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Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Magic Pomegranate

Today's Houston Chronicle carries an article by Gregory Katz, of the Chronicle's "Foreign Service". The story's about alleged London bombmaker Magdy el-Nashar, and Leeds University, where he obtained his PhD in chemistry. The faculty members have clammed up about their former student, says the article, but students from other departments are creeped out about having a terrorist among them. Witness the lost innocence:

In the chemistry department, the sense of innocence reflected in activities such as the Chemistry Club may be lost if evidence establishes that el-Nashar used his knowledge to kill civilians.

The poster for the club reads this way: "Most of us can remember the excitement of our early introduction to chemistry -- the brilliant color of potassium pomegranate, the smell of sulphur and the sounds of chemical reaction. It can be a magical experience."

Ah, the magic of the potassium pomegranate!

That should be permanganate, kiddies, KMnO4. This is potassium permanganate, a pinkish-purple substance.

I wonder whether Katz, the reporter, scribbled this down wrong from the poster, or if he relied on his spell-checker to give him the correct word. It probably wasn't spelled wrong on the poster. I believe spell-checkers are for the feeble, which ought to be obvious from the number of mipselled wrods in my posts.

This is in the dead trees edition, which I have in my possession, but it's mis-spelled in the web version, too (currently, anyway).

A Google search for "potassium pomegranate" currently yields five hits, only one of which seems to realize that it ought to be permanganate.

If I could do one of them poll thingies (which I probably could but I'm too lazy), I'd have a poll asking:

"Potassium Pomegranate" would be a good name for a

  • rock band
  • pub
  • child

Full disclosure: Upon editing this post, I found that I'd mis-spelled "permanganate" in three different ways, and "pomegranate" once. I did know the difference, though.