Field of Science

I wanna smell some H2Po

Derek has some thoughts on hydrides on his blog. I remembered the following endearing conversation between Linus Pauling and Matthew Meselson (co-orchestrator of the 'most beautiful experiment in biology'). This was just after Meselson joined Pauling as a grad student.
LP: Well, Matt, you know about tellurium, the group VI element below selenium in the periodic chart of the elements?

MM: Uh, yes. Sulfur, selenium, tellurium ...

LP: I know that you know how bad hydrogen sulfide smells. Have you ever smelled hydrogen selenide?

MM: No, I never have.

LP: Well, it smells much worse than hydrogen sulfide.

MM: I see.

LP: Now, Matt, Hydrogen telluride smells as much worse than hydrogen selenide as hydrogen selenide does compared to hydrogen sulfide.

MM: Ahh ...

LP: In fact, Matt, some chemists were not careful when working with tellurium compounds, and they acquired a condition known as "tellurium breath." As a result, they have become isolated from society. Some have even committed suicide.

MM: Oh.

LP: But Matt, I'm sure that you would be careful. Why don't you think it over and let me know if you would like to work on the structure of some tellurium compounds?
I doubt if anyone has smelt H2Te and lived to tell the tale. Me though, I would love to smell some H2Po if it exists.

Tremulous trepidation titillates.

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