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Episode 1590

Primary Colors

Centuries ago, monks who took a vow of silence developed their own hand signs, with hundreds of gestures, that are still in use today. Plus, how do speakers of different languages distinguish similar shades and tints of colors such as red, yellow...

Butter of Antimony, Flowers of Zinc

Butter of antimony, blue vitriol, flowers of zinc are terms used for centuries by alchemists, now replaced by the scientific names antimony trichloride, cupric sulfate, and powdered zinc oxide. In his delightful memoir Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a...

Sugar of Lead

Writing in Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Bookshop|Amazon) about his youthful fascination with chemistry, Oliver Sacks notes that lead acetate once went by the more appetizing name sugar of lead. This is part of a complete episode.

Smell-Feast and Smellfungus

Linguist Brianne Hughes has compiled more than 1200 cutthroat compounds, including smell-feast meaning a freeloader, and smellfungus, a chronic complainer. For a lively primer about such compounds, check out her video. This is part of a complete...

Periodic Table Word Game

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle is inspired by the periodic table, and involves adding the chemical symbol for an element to one word in order to form an entirely new word. For example, if you take the hat from a baseball fan and add helium to...

Word Challenge

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s challenge involves phrases of two words, each of which ends in the letter a. For example, if you mix nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, you get a yellow, fuming, corrosive liquid that eats metals, even gold...