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posted by n1 on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:09AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the nasty-little-chemicals dept.

Derek Lowe keeps a blog, that alone wouldn't be news worthy but his blog is the home of Things I Won't Work With, a fascinating look at chemicals so noxious, so volatile that even the names will make amateur chemists flinch.

Such things as:

Peroxide Peroxides

Everyone knows hydrogen peroxide, HOOH. And if you know it, you also know that it's well-behaved in dilute solution, and progressively less so as it gets concentrated. The 30% solution will go to work immediately bleaching you out if you are so careless as to spill some on you, and the 70% solution, which I haven't seen in years, provides an occasion to break out the chain-mail gloves.

Mercury Azides

When we last checked in with the Klapötke lab at Munich, it was to highlight their accomplishments in the field of nitrotetrazole oxides. Never forget, the biggest accomplishment in such work is not blowing out the lab windows.

and FOOF

And a hard core it is! This stuff was first prepared in Germany in 1932 by Ruff and Menzel, who must have been likely lads indeed, because it's not like people didn't respect fluorine back then. No, elemental fluorine has commanded respect since well before anyone managed to isolate it, a process that took a good fifty years to work out in the 1800s. (The list of people who were blown up or poisoned while trying to do so is impressive). And that's at room temperature.

Has anyone here had to work with any of these?

Related Stories

In The Pipeline: Coronavirus 45 comments

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/01/27/coronavirus

As the world knows, we face an emerging virus threat in the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. The problem is, right now there are several important things that we don't know about the situation. The mortality rate, the ease of human-human transmission, the rate of mutation of the virus (and how many strains we might be dealing with – all of these need more clarity. Unfortunately, we've already gone past the MERS outbreak in severity (which until now was the most recent new coronavirus to make the jump into humans). If we're fortunate, though, we'll still have something that will be worrisome, but not as bad as (say) the usual flu numbers (many people don't realize that influenza kills tens of thousands of people in the US each year). The worst case, though, is something like 1918, and we really, really don't need that.

[Ed note: The linked story is by Derek Lowe who writes a "commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry". He is perhaps best known for his "Things I Won't Work With" blog entries which are as hilarious as they are... eye opening. I have found him to be a no-nonsense writer who "tells things as they are", holding no punches. The whole story is worth reading as he clearly explains what a coronavirus is, about the current one that reportedly originated in Wuhan, China, what could be done about it, how long that would likely take, and what can be done for those who have already been infected. --martyb]

Previous Stories Referencing Derek Lowe:

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  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:32AM

    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:32AM (#115099) Journal

    Has anyone here had to work with any of these?

    I'd share with you my experiences if only I'd have the fingers to type them here.
    ---
    (grin) [wikipedia.org]

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by Arik on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:55PM

      by Arik (4543) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:55PM (#115223) Journal
      I've worked with virtually pure H2O2 a few times. Definitely have to be very careful of exposure before you get it diluted. A tiny little drop, barely enough to notice a hint of moisture on the skin of my thumb, burned the first layer of skin white and dead in seconds. Another slightly larger drop destroyed a perfectly good shoe.
      --
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:53AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:53AM (#115100)

    TFS makes no sense - headings have no relation to the text.

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Bot on Wednesday November 12 2014, @11:05AM

      by Bot (3902) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @11:05AM (#115133) Journal

      And still no systemd mentioned in the comments, either.... oh wait.

      --
      Account abandoned.
      • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @12:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @12:01PM (#115138)

        Yeah, thanks for the reminder: all the stupid hipsters hate systemd. I'll just be over here using Arch Linux with systemd, because fuck you, that's why.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:16PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:16PM (#115160)

          No, the stupid hipsters love systemd cuz, you know, apps.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Jesus_666 on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:53PM

      by Jesus_666 (3044) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:53PM (#115172)
      That's because the submitter took the heading and a random nice-sounding soundbite fom the actual articles to show off the writing style. Honestly, it's not that bad a call; the writing style is hilarious. The choice of quotes wasn't perfect, though.

      To give some context: The peroxide peroxides article uses HOOH's reactivity to point out how reactive HOOOH etc. become. The mercury azides article is, well, about what the Klapötke group likes to do, namely synthesizing ridiculously unstable molecules. The FOOF ones goes on about how nasty FOOF is.

