Adam Barlev joins Toren, Kevin, and Joe for a look at the caustic chemicals known as “acids”. Hydrofluoric, Sulfuric, Muriatic, and more. Toren reveals the details of the Sausage-Vat Murders and the Acid-Bath Murderer. Plus acid attacks in the news, and Breaking Bad’s grisly acid-related “bathtub” scene.

Music: “It’s Bad For Me” by Al Bowlly

Charity of the Week: Acid Survivors Trust International

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Showing 15 comments
  • Scott D

    Hey guys, overall great show! Thanks as always.

    Going to be a bit critical on this episode if that’s alright. I think your guestpert should have stepped in a few times to help the direction and make some corrections. Probably could have used a bit of an intro; ‘what is an acid’ sort of thing. Also, feel the need to point out that ‘oxidizing’ does *not* mean “to add an oxygen molecule” (Joe), it means to raise the charge state (most commonly done with oxygen in the past).

    • Joe

      From Wiktionary:

      oxidize (third-person singular simple present oxidizes, present participle oxidizing, simple past and past participle oxidized)

      1. (chemistry, transitive) To combine with oxygen or otherwise make an oxide.
      2. (chemistry) To increase the valence (or the positive charge) of an element by removing electrons.
      3. To coat something with an oxide.
      4. (intransitive) To become oxidized.

      Hey look, my definition outranks yours!

      • Scott D

        Touché! I will further defend myself by saying that functionally that’s an antiquated term. Once I offered that same definition to a chemistry teacher at UBC and was shut down so quickly!

  • Jeff Stuart

    I have a friend who claims there’s an acid so strong that it would go right through you at falling speed. Sounds like an exaggeration, heh. Great show!

  • Em C

    I actually lived in Leadville for two summers interning at an old mine and the associated water plant. The acid truck was well before my time, but as I recall it was headed for the mine I was helping to reclaim as an intern. Here’s the weird part…the whole region has super acidic water because of all the mines. The whole freaking town was a Superfund site because of the lead, but the acid is the gift that keeps on giving long after the lead was cleaned. One pond near the historic mines was bright red and smelled odd.

    The mine I worked at was full of water that would, according to my boss, dissolve almost anything if you dropped it down the main shaft. There was also a lot of poisonous gas, luckily thousands of feet down. The water plant’s function is to clean up the acidic water from both the large lead/copper/zinc mine and the water from the dozens of tiny mines built during the 1800s and 1900s.

    Other fun story: Leadville was once a city of 30,000 and was supposed to be the capital of Colorado, but it is also the highest incorporated city in the US so you can imagine how snowy it gets, and it isn’t incredibly accessible in winter. Denver was the second choice. Leadville now has only a few thousand people and dwindling except in the summer when a million cyclists and marathoners torture themselves at 10,000 ft.

    Love the podcast!!!!

  • Lisa KB

    Little Johnny took a drink, but he will drink no more. For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4.

  • purrdence

    I thought Harvey Dent became Two Face in the Nolan Batman trilogy because half of his face was burnt in the fire, not melted off with acid?

    • Generaleesimo

      I believe the barrels that exploded were full of a corrosive chemical / acid.

  • Derek

    Didn’t a dude get melted with acid in the first Robocop film?

    • Generaleesimo

      I think it was more of a doused in toxic chemicals situation rather than acid specifically.

  • movies

    One minor correction: antimony is a separate element (symbol Sb) not a funny name for tin (symbol Sn). The antimony-based super acid is more accurately named hexafluoroantimonic acid (HSbF6) and is sometimes colloquially called “magic acid!”

    More on the “oxidize” discussion above, the combination with an oxygen atom is not an complete definition in the chemical sense that was being discussed in the episode. As a chemist, I would object on the basis of the definition of “oxidation” as defined by IUPAC (http://goldbook.iupac.org/O04362.html). Oxygen transfer can be a TYPE of oxidation depending on the overall transformation, for example oxidase and oxygenase enzymes differ in whether the oxidation reaction involves transfer of an oxygen atom or not, although both carry out oxidation reactions. My favorite oxidase (non-oxygen transer enzyme) is, of course, alcohol dehydrogenase!

    • thickets

      Even as I was doing the research it was all very confusing to me. Thanks for your attempts at clarification! Perhaps I should have not taken all art courses in high school.

      • movies

        I’m happy to add to the discussion, but I am always a few shows behind in my listening so I apologize for not being more timely.

        If you have more chemistry questions come up, feel free to hit me up for information!

  • Derek Weber