Don’t start a land war in Asia, don’t go against a Sicilian when death is on the line…and don’t assume you can just build up immunity to a poison.
In my latest Because Science, we’re taking a look at may be the most famous poison in fiction: The Princess Bride‘s “iocane powder.” As you may know, this deadly powder is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is one of the deadliest poisons known to man (so you can try to smell it but do not touch). But what would iocane powder really be? Does any poison actually known to man fit the bill? And if so, can you build up an immunity to it?
The chemistry is a little more complicated than the Man in Black makes it sound. Poisons can be combinations of thousands or chemicals, or just one, and different concoctions affect the body in very different ways. For example, you can drink snake venom. The acids and enzymes in your stomach will break down the molecules and render them inert. But if that venom enters the bloodstream through a cut or open wound well, getting envenomed isn’t fun.
And different poisons mean different kinds of immunity. It turns out that not only is there a poison that could be a perfect stand-in for iocane powder, you can even build up some resistance to it!
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