      I think there are a few other articles that could've been mentioned. Like the one about hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane, aka CL-20. Anyone who knows what "nitro-" says about a compound will perk up at that name. To finish with my own out-of-context soundbite:

      There's a recent report of a method to make a more stable form of it, by mixing it with TNT. Yes, this is an example of something that becomes less explosive as a one-to-one cocrystal with TNT. Although, as the authors point out, if you heat those crystals up the two components separate out, and you're left with crystals of pure CL-20 soaking in liquid TNT, a situation that will heighten your awareness of the fleeting nature of life.

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @07:13AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @07:13AM (#115105)

    Other things he won't work with:

    Blacks
    Whites
    Orientals
    Jews
    Red Indians
    Brown Indians
    Men
    Women
    Children
    Elderly

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @12:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @12:09PM (#115141)

      And the man likes his gays FLAMING.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by aristarchus on Wednesday November 12 2014, @07:55AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @07:55AM (#115109) Journal

    Will not work with any chemicals that open a portal to hell. Nope, just won't do it, again.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:35AM (#115123)

      Why the hell not? It's all going to hell anyway.

  • (Score: 1) by Darth Turbogeek on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:19AM

    by Darth Turbogeek (1073) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:19AM (#115120)

    Usually on the green site, when a blog is posted it's utter shit. THIS blog on the other hand... it's GOLD. I'm going to lose a few hours reading it and everyone else should too.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @02:29PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @02:29PM (#115186)

      I agree. This is exactly the sorts of things I used to love reading back on SD.

      I know about as much chem as I could cram in my first year of college in those 2 courses I was forced to take. I also know I am total rubbish at it too and know enough to get no closer to it than watching nurdrage on youtube. One other thing I have learned is between chlorine and oxygen I can be very thankful most of it is nicely bound up in other molecules so I am not melted!

      Chemistry always seemed like the biggest game of rock paper scissors ever to me.

    • (Score: 2) by richtopia on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:49PM

      by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:49PM (#115221) Homepage Journal

      I want to say something similar: this is a good example of a non-news post that is very valid for the site.

      I saw this site posted in the comments for the Burning Ammonium Dichromate and Mercury Thiocyanate article yesterday, and it did deserve its own post. Thanks to the submitter for making that happen.

    • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Wednesday November 12 2014, @04:24PM

      by Snotnose (1623) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @04:24PM (#115243)

      I found this a couple years ago and burned a day or two reading all of it. Fascinating stuff, and the writing is entertaining. If memory serves there are 2 major themes: things that really stink, and things that really like to go boom.

      --
      I fondly remember the day I made sandcastles with my grandmother. Just wish I hadn't done it in the crematorium.
    • (Score: 2) by fadrian on Thursday November 13 2014, @07:24PM

      by fadrian (3194) on Thursday November 13 2014, @07:24PM (#115634) Homepage

      I've been reading Derek's blog for the past couple years. He gives a great picture of all of the issues involved with pharmaceutical development. He's fair to both the industry and its critics and points out the crap that's come about with this now consolidated industry since megacorps started dominating the business with the acquisition craze that started in the eighties.

      --
      That is all.
  • (Score: 1) by deterioration on Wednesday November 12 2014, @10:25AM

    by deterioration (3357) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @10:25AM (#115127)

    I remember when Intel had a problem with F00F...

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @12:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @12:20PM (#115145)

    chemicals so noxious, so volatile that even the names will make amateur chemists flinch.

    I'm not a chemist but I can relate. In my job we have this awful thing called systemd that most refuse to work with.

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:33PM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:33PM (#115168) Journal

    I heard about this one years ago. Not chemicals, but chemicals aren't the only dangerous things in our lives.

    Do not try to transport cow carcasses that are secured only to the roof, to keep the meat from getting bruised or some such. They swing at the slightest shift. Take even the gentlest curve at extremely slow speed, just 5 kph, and the truck could still end up tipped over.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:58PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @01:58PM (#115173)

    The baseball player? That dude is hilarious.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by GoddersUK on Wednesday November 12 2014, @02:53PM

    by GoddersUK (4835) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @02:53PM (#115191)

    I find one of the key differences between chemists and physicists in our labs is that while physicists are often surprised at the lax approach to health and safety chemists sometimes take (when the safety officer is not watching and we know that what we're doing is quite safe) they poo poo us when suggest there are chemicals we wouldn't want to handle ourselves. My own list of stuff I'd refuse to work with includes HF (an acid that can eat its way through glass, metal and many organics, that dissolves you from the inside out (it passes through the flesh to dissolve the bones first) and that boils at room temperature) and organo-Hg compounds (did you just prick your finger with that contaminated needle? well in the next few years you'll be slowly going mad as a hatter (quite literally - the idiom arises from mercury exposure in the hatter community), initially aware of what's happening but with no way out).

