Sarin in Syria

April 26th, 2013

It looks like someone is using the deadly nerve agent sarin in the ongoing civil war in Syria, which may very well draw the United States into the conflict. I did a project on sarin for a class in my sophomore year of college at NYU. Here is the handout I prepared to accompany my talk.

Looking back on the document, a few things stand out:

1. It’s amazing how simple of a compound sarin is.

2. I had bizarre taste in fonts.

3. I’d forgotten I had written about Osama bin Laden a full year before the attacks on 9-11-01.

6 Responses to “Sarin in Syria”

  1. Vladimir Chupakhin Says:

    Sarin is the the same as biological weapon in Iraq….a fiction.

  2. @SuperScienceGrl Says:

    I wish my handwriting looked like that font you used on the subtitle. #pointlesscomments

    I kind of agree with Vladimir above though… whilst knowing very little about the situation, how the hell can the people trust what’s being said? #politicalcomments

  3. Paul Says:

    Well, it looks like the Obama administration is trying to be very careful in verifying the report. It would not surprise me if either side used chemical weapons or planted chemical weapons to frame the other side and draw the US into the war. I think the last thing Americans want is to be drawn into another Middle Eastern conflict, but it’s probably unavoidable if we end up verifying that chemical weapons were used and we know by whom… 😐

  4. a Says:

    OT: Harran will be charged in the Sangji case,0,1938374.story

  5. student Says:

    What’s interesting is that sarin is not the most deadly nerve agent. That belongs to the nerve agent soman. In addition to the lethal dose, one must also consider the aging time of the nerve agent. Nerve agents work by reacting with the active site serine in acetylcholinesterase. Once this enzyme is blocked nerve signalling is blocked because the enzyme can’t clear the neurotransmittor to allow a subsequent nerve firing and you will die from asphyxiation (among other things). This can be reversed by adding nucleophiles like 2-PAM or related compounds that free the nerve-agent-linked active site serine again. However, there is a competing process, called “aging”, in which the nerve-agent bound serine reacts spontaneously (hydrolyzes) to form a different structure that cannot be reversed by 2-PAM. Once this aging happens, you are a dead man. For sarin, this aging is ~24 hours, so you have some time to administer 2-PAM before the effects are irreversible. For soman, aging time is a couple minutes. If you do not get 2-PAM within a few seconds after a lethal soman exposure, and acetylcholinesterase gets phosphylated and then ages, you may live longer than a few minutes, but you will die because there is nothing that can be done to reverse this process.

  6. josie Says:

    thank´s for sharing your handout, i liked the political details. I was also moved by the “new” that of course wasnt so new at all.

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