for half-an-hour later.

    The other player doesn’t show, and when the hotel staff enters his room, he’s found dead on the floor of Phyllobates terribilis (a poison dart frog) poisoning. Problem is, the darts are still in the custody of the tournament judges and are clean and safe.

    Skipping the rest of the exposition and such, the murder was effectuated by poisoning the victim’s medicinal iodine. The killer then intentionally nicked him so that he’d “disinfect” the wound with the poison.


  3. Phosphorus can reduce elemental iodine to hydroiodic acid, which is a reagent effective for reducing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine. For this reason, iodine was designated by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration as a List I precursor chemical under 21 CFR 1310.02. [Wikipedia]

    So I check…..and, yes, phosphorus is also on the list (twice), as well as nitromethane. Fortunately, there are only 31 substances on List I.

    List II, however, also includes toluene, acetone, hydrofluoric and sulphuric acids, and potassium permanganate, and six other substances. [ ]. I’m kind of sensing that the ratio of would-be Rambos to chemists at the DEA has to be somewhere around 100:1.

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  4. Just to get the musical interlude in (I’m not done with iodine), I decided to go with this. It’s a well-known excerpt from a Bach cantata (#208), “Sheep May Safely Graze”, played on a synthesizer, and visually deconstructed into its constituent parts. One can easily hear the orange lamb dots frolicking and gambolling while the green voice roams around watchfully and most of the flock chews its way through the pasture.


  5. There was a recipe, popularized in the 60s and 70s, for a low-grade explosive made from household chemicals. It was something silly like one cup medicinal iodine + three cups household ammonia + one tablespoon bleach in a bucket, strain the precipitate through gauze or paper towels, discard the liquid. BTW, don’t try this on my poor recollection — if you’re going to do it, look up the real recipe. The point being that it was only a couple of commonly available items in a very forgiving reaction.

    You ended up with a bunch of a putty-like substance. Working rapidly, you could make it into a bunch of BB-sized pieces and scatter them around a room. They were ok while they were still wet — but, once they dried, they would explode at a harsh look, with maybe 3x the force of a paper cap — enough to startle you if it went off under your shoe, but not enough to do anything.

    I don’t want to make it sound like I exclusively hung out with science teachers throughout my school years — I got into a lot of mischief in a lot of faculty departments. But I just happened to mention this to a science teacher in my High School, and he said, “yeeeeaaaaaah…..don’t do that.” Mind you, this was back in the day when you could actually blow students up occasionally without the school board going nutso on you. I asked why not, and he took me around to the big demonstration table at the end of the chem lab and pointed to a purple spot in the footwell, about 7″ across, that was pretty obviously the record of an explosion.

    “We did it about 8 years ago, and it was funny up to the point where we tried to get the iodine stains off the floor.”

    “At first, we left them for the janitors, but they couldn’t get them up and complained to the principal. So, the principal came to us and said, ‘you’re the chemists, clean up your own mess’ and we couldn’t. So they ended-up replacing most of the floor tile in this room in the middle — you can see it’s a slightly different color — and there was even some discussion about taking the cost out of our paychecks. So, yeah, the way it’s described is harmless and funny…..but no.”


  6. This doesn’t count as a musical interlude because it’s on topic.

    To mangle Casablanca: “Of all the compounds in all the towns in all the world, they had to use silver iodide.”


  7. Few people realize this, but one of the earliest intended applications for computers was automated translation. This was of particular interest to our military and there were a number of very expensive top-secret programs devoted to this field over the years.

    Around 1965, some DARPA-funded labs at Stanford claimed to have cracked the problem. The DoD sent out a General and his staff to evaluate their progress. From 0800 to 1400 (with a break for lunch), they received presentations and briefings about Stanford’s new technology. Finally, they were ushered into the presence of The Machine.

    After yet another droning presentation from researchers, the General said — “so, that box there can translate from English to Russian, and from Russian to English?” The researchers assured him this was the case. So he said, “ok, put in “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Technicians mobilized, and a Hollerith card with the phrase was soon produced and fed into the The Machine. Something in Russian was punched out on a computer card and triumphantly handed to the General.

    He glanced at it and said, “ok, now put this into that thing to translate to English.” Everyone looked a bit startled, but ran it through — and it produced another output card, which they rushed to the General, who read, “the vodka is agreeable, but the mutton has turned.”

    Throwing the card onto the ground, the General turned and left, muttering over his shoulder, “call me when you have something.”

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  8. OK, last bit of iodine — iodine is the heaviest element generally required for life (although a few microorganisms use lanthanides and tungsten). Being that it’s used by all sorts of life in all sorts of ways, enough is ensnared in the biosphere that we can get enough of it from merely eating.

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