Interview in German magazine DER SPIEGEL on the Navalny case

I gave an interview to the German magazine DER SPIEGEL on the Navalny case. Asking “Waren Sie wirklich so dumm” (“Were they really so stupid”) relates to the question if Russia wants to be associated with an assassination attempt using a potential organophosphorus agent again. While this is an import question the article (given to their science section) focuses on how a cholinesterase inhibitor (as generically identified by the Berlin university hospital Charité) can be identified by name and structure.

One of the core problems: The concentrations of relevant analyze chemical in biomedical samples is so low that you have to conduct so called targeted analysis – you have to search for specific compounds. A wide screening (let’s just look for everything) is not possible.

Nevertheless, I remain confident that the compound that is responsible for Mr Navalny’s current condition will be identified shortly.

….and I am actually quite proud of the fact that the interview for some time was second most read article on the SPIEGEL website.

Washington Post article on ammonium nitrate and the Beirut explosions

The Washington Post published an article on the risks, dangers and properties of ammonium nitrate – the chemical that was in all likelihood responsible for the catastrophic explosion in Beirut. It was a pleasure to be able to contribute some insights. Read the article here.

It is probably a natural thing that explosions of this size trigger conspiracy theories. From a nuclear detonation to the infamous “red mercury” – numerous “theories” float our social media channels.

This is interesting also from a historical perspective: When an explosion of ammonium nitrate for fertilizers of similar size blew up the BASF plant in Oppau in 1921 – just a few years after the end of World War 1 – there were theories floating in international media that secret weapon experiments were carried out with the possible involvement of Fritz Haber – the father of German gas warfare in the war but also Nobel Prize winner for inventing the Haber process to produce ammonia from nitrogen from the air. This ammonia was the precursor for the ammonium nitrate. It also shows the dual use dilemma of many chemicals.