Arsenic and Cyanide

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I bumped into a former classmate from middle school yesterday. We talked about what we did after graduating… then he started asking some interesting questions.

Dude: You’re telling me you’re studying biochem? Whoa, that’s interesting.
Me: How come?
Dude: Well, I’ve been writing quite a bit lately. Mostly detective stories, you know.
Me: I love detective stories.
Dude: Yeah well, I was wondering if you could help me. Know any good ways of killing someone? Like a poison, maybe.
Me: I don’t exactly study this stuff, but we were talking about arsenic and cyanide poisoning in class the other day.
Dude: Oh, those are classic. How do they work?
Me: Well, arsenic inhibits some important enzymes in the aerobic respiration pathway. It also affects the oxidative parts of some other pathways, which backs them up and keeps them from working. Cyanide works sort of like arsenic in that it affects energy metabolism, but it’s more acute; it binds to cytochrome oxidase in mitochondria and blocks aerobic respiration. Basically, it keeps cells from using oxygen and suffocates them.
[I explain in a lot more detail.]
Dude: Ah, now that’s all very interesting, but how would you actually use these?
Me: Erm… I’ve heard of people getting sick from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. But cyanide can be used as hydrogen cyanide gas or cyanide salts.
Dude: Awesome! I might have to call you up later for details… but I’ve a quick question for you. Do you know where one could obtain arsenic or cyanide in a place like New York City?
Me: … erm… I gotta go to class…
[I retreat into the nearest convenient lecture building.]
Dude: Hey! What’s your phone number?


  1. Jenny says:

    Hahaha. This situation is very “you.”

  2. Jiang Yio says:

    It does feel familiar. :)

  3. Fabian says:

    Sounds like he wanted to poison someone @-)

  4. Rine says:

    Y’think, Fabian?
    MAYBE he was just wondering where one would get poison in NYC. For his book to be more realistic. Y’know.
    Well, good luck to keeping un-poisoned.

  5. Jiang Yio says:

    Maybe, maybe not; but I was somewhat skeptical about his ostensible intention of writing a story, hehe…

    @Rine: I like your web page design; you might want to center your layout, though.

  6. Fabian says:

    Maybe you should have asked him for a sample of his work. That way you would know if he is bullshitting u…..

  7. Jiang Yio says:

    I didn’t have to; I knew this kid a while ago, see? Anyhow, if he was serious about writing he’d have more sources. ;p

  8. Fabian says:

    True. I suppose he was looking for a more scientific explination of how cyanide works.

  9. Jiang Yio says:

    People change and stuff; perhaps he really was into writing? One can never be too sure about anything XD

  10. thefluffball says:

    Or he was going to try and commit suicide… :P