    There's other stuff I use regularly that I have great respect for and take special care over (I define special care as more than I would apply for a typical conc. acid), particularly aqua regia (a mix of HNO3 and HCl used to dissolve many metals, particularly gold - we use it for cleaning but it can also be used to protect your nobel medal from the nazis [npr.org]) and piranha solution (a mix of H2SO4 and H2O2 mostly used for cleaning - particularly the removal of organic residues - this is what I'd use if I ever wanted to dispose of a body in a safe and efficient manner).

      And then there's a whole bunch of stuff that isn't as spectacularly dangerous but if you breath in enough of it will make you infertile (pyridine, I'm looking at you...), hurts your throat (NH4), is lachrymatory and a whole bunch of other stuff.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Covalent on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:34PM

      by Covalent (43) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:34PM (#115212) Journal

      Came here to say the same thing about organomercury compounds. Famous case of the death of a chemistry from this stuff:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Wetterhahn [wikipedia.org]

      I'd never work with any such chemical...my kids need a dad.

      Probably would not be first to volunteer to work with Ebola patients in West Africa, either.

      But, the VAST majority of chemicals are relatively safe to work with, provided adequate measures are taken.

      My worst experience was using a base bath to clean glassware. The base bath was highly concentrated sodium hydroxide (lye / drano to most folks) and the neoprene gloves I was using had a hole in them. I didn't notice the hole until I noticed the skin on one of my fingers itching pretty badly. I took the gloves off to find that my middle finger was already in the process of dissolving. Nice. Lots of water and some careful attention and I'm scar-free today, but that stuff still scares me a little. It dissolves fat very well, and the oils on that finger were long gone by the time I caught it. My skin felt like a 90-year-old man's for over a week.

      I'm never without my goggles and always checking my gloves these days.

      --
      You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
      • (Score: 2) by panachocala on Wednesday November 12 2014, @11:23PM

        by panachocala (464) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @11:23PM (#115366)

        Heh heh... gloves. You need to get you some chloroacetone. What no-one tells you is it passes right through them and hurts like a sonovabitch. They also don't tell you it was used in WW1 as a chemical agent. But that's university for ya! Figure it out yourself, you're the student.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:37PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:37PM (#115213)

      Wow, I hadn't realized organo-mercury compounds were so much more dangerous than elemental mercury. Good to know. A mere pinprick worth would seem unlikely to increase the levels of actual mercury more than a single serving of fish (particularly a top predator like tuna or shark).

      And I'm not certain if the same mechanism would work for humans, but female dolphins actually have a way of ridding themselves of dangerously high mercury concentrations: They get pregnant. Between in-utero transfer and the concentration of mercury in their fat-rich milk they transfer virtually their entire mercury load to their first calf, who rarely survives the process. Subsequent calves get a low enough dosage that they can survive to repeat the process.

      You know, now that I think about it, such bio-accumulation would suggest that all modern cetaceans, particularly males, are probably "mad as a hatter". Makes you wonder what they'd be like in full command of their faculties.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:27PM (#115207)

    Windows (Any Version)

    • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Thursday November 13 2014, @08:34PM

      by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday November 13 2014, @08:34PM (#115652) Journal

      Ruby very quickly made my list after I started trying to hack away at Diaspora the other night. What a nightmare.

      Spent about ten minutes writing code...followed by several hours spent debugging whitespace. At that point I decided all I *really* needed to add to the Ruby code was one line to import some Javascript, and I could do all my hacks in pure JS. As bad as JS is, at least it's not whitespace sensitive.

      Basically all whitespace sensitive languages are on my list of "things I won't work with"...

      • (Score: 1) by Paradise Pete on Friday November 14 2014, @04:11AM

        by Paradise Pete (1806) on Friday November 14 2014, @04:11AM (#115787)

        Ruby is whitespace sensitive? In what way do you mean?

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Friday November 14 2014, @01:11PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Friday November 14 2014, @01:11PM (#115880) Journal

          Well, maybe not the Ruby itself, but all the associated content is (HAML and such). This is my first time dealing with Ruby so I don't know how much of that is standard and how much is just how Diaspora chose to do things.